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The Great Mitchell Map, Contemporary-Bound
MITCHELL, J./ LE ROUGE, G. [Paris, 1756/ 1776]
Amerique Septentrionale avec les Routes, Distances en miles, Villages et Etablissements . . . Par le Docteur Mitchel . . . A Paris Par le Rouge . . . 1756…Corigee en 1776 par M. Hawkins Brigadier des armies du Roi.
Printed on eight sheets with original outline color, each approximately 26 x 18 3/4 inches. [Bound with:] LE ROUGE, G. [Paris, 1774] L’Amerique Suivant Le R. P. Charlevoix Jte…1774. 19 x 25 inches. Original outline color. Folio bound in contemporary marble-papered board, quite worn especially along spine, yet firmly intact; internally a few stains, else fine condition.
A very rare, separately published and contemporary-bound example of the French edition of what has been called “the most important map in American history” (Martin). It was the map on which the borders of the newly recognized United States were plotted at the conclusion of the War of Independence. The Mitchell would also serve as the map of record in the early days of the Republic, as it was used for various treaty negotiations and border disputes. It would be hard to believe that the map did not also play a role in the treaty negotiations at the end of the French and Indian War, though this has not been documented.
Immediately recognizing the importance of Mitchell’s map at the time of its first publication in London in 1755, French map publishers began producing editions of it in 1756. Most often seen on the market, by a wide margin, are examples that were published in the 1777 edition of Georges Le Rouge’s Atlas Americain septentrional. The edition offered here appeared a year earlier at the outset of the American Revolution in response to the French public’s need for information concerning the theatre of conflict involving their longstanding enemy and future ally. As indicated in the map’s title, this edition was updated by one General M. Hawkins. Included here with the eight sheets of the Mitchell map is a rare 1774 edition of Le Rouge’s map of the Western Hemisphere, which curiously shows a Northwest Passage.
John Mitchell, a physician living in Virginia, was concerned about the active French expansion throughout the Old Northwest and the seeming disinterest of the British authorities in enlarging and solidifying their colonial possessions. He commenced work on his map in 1750 and was occupied in compiling it for the next five years. Through his close relationship with George Dunk, Earl of Halifax, he had access to the extensive collection of manuscript maps and geographical reports in the archives of the British Board of Trade. Mitchell's map was issued in 1755 with the approval of, and at the request of the British Government and was dedicated to the Earl of Halifax, who was then President of the Board of Trade. It bears the endorsement of John Pownall, Secretary of the Lords Commissioners for Trade and Plantations, dated February 13, 1755.
Martin, L. Dict. of Amer. Biog. vol. 13, p. 51; Ristow, W. A la Carte, Third edition, second impression, p. 112.
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