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Description

Published for the French Navy For Use During the American Revolution

First French edition of Anthony Smith's chart of the Chesapeake, the largest and most detailed sea chart to focus on the Chesapeake region during the American Revolution.

Issued in the year France formally allied with the Americans during the American Revolution, the map appeared in Le Rouge's Pilote Americain Septentrionale, published specifically for use by the French Navy during the American Revolution.

Anthony Smith's chart of the Chesapeake was a landmark work, originally published in London by Sayer and Bennett in London in 1776. Smith's chart is a revision of the Walter Hoxton chart with additions and revised soundings. It became an important guide for both the English and French forces during the American Revolution.

Nothing is known of the original creation of the chart, although it is assigned to Anthony Smith of St. Marys. Nothing has been found on this man, who, to judge from the charts, must have been exceptionally well informed regarding the subaqueous and littoral characteristics of the Chesapeake Bay and its estuarine rivers. As noted by Margaret Pritchard, pilots were offering themselves for hire to visiting merchant ships from the 1640s onward, so hazardous are the sand spits, currents and shoals. Given the critical need, it is surprising how few charts were made in the 18th century.

The map includes extensive sailing notes and observation, which were based upon work that was done by the naval officer who employed Smith as his pilot. The charting of the Potomac with soundings was by far the most accurate to date. Apparently all the prominent houses visible from the water are indicated with the intent to represent the actual shape, size and relative positions of the different structures, which are distinguished by the names of their owners.

On the blank portions of the sheet are given sailing directions involving the mention of many of the buildings placed on the headlands, besides these features, there are many figures and lines showing the courses to be followed, the bearings of prominent landmarks, and the depth of water along the streams and bay.

Rarity

Smith's chart is among the rarest and most sought after of all charts of the Chesapeake and rarely appears on the market.  This is the second example we have offered in the past 25 years.

Provenance

Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, deaccessioned in November 2017 (Brunk Auctioneers).

Condition Description
Four sheets, joined. Slight loss to top section at bottom right, expertly reinstated, with some other minor expert restoration.
Reference
Pritchard & Taliaferro, Degrees of Latitude 48; Sellers & Van Ee, 1496
George Louis Le Rouge Biography

George-Louis Le Rouge (1712-1790), though known for his work in Paris, was originally born Georg Ludwig of Hanover, Germany. He grew up and was educated in Hanover, after which he became a surveyor and military engineer. Around 1740, however, Le Rouge moved to Paris and set up shop as an engraver and publisher on the Rue des Grands Augustins. It was at this time that he changed his name, adopting a French pseudonym that would later become quite famous.

Le Rouge spent much of his forty-year career translating various works from English to French, and his cartographic influence often came from English maps. His experience as a surveyor and engineer in Germany made him a skilled and prolific cartographer, and he produced thousands of charts, maps, atlases, and plans. His work spans from garden views and small-town plans to huge, multiple-continent maps. Le Rouge eventually accepted the position of Geographical Engineer for Louid XV, the King of France.

Later in life, Le Rouge became well-known for publishing North American maps, such as in his Atlas ameriquain septentrional of 1778. One of Le Rouge’s other more famous works is the Franklin/Folger chart of the Gulf Stream, which he worked on with Benjamin Franklin. Franklin and Le Rouge corresponded around 1780 and collaborated to create this map, a French version of Franklin’s famous chart which was originally printed in 1769.