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Maps of the American Revolution

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Desbarres: Delaware River
Joseph Frederick Wallet DesBarres. "A Chart of Delawar [sic] River from Bombay Hook to Ridley Creek, with soundings &c. taken by Lt. Knight of the Navy . . ." with a second panel entitled "A Plan of Delawar [sic] River from Chester to Philadelphia. Shewing the Situation of His Majesty's Ships &c on the 15th. Novr. 1777 surveyed and sounded by Lieutenant John Hunter of the Navy." Prepared for The Atlantic Neptune. London: Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, 1 June 1779. Etching. 30 1/4 x 21 7/8. Nebenzahl, 136. Sellers & VanEa, 1370; National Maritime Museum Cat.: 320: 130-31; Snyder, 85. This later and mostly complete state has the advantage of showing soundings plus shading to render topography and town plans.

After the French & Indian War, the job of surveying and mapping the American coastline fell upon J.F.W. DesBarres, who had commanded the mapping of the coasts of present-day eastern Canada. The resulting atlas, The Atlantic Neptune, was called by A.P. Loring, "the first great marine atlas of the eastern seaboard." Loring quotes Obadiah Rich who called it, "the most splendid collection of charts, plans and views ever published." This is an excellent example of the maps from this important atlas.

It is a chart of the Delaware River to as far as Philadelphia in two panels. As stated on the chart, it was "Composed and Published for the use of Pilotage by J.F.W. DesBarres Esqr," so the focus of detail is on the nature of the river itself. The coastline, mouths of creeks, shoals and sand bars, and soundings are shown with careful precision, and rhumb lines are used to help with navigation of a ship up this relatively narrow river. Inland information is sparse because it is limited to that which was visible sight from navigable waters. An occasional higher elevation is shown and a basic town plans for New Castle, Chester, and Philadelphia are present. Conventional symbols for swamps and waterways are shown for as much as a few miles inland in places. In the inset map showing from Chester to Philadelphia shows the situation of the British ships off Philadelphia in mid-November, 1777. $7,500

Contemporary British Magazine Maps

The public in Britain, as well as the rest of the world, was fascinated by the revolutionary goings on in the "American Colonies." Verbal accounts of the war appeared regularly in newspapers, but there was a strong demand for maps of the unfamiliar theater of the conflict. There was a lack of current topographical information of the American colonies and it took a long time to transmit news from there to Europe, but still some maps were published within a relatively short time of the events depicted. Most of these maps were issued in the illustrated magazines of the day, such as Gentleman's Magazine and London Magazine. These maps were avidly studied in conjunction with the verbal reports, allowing eighteenth-century readers to follow events of the war. These maps provide twentieth-century readers also to follow these events, offering us a unique contemporary window to the Revolution.

Gent Mag map of Hudson River 1778
"Map of Hudson's River, with the adjacent Country." From Gentleman's Magazine. London: David Henry & Francis Newbery, January, 1778. 11 5/8 x 8 3/8. Engraving. 3/8-1/2 horizontal loss of map expertly filled and in-painted. Else, good condition. $225

Beginning in 1731, monthly news magazines made their appearance in Britain. One of their most popular, and historically important, features was the inclusion of prints and maps to accompany their articles. During the American Revolution, these magazines issued a large number of maps in response to the great interest in the turbulent events in the colonies. This map, issued at the beginning of 1778, shows the region of most of the activity in the war during 1777. This map would undoubtedly have been studied avidly by its readers.

The area shown extends as far south as Philadelphia, to which Howe had moved in 1777, and as far north as Fort Ticonderoga, where Burgoyne had made a deceptively promising start to his great campaign down the Hudson from Canada. The Mohawk River is shown, down which a British support wing had attempted and failed to link up with Burgoyne. Of particular note is the insertion of a caption stating "Scene of Action on the Surrender," at Saratoga where Burgoyne's campaign came to its disastrous end. The map shows good information of towns, rivers, lakes, and other such features. This map would have fascinated the eighteenth century reader separated from the events of the conflict by many miles. So too this map fascinates the modern reader similarly separated from the events, though by many years rather than miles.

From Marshall's Life of George Washington

Ten maps were prepared for John Marshall's Life of George Washington, which was published in French, Dutch, and German as well as English in the first decade of the nineteenth century. The first American printings were in 1804-07. Long the standard biography, a separately issued atlas provided the best maps of the campaigns of the American Revolution then being issued.

Map of Life of Washington
Anon. "Principal Events in the life of George Washington in this States that lie between the Hudson and Savannah." New York: General Drafting Company, ca. 1932. 26 x 17 1/2. Color lithograph. With folds as issued. Paper loss in lower left hand margin corner, not affecting image. Else, fine condition.

A detailed pictorial map associated with the important events and sites in the life of George Washington. This map was produced by the General Drafting Company and distributed by Standard Oil to its customers for the 200th anniversary of George Washington's birth. $150


Reference Available:


GoMaps of the French & Indian War
GoPrints of the American Revolution
GoRare books of the American Revolution

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