click here to zoom

The Very Rare First Edition of a Landmark of American Cartography
[Philadelphia, 1755]

 EVANS, Lewis/ FRANKLIN, Benjamin (printer)/ TURNER, James (engraver) [Philadelphia, 1755] A general MAP of the MIDDLE BRITISH COLONIES, in AMERICA; Viz VIRGINIA, MÀRILAND, DÈLAWARE, PENSILVANIA, NEW-JERSEY, NEW-YORK, CONNECTICUT, and RHODE ISLAND: Of AQUANISHUONÎGY, the Country of the Confederate Indians; … By Lewis Evans. 1755. The upper left cartouche reads: To the Honourable Thomas Pownall Esq.r Permit me, Sir, to pay You this Tribute of Gratitude, for the great Assistance You have given me in this Map; and to assure the Public, that it has past the Examination of a Gentleman, whom I esteem the best Judge of it in America: Your most obedient, and most humble Servant, LEvans. Below this cartouche, text reads: Engraved by Ja.s Turner in Philadelphia. [Imprint:] Published according to Act of Parliament, by Lewis Evans, June 23.1755. and sold by R. Dodsley, in Pall-Mall, LONDON, & by the Author in PHILADELPHIA. [Bound with:] Geographical, Historical, Political, Philosophical and Mechanical ESSAYS. The FIRST, Containing An ANALYSIS Of a General MAP of the MIDDLE BRITISH COLONIES IN AMERICA; And of the Country of the Confederate Indians; A Description of the Face of the Contry;…By LEWIS EVANS. The second EDITION. PHILADELPHIA: Printed by B. FRANKLIN, and D. HALL. MDCCLV. And sold by J. and R. DODSLEY, in Pall-Mall, London.

Folding map in full original color, 21 x 27 1/8 inches, in original red marbled-paper wrapper with “Evans Analysis of Map of The Middle British Colonies” in ms. on front cover; moderate wear to covers. 2 blanks, 2 pl with title & preface, 1-32pp (small burn hole pp.19-20, result of candle dripping?) + folding map, splits at folds reinforced, else an excellent bright example in full original color.                                                                  

 PRICE ON REQUEST                                    

The very rare, first state of the first edition of a map called by Schwartz and Ehrenberg "the most ambitious performance of its kind undertaken in America up to that time."  It was a landmark in both cartography and cartographic printing in North America, far exceeding in quality anything that had previously appeared. In one of the finest known examples, with bright, full original color; most known copies of the map are uncolored according to Sabin. A contemporary advertisement for the map indicates that it was offered in two ways: one, on plain paper, uncolored, without the pamphlet for a single piece of eight, and also at double this price for a colored copy on superfine paper, with the pamphlet.*  Offered here is clearly the map in the latter style.

The map was the first to delineate with any degree of accuracy the lands of the then frontier beyond the Appalachian Mountains and, in particular, the Ohio Country that would be contested in the French and Indian War that began a year after the map’s publication.  With this work, indigenous American cartography took the lead in the mapping of its own backyard; no previous American map was accomplished with such skill, intimate knowledge of its subject, and would be as influential, as evidenced by the nearly 20 editions of it that would follow, sadly, most of them pirated by English publishers.  Immediately upon its publication in 1755, General Edward Braddock used the map in his failed campaign to take the French stronghold, Fort Duquesne (Pittsburgh as of 1758), in the summer of 1755, at the beginning of the French and Indian War.

Despite the above encomiums and the map’s renown, it can be argued that it is a still an under-appreciated work.  Sometimes a map, or important aspects of it, can become lost under the weight of the superlatives traditionally attached to it.  One such element in Evan’s map is its urgent geo-political agenda that is set forth by Evans in such a passionate, keenly intelligent, and even prescient way in the pamphlet that accompanied the publication of the map.  The map was published as England and France were about to go to war for what would turn out to be nothing less than a zero-sum battle for the control of most of North America.  This Evans saw clearly even before the war began.  He predicted that as a result of the war “that a State, vested with all the Wealth and Power that will naturally arise from the Culture of so great an Extent of good Land, in a happy Climate, it will make so great an Addition to that Nation which wins, where there is not third to hold the Balance of Power, that the Loser must inevitable sink under his Rival” (p. 31).  Evans essentially asserts that in the coming war lies Britain’s opportunity to grow to become a true imperial power by dominating much of North America, or run the risk not becoming so.  One can argue he was dead right.  Evans also cautions the British not to fear the growth of the colonies that a victory would inevitably result in, arguing that the disparately organized and managed colonies could never unite against Britain if they were properly administered as genuine British subjects.  Presciently, Evans states that if not so managed the colonies might then indeed unite in revolt. Evans clearly saw both his map and the accompanying pamphlet as the most urgent kind of public service.  Without a trace of arrogance, Evan presents what his map has to show as being of the utmost consequence for the future of England.  In reading Evans, one is made to feel that a map has never mattered more.

In much of the accompanying pamphlet, Evans anatomized his map—the specific surveys underlying it, where it is and is not accurate, all in great detail.  He also refers to previous maps that had been corrected and folded into this one as well as to Indians and traders who were sources. Very few maps prior to this one have been accompanied by the kind of granular, self analysis as found here, and none, I would argue, are as transparent, honest and humble in doing so as this one. 

In reading the pamphlet, it is hard to imagine that any other single person at the time knew the American frontier of the day better than Evans.  For example, his knowledge of Indian tribes, their territories, locations, strengths, affiliations, and degrees of friendliness toward both the British and French, is remarkable in its subtlety as much as in its extent.  Evans clearly saw the crucial role to be played by Indians in the coming war. He displays a clear understanding of the difference between Indian and European conceptions of property. Evans exhibits his remarkable, on-the-ground knowledge of the Ohio Valley in his extensive discussion of the water courses that connect the eastern colonies with frontier.  In fact, this is very much a transportation map.  As water was the primary medium of transport connecting the colonies with the frontier, Evans takes great pains to access the available routes, both for the purpose of their use in the coming war and in the course of future development.  Evans also speaks knowledgeably of the practicalities of surveying, noting particularly the difficulties imposed by the thickly forested frontier areas.

 Evans’s map is considered by some to have been the first geological map of the United States, and specifically the first to provide the location of oil in the country.  An "x" and the word "Petroleum" are found near the junction of French Creek and the Allegheny River, which is now the location of the city of Franklin, an "oil town" in the Pennsylvania oil fields. Evans not only describes geography but also geomorphology (particularly regarding the formation of the Appalachian range) and other natural features of the region.  Evans had so much to say, cartographically speaking, that he despaired of the limitations of the two-dimensional map and promised that his 1755 map would be followed by a three-dimensional work that would embody topography and geological data in a more readily understandable manner.

Lewis Evans (c. 1700-1756), of Welsh extraction, arrived in the colonies in 1730’s and settles in Philadelphia.  He soon befriended Benjamin Franklin, with whom he shared many interests.  Franklin was this work’s printer and likely was responsible for securing the services of the Boston engraver, James Turner, who Franklin knew.  Thomas Pownall, who would become the governor of the Massachusetts colony, and avid and sympathetic observer of America, helped Evans in financing the map.  Evans in the pamphlet warmly refers to Pownall as the sources of the some of the map’s underlying surveys, and the map is dedicated to him.  Pownall would in 1776 produce the only authorized later edition of Evans’s map, the profits from which Pownall promised to Evans’s orphaned daughter.  Following the publication of this map, Evans issued a provocative pamphlet, which hinted at treasonous collusion with France by Governor Robert Hunter Morris of Pennsylvania, for which Evans was imprisoned in New York, where he had re-located. He was released from jail only three days before he died in 1756, leaving his motherless eleven-year-old daughter in the care of friends.

This first state of the map is distinguishable by the absence of “The Lakes Cataraqui” above Lake Ontario.  The second edition of the text, as here, was also issued in 1755, and the combination of the first state of the map with the second edition of the text is not unusual.

*Evans later also offered the map printed on silk.

Provenance: Private Collection (2019); Museum Books Store, Cat. 8, no. 402, 22.10 pounds, Nov. 1905.

References: Cresswell, Donald, H., "Colony to Commonwealth: The Eighteenth Century," in Stephenson, Richard W. and Marianne M. McKee, Virginia in Maps, pp. 53-54, 82; Gipson, Lawrence Henry, Lewis Evans," 1939;  Klinefelter, Walter "Lewis Evans and His Maps," in Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, New Series, Vol. 61, No. 7, 1971), pp. 3-65; Papenfuse, Edward C. and Joseph M. Coale III, The Hammond-Harwood House Atlas of Historical Maps of Maryland, 1608-1908, pp. 33-34; Pritchard, Margaret B. and Henry G. Taliaferro, Degrees of Latitude: Mapping Colonial America, pp. 172-175; Seymour I. Schwartz and Ralph E. Ehrenberg, The Mapping of America, pp. 162, 165, Plate 98; Wheat, James Clement and Christian F. Brun, Maps and Charts Published in America before 1800: A Bibliography ,pp. 65-66, #298; Evans 7412; Sabin 23175; Howes E226; Church 1003; Garrison, Cartography of Pennsylvania, pp.269-274; Suarez, Shedding the Veil 57; The World Encompassed 255; Stevens, Lewis Evans and His Map (London: 1905).

Owned in partnership with Boston Rare Maps and Martayan Lan.


See all items in Antique Maps
See all items by