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A Beautiful Rarity of Early American Cartographic Printing
New York/ New Jersey/ Early American Cartography.
ALEXANDER, James / EVANS, Lewis/ TURNER, James [New York & Philadelphia, 1747]
Map No II Laid down by a Scale of five Miles to an Inch...
17 x 14 inches.
Restoration at top & bottom with reinstatement of inconsequential printed area, else excellent.
A rare and uncommonly beautiful example of early American cartographic printing that covers the New York metropolitan area and northeastern New Jersey. Its production involved three towering colonial figures. Benjamin Franklin enlisted Lewis Evans, the first important American cartographer, to draft the map and also suggested that it be engraved by the Boston silversmith and engraver, James Turner. Isaiah Thomas in his History of Printing in America, called Turner "the best engraver which appeared in the colonies before the revolution." This is born out by this map's cartouche, a work of considerable delicacy that includes a very fine engraving of a ship. Turner would later engrave Evans' masterwork, A General Map of the Middle British Colonies. Franklin was also the seller in Philadelphia of copies of the work in which this and two other maps appeared. James Alexander, the author of this work--A Bill In The chancery of New-Jersey--was Attorney General of both New Jersey and New York and Surveyor General for New Jersey until his death in 1756.
The Bill in Chancery concerned “one of the most famous controversies in the early history of New Jersey” (Felcone). Contained in it were all the available background documents and opposing arguments involved in a long-running New Jersey land dispute involving the Newark-Elizabethtown area. It arose from conflicting Crown grants of lands made to both John, Lord Berkeley, and Sir George Carteret in this area. This and two other maps, prepared under Alexander's supervision, provided progressively more focused views of the lands in question.
In 1746 Alexander arranged to have two hundred and fifty copies of the Bill in Chancery printed and made rough drafts of the maps. Evans was to adapt transform the drafts into more polished manuscripts in his own hand. Klinefelter notes that “the intimate knowledge that Evans gained of a sizeable area” was instrumental in the construction of his landmark map of Pennsylvania and New Jersey published in 1749.
Despite Alexander’s initial conclusion that the maps “could not be had in this country otherwise than by hand ” due to the lack, he believed, of skilled engravers, six months later he commissioned James Turner to engrave the maps on copper at Franklin's suggestion. Turner had worked for Franklin as early as 1744, and under Franklin’s influence, moved to Philadelphia in 1754, where he engraved landmark maps for Lewis Evans, Nicholas Scull and Joshua Fisher.
Wheat & Brun, Maps & Charts Published in America before 1800, 397; Klinefelter, Lewis Evans & His Maps, p. 17; Snyder, J. P. Mapping of New Jersey, p. 40; see also Pritchard & Taliaferro, Degrees of Latitude, 28; for Turner, see Kreiger & Cobb, Mapping Boston, pp. 49-50.
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