Clive A. Burden LTD. Rare Maps, Antique Atlases, Books and Decorative Prints

The Mapping of North America

Mr. Philip D. Burden​
P.O. Box 863,
Chalfont St. Giles, Bucks HP6 9HD,
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Lewis Evans (c.1700-56) was one of the most active and capable early American mapmakers. Little is known of his early life. He was bornin Llangwnnadl, Caernarvonshire, in Wales, and by 1736 was in Philadelphia as a surveyor. In 1737 he drew a map of the so-called ‘Walking Purchase Treaty’ in which much of Bucks County had been acquired from the local Indians.

In 1743 he accompanied the botanist John Bartram and Indian agent Conrad Weiser on a diplomatic mission to Onondaga, the seat of the Iroquis confederacy. It took him to the western frontier lands of Pennsylvania and New York towards Lake Ontario. He was able to study the region geographically and many of his observations are recorded on the map. It is known that he kept a journal which does not survive. However, we do know that the colonial Governor Thomas Pownall had a copy of it and much of it is in Pownall’s ‘Topographical Description of such Parts of North America …’, 1776. Similarly, the observations of the Swedish naturalist Pehr Kalm, who Evans had supplied information to were also included in the map of 1749.

Evans was vociferous in his campaign to encourage settlement on the frontier and deter the French encroachment. He even went as far to accuse parties of treason in ignoring the threats.


Evans was preparing his map for some time. The ‘Pennsylvania Gazette’ for 13 October 1748 reported that the map of ‘Pensylvania, New-Jersey and New York Provinces … is now engraving here, and in great forwardness. The long time it has been in Hand, the Opportunity the Author has had of seeing and adjusting the vast Variety of Places and Materials entering into this Composition, his accuracy, the Assistance he has received from most of our Mathematicians, and his having his Map engrav’d by a good Artist, under his Eye, give us Reason to expect the Geography of these parts of America will be render’d sufficiently exact.’

On 21 March 1748/49 the same ‘Gazette’ announced that subscriptions were being collected at one piece of eight each plain (uncoloured). The target was 1000 subscriptions. The same paper announced on 3 August 1749 that it was just published. Bibliographers agree that it was most likely printed by Benjamin Franklin and David Hall. It was sold at the Post Office where Franklin was postmaster and at the authors. It is one of only 27 maps known to have been produced in the American colonies before 1750.

Schwarz & Ehrenberg state that it is ‘the first occurrence of a large area of colonies mapped in detail.’ Evans himself states on the map ‘I have omitted Nothing in my Power to render this Map as complete as possible. And tho’ no Distance could be taken but by actual Mensuration (the Woods being yet so thick) I can declare it to be more exact than could be well expected.’

The longitude at the bottom is taken from London whilst at the top it is from Philadelphia. His attitude towards accuracy is reflected in his apology for any errors in the longitude for Philadelphia as the various eclipses used to measure its position have provided varying answers.

A large legend describes the ‘Endless Mountains’ in considerable scientific detail. He describes “the Stones in all Parts of these Mountains are full of Sea Shells.” He goes on to discuss the formation of the mountain range. In many circles his writing is regarded as some of the earliest geological work. He describes the natural erosion by water and the process of settlement of sediment. This he expanded on in his ‘Analysis of a General Map …’ published in 1755. The map of the Middle Colonies recorded the locations of coal, petroleum, and clay. To the left in a further legend, he refers to a link between lighting and electricity. Indeed, these led Pownall to suggest that Franklin developed his ideas from the observations of Evans.

In the first state the table of distances included 8 unfilled squares. For the second state two of them were completed. That for Lancaster to Albany was present on his map of the ‘Middle British Colonies’ in 1755, but two further Lancaster and the Bethlem does not appear in those tables.

Evans extends his gratitude to several individuals in a legend lower left including Nicholas Scull (1687-1761), Joseph Reeves, George Smith, John Lydius, Nicholas Stilwil, Mr. Lawrence, Mr. Noxon, Isaac Norris, James Alexander (1691-1758), and Cadwallader Colden (1688-1776).

The whole was engraved and signed by Lawrence Herbert in Front Street, originally from London.


In 1751-52 he lectured on scientific issues in Philadelphia, Newark, and New York. This may well have been the inspiration behind the updated second edition of 1752.

State 1 – 1749

State 2 – 1752 with numerous additional new information but retaining ‘Heath’ on the Delaware

State 3 – ‘Heath’ erased from the Delaware, north of Trenton several new towns and roads are added, and ‘Easton’ added upriver from Trenton

Only four examples of this third state are known courtesy of Ashley Baynton-Williams. The Library of Congress, Maryland Historical Society, Massachusetts Historical Society, and the Huntington Library. This is a previously unknown example.

There are only two examples of the map in any state in the auction records, the Thomas W. Streeter copy sold in 1967, and Howard Welsh example sold in 1991. No copies of the second edition appear in the records.

1755 MAP

Evans went on to publish the extremely influential ‘General Map of the Middle British Colonies in America’, first published in 1755. His work did not receive universal praise although Pownall states in his 1776 ‘Description …’ that it was an accepted standard in the colonies for settling boundaries and land purchases. Evans and his map were also described as authoritative by Franklin in 1772, regarding proposed Walpole Grants on the Ohio River. The New York faction, especially those loyal to General Shirley and Sir William Johnson had a different view. Evans, on his map, had acknowledged French claims to all land to the northwest of the St. Lawrence River, from Lake Ontario to Montreal, including Fort Frontenac. This drew the ire of many New Yorkers, and harsh criticism of Evan’s map in printed attacks. It is largely a reply to these attacks that makes up the 42-page pamphlet titled Geographical, Historical…Essays…Number II…, in which Evans defends his deference here to the French. It is remarkable that this exhaustive reply is dated only several days after the initial publication of the attacks in the New York Mercury. The controversy damaged Evans reputation, however, and it is possible that not many copies of Evans map were sold in New York.

He was imprisoned in New York in the spring of 1756 for libel against the Governor of Pennsylvania, Robert Morris Hunter. He was released due to poor health on 8 June 1756, but died there 3 days later. William Smith, the New York historian, wrote the following year that Evans was ‘a Man in low circumstances, his Temper precipitate, of violent passions, great Vanity and rude Manners. He pretended to the knowledge of everything, and yet had very little learning.’

ADNB; Bartram (1751) ‘Observations on the Inhabitants …’; Cumming, Hillier, Quinn, & Williams (1974) pp. 64-5, 76-7; Gipson (1939) pp. 67-68; Klinefelter (1971); ODNB, Parke Bernet Galleries, Streeter sale 19 April 1967 lot 818; Pritchard & Taliaferro (2002) no. 34; Schwartz & Ehrenberg (1980) p. 153, pl.91; Snyder (1973) pp. 42-45; Sotheby’s New York.13 June 1991 lot 462; Wheat & Brun (1985) no. 297.

EVANS, Lewis

A Map of Pensilvania, New-Jersey, New-York, and the Three Delaware Counties

Lewis Evans, Philadelphia, 1749-[52]
ONE OF THE GREATEST AMERICAN MAPS OF THE COLONIAL ERA. 645 x 495 mm., with contemporary manuscript notation on verso ‘No. 31. Pensylvania, New York & c.’, with horizontal creases, 2 small holes near Wioming Falls, small tear near Lancaster easily repaired, some stains to the margins, top margin with old reinforcement, otherwise in good condition.
Stock number: 10934


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