Nice example of the rare first state of Sayer & Bennett's Broadside Map and Account of the War in North America, one of the first widely distributed news accounts of the American Revolution in Great Britain.
Following a brief peace attempt between England and the Colonies in 1775, the American Revolution commenced in earnest in the winter of 1775. Sayer & Bennett's Theatre of War in North America . . . and the accompanying Compendious Account . . is one of the earliest contemporary printed accounts of the Revolutionary War available to the British populous, the first printing coming in March 1776, even as the British were evacuating Boston.
The purpose of the map and broadside was to give the British public an overview of the colonies in which the conflict was developing. The map occupies the upper portion, with the colonies described in the letterpress below. Inset on the map is a table of the distances which must have been enlightening to the English who imagined the colonies to be much smaller and close together. In addition, a population chart lists Virginia and Maryland's population of "Men (White and Black) able to bear Arms" at 180,000. On Virginia the publishers note that the colony "seems unrivaled throughout the universe for convenience of inland navigation; indeed, it has been observed, and with reason, that every planter here has a river at his door."
The Compendious Account . . . gives an historical and geographical account of the colonies. Nebenzahl (Catalogue 7:363, 1961) describes the map as a
fine, detailed map of the entire area east of Louisiana, after the famous Evans map. It is accompanied by Evans's table of distances between principal towns, forts and other places in the British colony. Below the copperplate there are three columns of text, including information about each colony.
Robert Sayer (ca. 1724-1794) was a prominent London map publisher. Robert’s father was a lawyer, but his older brother married Mary Overton, the widow of prominent mapmaker Philip Overton and the proprietor of his shop after his death. Mary continued the business for roughly a year after her marriage and then, in early 1748, it passed to Robert. Robert became a freeman of the Stationers’ Company later that year; his first advertisement as an independent publisher was released in December.
Sayer benefited from Overton’s considerable stock, which included the plates of John Senex. In the 1750s, Sayer specialized in design books and topographical prints, as well as comic mezzotints. In 1753, he, along with John Roque, published a new edition of Thomas Read’s Small British Atlas, the first of several county atlases that Sayer would publish.
Sayer’s business continued to grow. In 1760 he moved further down Fleet Street to larger premises at 53 Fleet Street. In 1766, he acquired Thomas Jefferys’ stock when the latter went bankrupt. In 1774, he entered into a partnership with John Bennett, his former apprentice. The pair specialized in American atlases, based on the work of Jefferys. They also began publishing navigational charts in the 1780s and quickly became the largest supplier of British charts in the trade.
Bennett’s mental health declined, and the partnership ended in 1784. As Sayer aged, he relied on his employees Robert Laurie and James Whittle, who eventually succeeded him. He spent more and more time at his house in Richmond. In 1794, he died in Bath.
John Bennett (fl. 1760-d. 1787) was a London printer best known for his role in the successful partnership of Sayer & Bennett. In 1760, Bennett became a servant of Robert Sayer (ca. 1724-1794), the prominent print and map seller, and was apprenticed to him in 1765. In 1774, Bennett became a free journeyman and entered into a partnership with Sayer. They issued joint advertisements and publications. In 1777, Bennett owned 1/3 share in the business. The partnership was likely to continue fruitfully, but in 1781 Bennett began to show signs of mental illness. In 1783, he was admitted to an asylum for nine months and, in 1784, Sayer filed papers to dissolve their business partnership. Bennett died in 1787.