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The Mapping of North America

Mr. Philip D. Burden​
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The Earl Percy example of the FIRST STATE of one of the most important Revolutionary War illustrations of Boston and its approaches. Accompanied by the VERY RARE twelve page PAMPHLET by George Callender entitled ‘Nautical remarks and observations for the chart of the harbour of Boston. Composed from different surveys; but principally from that taken in 1769’. Callendar was the Master of His Majesty’s Ship the Romney. Commissioned in 1762 she served extensively in North America arriving in Boston 17 May 1768 to support the British during the enforcement of the Townsend Acts. Short of men it was the pressing of local men into service which increased tension in the town to a level which broke out in the Boston Massacre of 1770.

Hugh Percy, later 2nd Duke of Northumberland (1742-1817), famously served at Concord and Lexington in 1775. He had been the Member of Parliament for Westminster from 1763 and had opposed policies that led to the American War of Independence. He was however, sent to Boston in May 1774 as brigadier-general, colonel of the Fifth Regiment of Foot. His regular communication with his father offers a fascinating incite into the situation. His letter of 12 September 1774 records that the colonies were ‘now in as open state of Rebellion as Scotland was in the year 45’ (ODNB).

Percy was commander of the British relief force at Lexington and Concord, on 19 April 1775, and son of the Duke of Northumberland. He is largely credited with avoiding a complete disaster for the British. It was this retreat that led Percy to record respect for the resolve for American forces (Fischer). In July 1775 he was made major-general.

It is believed he had returned to London during that summer. It is believed that it was Percy who carried over the manuscript map of Boston by Richard Williams to London. The printed version by Andrew Dury was published on 12 March 1776 and states ‘sent over by the Son of a Nobleman to his Father in Town, by Whose Permission it is Published’. This fist state of the Des Barres was published 5 August 1775 when he was likely in London. He would most certainly have had an interest in acquiring a copy and indeed returned to America later taking part in the campaigns in and around New York the following year. He became the second Duke of Northumberland on the death of his father in 1786.

This chart is part of a very large body of work known as the ‘Atlantic Neptune’ undertaken by Des Barres It is one of the greatest hydrographic achievements of the eighteenth century. The French and Indian War highlighted the lack of accurate mapping of the vast territories now under British control in North America. Samuel Holland was entrusted with the task of accurately mapping the northern portion of these territories. He proposed using the latest accurate methods which included astronomical readings and triangulation. In 1769 he personally was still working in Canadian waters but had instructed Callendar to undertake the survey of Boston. In England Des Barres was in charge of undertaking the detailed engraving. He set about providing the British government with more accurate mapping of the entire coastline of America and Canada. They proved to be of just as much use to the American Rebel forces. Their quality and accuracy are well known and deserved.

This particular chart is notable for recording Boston as it was at the outbreak of hostilities. It illustrates the British defences before the siege. The second state in particular out of the four later ones would record the progress of the siege works constructed by the Americans around the city. As the title informs us it was surveyed in the year 1769, a troubled time in Boston. Extensive soundings are provided in the harbour with numerous points marked to ease navigation through difficult waters. What separates this chart out from most others is the level of topographical detail on land. The road structure is accurately recorded as are the local towns. It even goes as far as recording field boundaries, a remarkable body of information for historians. The high quality engraving enables surface features to be displayed, especially the elevation of the terrain. An alphabetical key upper right identifies fourteen locations in the immediate area of Boston, including batteries, docks, forts, wharves, and the all important Charles-town Ferry.

The accompanying pamphlet of sailing directions is rare, it was replaced soon after by a single sheet version entitled ‘A Chart of the Harbour of Boston, composed from different surveys …’ which is sometimes found pasted to later states of the map. Being separately issued it is rarely found with the chart as here. Provenance: Hugh Percy (1742-1817) 2nd Duke of Northumberland; thence by descent to the current 12th Duke of Northumberland, Ralph George Algernon Percy (1956-), Alnwick Castle, Northumberland; sold Sotheby’s London 4 November 2014 as lot 26 to cover costs of flood damage in Newcastle. Boston Engineering Department, ‘List of Maps of Boston’, pp. 70-71; Cumming, ‘British Maps of Colonial America’, pp. 51-56; ESTC N12343 (pamphlet); Fischer (1994) ‘Paul Rever’s Ride’ p. 254; Guthorn, ‘British Maps of the American Revolution’ 59/3, Holland’s original manuscript; Hornsby (2019); Krieger and Cobb, ‘Mapping Boston’, p. 106, plate 19; Nebenzahl (1975) Bibliography of printed battle plans, 3; ODNB; Sabin 10061 (pamphlet); Sellers & Van Ee, 945; Stevens, Bibliography of the Atlantic Neptune (unpublished) pp. 211-216; Streeter, II:706.

DES BARRES, Joseph Frederick Wallet

[Chart of the Harbour of Boston]/ Nautical Remarks and Observations for the Chart of the Harbour of Boston. Composed from different Surveys; but principally from that taken in 1769, by George Callendar, Late Master of His Majesty's Ship the Romney.

London, 5 August 1775
FIRST STATE. ACQUIRED BY HUGH PERCY, THE SAVIOUR OF THE BRITISH AT LEXINGTON AND CONCORD. 705 x 1040 mm., in 2 sheets joined, large aquatint and etched engraving, UNFOLDED AND UNCUT, with the LVG watermark. With pamphlet, quarto (280 x 230 mm.), original blue wrappers, typographic title, pp. 5-(12), there are no pages 3-4 which agrees with the John Carter Brown example.
Stock number: 8314
$ 22,500
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