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Jefferys’s 1776 American Atlas: The Best of the Century
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THOMAS JEFFERYS. Atlas. The American Atlas; or, a Geographical Description of the Whole Continent of America; Wherein are Delineated at Large its Several Regions, Countries, States, and Islands; and Chiefly the British Colonies.... London: Robert Sayer and John Bennett, 1776. 22 engraved maps, on 29 sheets, all with original outline color, expertly bound to style in 18th-century diced Russian gilt leather. A very fine and complete copy. The book with maps folded, 15¾ x 22¼ in.

Inventory #20862.99       Price: $146,000

Historical Background

The American Atlas was a superlative work, providing a comprehensive vision of the American colonies at the time of the War of Independence: “[with] the best available maps in the latter half of the eighteenth century. . . it was, very likely, consulted by American, English, and French civilian administrators and military officers during the Revolution” (Ristow). A collection of separately produced maps by various engravers, The American Atlas was unmatched for accuracy and detail. Along with Joshua Fry and Peter Jefferson’s A Map of the Most Inhabited Part of Virginia, the best colonial map for the Chesapeake region, it contains numerous other significant works, including William Scull’s A Map of Pennsylvania, the first map of that colony to include its western frontier; Braddock Meade’s A Map of the Most Inhabited Parts of New England, the largest and most detailed map of New England that had yet been published; Samuel Holland’s The Provinces of New York and New Jersey; and Lt. Ross’s Course of the Mississipi, the first map of that river based on English sources.

Jefferys was the leading English cartographer of the 18th century. From about 1750, he published a series of maps of the English American colonies that were among the most significant produced in the period. As Geographer to the Prince of Wales, and after 1761, Geographer to the King, Jefferys was well placed for access to the best surveys conducted in America, and many of his maps held the status of “official work.” Jefferys died on November 20, 1771, and in 1775, his successors, Sayer and Bennett, gathered these separately-issued maps together and republished them in book form as The American Atlas.

The atlas’s first edition was dated 1775, although it was actually issued in 1776, lists 22 maps on 29 sheets, “Engraved on Forty-Eight Copper Plates,” as noted on the title page. The edition we offer is the 1776 first issue, which contains the same number of maps, sheets and plates. It differs from the 1775 first edition by the inclusion of A New Map of the Province of Quebec in place of The Middle British Colonies. Also, Samuel Holland’s map, “The Provinces of New York and New Jersey,” was corrected in the 1776 first issue. In the 1775 edition, Holland is listed as “Capt. Holland” in the cartouche and the map is dated 1775. In the 1776 first issue, Holland is listed as “Major Holland” and the map is dated 1776.

Note: a second 1776 issue, following ours, lists 49 plates on the title page, due to the addition of William Brassier’s “A Survey of Lake Champlain, including Lake George, Crown Point and St. John,” bringing the total to 23 maps on 30 sheets. 

Our atlas is possibly unique in one respect. It is clearly the 1776 first issue based on the above, but retains the first edition of the New York/New Jersey map—Holland is a still listed as a captain and the engraving is dated 1775. As such, this must have been very early in the run of 1776 first issues.

The maps are as follows (many are on several sheets, and in the Index each individual sheet is numbered; the measurements refer to the image size):

1. Braddock Meade (alias John Green). A Chart of North and South America, including the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Published June 10, 1775. Six sheets joined into three, 43½ x 49½ in. total. This wall map was chiefly issued to expose the errors in Delisle and Buache’s map of the Pacific Northwest, published in Paris in 1752.

2. Imperial Academy of St. Petersburg. The Russian Discoveries. March 2, 1775. One sheet, 18 x 24 in.

3. Bowen, E. and John Gibson. An Accurate Map of North America. July 2, 1775. Four sheets joined into two, 43 x 47 in.

 4. Thomas Jefferys. North America from the French of Mr. D’Anville, Improved with the English Surveys Made since the Peace. June 10, 1775. One sheet, 18 x 20 in.

 5. Samuel Dunn. A Map of the British Empire in North America. January 10, 1774 . Half-sheet, 12 x 19 in.

 6. Thomas Jefferys. An Exact Chart of the River St. Laurence from Fort Frontenac to the Island of Anticosti.... May 25, 1775. Two sheets joined into one, 23½ x 37 in.

 7. Sayer & Bennett. A Chart of the Gulf of St. Laurence.... March 25, 1775. One sheet, 19½ x 24 in.

 8. A Map of the Island of St. John in the Gulf of St. Laurence.... April 6, 1775. One sheet, 15 x 27¼ in.

 9. James Cook and Michael Lane. A General Chart of the Island of Newfoundland.... May 10, 1775. One sheet, 21½ x 22 in. James Cook went on to gain renown for his Pacific exploration.

10. A Chart of the Banks of Newfoundland.... March 25, 1775. One sheet, 19½ x 26 in. Based on the surveys of James Cook (see above), Chabert, and Fleurieu.

11. Braddock Meade (alias John Green.) A New Map of Nova Scotia and Cape Breton Island with the Adjacent Parts of New England and Canada.... June 15, 1775. One sheet, 18½ x 24 in. Originally published in 1755, at the beginning of the French and Indian War, this map “proved to be important in evaluating respective French and English claims to this part of North America.” (Ristow). England gained sole possession of the region by the Treaty of Paris, 1763.

12. Braddock Meade (alias John Green.) A Map of the Most Inhabited Part of New England. Published November 29, 1774. Four sheets joined into two, 38¾ x 40¾ in. The first large-scale map of New England. “The most detailed and informative pre-Revolutionary map of New England ... not really supplanted until the nineteenth century” (New Englands Prospect, 13).

13. Captain [Samuel] Holland. The Provinces of New York and New Jersey, with Part of Pensilvania.... Published December 20, 1775. Three insets: A Plan of the City of New York, A Chart of the Mouth of Hudson’s River, and A Plan of Amboy. Two sheets joined, 26½ x 52¾ in. An important large-scale map of New York and New Jersey, by Samuel Holland, Surveyor General for the Northern English colonies. With fine insets including a street plan of colonial New York City.

14. A New Map of the Province of Quebec, according to the Royal Proclamation, of the 7th of October 1763. from the French Surveys Connected with those made after the War, by Captain Carver, and Other Officers.... February 16, 1776. One sheet, 19¼ x 26¼ in.

15. William Scull. A Map of Pennsylvania Exhibiting not only the Improved Parts of the Province but also its Extensive Frontiers. June 10, 1775. Two sheets joined, 27 x 51½ in. The first map of the Pennsylvania to include its western frontier. All earlier maps had focused solely on the settled eastern parts of the colony.

16. Joshua Fry & Peter Jefferson. A Map of the Most Inhabited Part of Virginia, containing the Whole Province of Maryland ... 1775. [n.d.] Four sheets joined into two, 32 x 48 in.  “The basic cartographical document of Virginia in the eighteenth century. . . the first to depict accurately the interior regions of Virginia beyond the Tidewater. [It] dominated the cartographical representation of Virginia until the nineteenth century” (Verner).

17. Henry Mouzon. An Accurate Map of North and South Carolina with their Indian Frontiers. May 30, 1775. Four sheets joined into two, 40 x 54 in.  ½ inch tear in right margin not affecting map. “The chief type map for [the Carolinas] during the forty or fifty years following its publication. It was used by both British and American forces during the Revolutionary War” (Cumming, 450).

18. Thomas Jefferys. The Coast of West Florida and Louisiana ... The Peninsula and Gulf of Florida. February 20, 1775. Two sheets joined into one, 19½ x 48 in. A large-scale map of Florida, based upon the extensive surveys conducted since the region became an English possession by the Treaty of Paris (1763).

19. Lt. Ross. Course of the Mississipi.... Taken on an Expedition to the Illinois, in the latter end of the Year 1765. June 1, 1775. Two sheets joined into one, 14 x 44 in. The first large-scale map of the Mississippi River, and the first based in whole or part upon English surveys.

20. Thomas Jefferys. The Bay of Honduras. February 20, 1775. One sheet, 18½ x 24½ in.

21. J.B.B. D’Anville. A Map of South America.... September 20, 1775. Four sheets joined into two, 20 x 46 in.

22. Cruz Cano [et al.]. A Chart of the Straits of Magellan. July 1, 1775. One sheet, 20½ x 27 in.

A detailed condition listing is available on request. The leather used in the re-binding was reportedly found, incredibly well-preserved, about 20 years ago in a wreck of a ship that went down in 1776.


David Rumsey Map Collection, “Index, American Atlas, Jeffreys, 1776.”

Howes J-81; Phillips Atlases 1165 and 1166; Sabin 35953; Streeter Sale I, 72 (1775 edition); Walter Ristow, ed. Thomas Jefferys The American Atlas London 1776, facsimile edition, Amsterdam 1974; William Wood, New Englands Prospect, 13.

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