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,
Tel: +44 (0) 1494 76 33 13

‘One of the most celebrated maps in American history. Much of the map’s luster comes from its association with Thomas Jefferson, the son of one of the map’s makers … the first map of Virginia by Virginians’ (Taliaferro).

The French and Indian War was largely fought over control of the Ohio River. The President of the Board of Trade in London at the time was the Earl of Halifax. He requested that Dr. John Mitchell from Virginia, prepare a general map of North America illustrating the relative positions of French and British control. Mitchell had left Virginia for London following ill health in 1746. He had been well connected in intellectual circles in America and easily fell into a similar group in London. Mitchell’s first draft presented in 1750 proved to be a disappointment. The Board recognised that its archive of maps was inadequate and sent out a formal request to each of the colonies to provide an up to date map of their colony. Very few responded but the most promising was that from Virginia Governor Lewis Burwell who wrote to the Board of Trade on 15 January 1751 that he had instructed Joshua Fry and Peter Jefferson to provide a map.

From 1745 land speculators from Virginia were already obtaining rights to land in the region. The main ones being the Ohio Company and the Loyal Company, both from Virginia. Amongst the members of the latter were Fry and Jefferson. Colonel Joshua Fry (1699–1754) arrived in Virginia around 1720 and came into a fortune through marriage. He became the first professor of mathematics at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg. He subsequently moved to the frontier county of Albemarle in 1744. Amongst his positions was that of chief surveyor of the county and his assistant was Peter Jefferson (1708-57). What helped them stand out was their involvement in two of the great mapping projects of the period. The first was the mapping of the Fairfax lands in the Northern Neck of Virginia from 1746. Following that they were involved in the mapping of the extension to the Virginia-North Carolina border.

Fry and Jefferson’s first draft of the colony was sent to London 21 August 1751. Records note that it arrived with the Board of Trade on 9 December 1751 and was examined on 11 March 1752. It was passed to Mitchell to examine who incorporated it into his own map. Mitchell reported back to the board on 15 April 1752 that Virginia was uniquely placed to resist the encroachment of the French. No doubt this encouraged Halifax to pass the map to Thomas Jefferys who printed it in late August 1753. The ‘Public Advertiser’ for 13 August 1753 noted ‘In a few days will be published …’ The ornate title was designed by Francis Hayman and engraved by Charles Grigion, notable people in the art world of London. This no doubt was done to appeal to a wider market whose interest was peaked by the conflict in North America.

Henry Taliaferro identified a previously unrecorded second state from an advertisement placed in the ‘Public Advertiser’ on the 4 December 1753, no example has been identified to date. The records the title being altered to ‘A Map of the most Inhabited Part …’ The original manuscript extended westwards quite possibly to the Mississippi River. The printed version stopped short of that and enable a larger scale to be printed. It is considered the reason why the title in the second state was altered to include the word ‘most’. Interestingly in this first state the word is added in manuscript. The use of the word ‘inhabited’ supported Britain’s claims to territory.

‘The map ‘has long been recognised as the definitive eighteenth-century cartographic document for the colony of Virginia. For the first time, virtually the entire River system of the colony is laid down on a printed map, including the two forks of the Shenandoah River. It is the first to accurately portray the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Valley of Virginia, and the multiple ridges of the Appalachian Mountains, all running diagonally in their true north-east-southwest directions. The colony’s road system is shown for the first time in any detail. The eastern sheets are crowded with the names of planters and their seats, a wealth of information for historians and genealogists. The map remained the prototype for all depictions of Virginia until the nineteenth century’ (Taliaferro). In Henry Taliaferro’s great revision article he concludes that the map ‘is not only one of the key maps in Virginia’s history, but also one of the most important published in Great Britain in the eighteenth century for its insight into British colonial administration and cartographic methodology. In its mature form, the printed map owes as much to a frontier explorer, a group of Virginia land speculators, a British politician, and a cartographic editor as it does to the men whose names it bears.’

The first state of the map is extremely rare, only the following examples are recorded:
1 – Alderman Library, University of Virginia
2 – Bancroft Collection, New York Public Library
3 – Moravian Archives, Winston-Salem, North Carolina
4 – Duke of Northumberland, Alnwick Castle, UK
5 – Sotheby’s, London 10 May 2001 lot 123, now in a private Virginian collection
6 – Ramsay Cornish, Leith, Scotland 7 December 2019 lot 101 (this example)

Provenance: Dr. Elizabeth Ann Carswell (1940-2019), Edinburgh, acquired in the 1970s. Dr. Carswell was an American citizen, educated at Cornell and Harvard, and resident in Scotland from the late 1960’s. Papenfuse & Coale (1982) pp. 34-6; Pritchard & Taliaferro (2002) no. 30; Stevens & Tree (1967) no. 87; Taliaferro (2013) ‘Fry and Jefferson Revisited’; Verner (1967) Imago Mundi no. 21 p. 70; Wooldridge (2012) pp. 107-21.
FRY, Joshua & JEFFERSON, Peter

A Map of the Inhabited Part of Virginia, Containing the whole Province of Maryland with Part of Pensilvania, New Jersey and North Carolina, Drawn by Joshua Fry and Peter Jefferson in 1751

Thomas Jefferys, Geographer to His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales at the Corner of St. Martins Lane, Charing Cross, London, 1753
780 x 1260 mm., backed on linen, fixed top and bottom to ebonised batons, annotated in ink in contemporary hand with the word “most” to the title, some expected loosening of paper, otherwise in good condition.
Stock number: 9859


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