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First State of One of the Most Important Early Maps of the Carolinas

First state of the Thornton, Morden & Lea of the Carolinas, one of the most important maps of the period.

The map is a foundational maps of the Carolinas, influencing the mapping of the region for the final decades of the 17th Century and well into the 18th Century.  As noted by Jay Lester, the map is

one of the rarest and most important seventeenth century printed maps of Carolina. The map was published in 1685 by the short-lived partnership between three leading map sellers of the period: John Thornton, Robert Morden, and Phillip Lea.  Their base map was the now unobtainable second Lords Proprietors’ map of Carolina by Gascoyne, published in 1682. The Thornton-Morden-Lea map derives from both the first and second states of the Gascoyne map. However, it is not simply a modified Gascoyne map; Thornton et al also incorporated data from other sources. Though not copied verbatim, the soundings along the Outer Banks were unequivocally derived from an untitled manuscript map in the Blathwayt Atlas (John Carter Brown Library). For the interior, Thornton et al chose to improve upon the Gascoyne map rather than revert to the Lederer-inspired geography of the Ogilby-Moxon and so-called Speed maps of Carolina from the previous decade. As such, the depiction of the river system is, without question, the most accurate to date.

The interior is decorated with two well-antlered deer or elk, two panthers, turkey, boar, raccoon, and… an ostrich?!  Cumming described the 1682 Gascoyne map as “the most accurate representation of the Carolina region yet to appear.” Yet, in just a few short years, it was surpassed by Thornton, Morden, & Lea’s A New Map of Carolina. Decades would pass before Carolina cartography would see further noticeable improvement.

The map is also the first map of the Carolinas to provide meaningful details on early settlements.  The map was also the first map of the Carolinas to influence other European mapmakers. Within a decade, Pierre Mortier would create a French copy, which he included in his Neptune Francois.


State 1:   c1685, with imprint of Thornton, Morden, and Lea in the title cartouche.

State 2:   c1695, imprint altered to By/ Philip Lea at the Atlas and Hercules/ in Cheap Side/LONDON. The inset of Charleston Harbor has been enlarged and now has title at top: ASHLEY & COOPER RIVER.

State 3:   c1715, imprint altered to Sold by Geo: Willdey at the Great Toy,/ Spectacle, Chinaware and Print Shop,/ ye Corner of Ludgate Street near St Pauls/ LONDON.


The map is of the utmost rarity.  The last example of the map to appear at auction was in the Streeter Sale in 1967, acquired by Streert from the Huntington Library (Lot 1112, sold for $600).  The last example offered in a dealer catalog was in 2009 (Arkway Catalog 69, Item 9 -- $48,000, acquired from Ashley Baynton Williams in 2008), which now resides in a private collection in North Carolina.

Condition Description
Old color, cleaned and retouched.
Burden 617; Cumming 104; Blathwayt Atlas 20; Arkway, Cohen & Taliaferro Catalog 69.
Robert Morden Biography

Robert Morden (d. 1703) was a British map and globe maker. Little is known about his early life, although he was most likely apprenticed to Joseph Moxon. By 1671, Morden was working from the sign of the Atlas on Cornhill, the same address out of which Moxon had previously worked. Most famous for his English county maps, his geography texts, and his wall maps, Morden entered into many partnerships during his career, usually to finance larger publishing projects.

Philip Lea Biography

Philip Lea (fl. 1683-1700) was a central figure in the London map community at the end of the eighteenth century. He apprenticed under Robert Morden, with whom he later collaborated. Lea was made free of the Weavers Company in 1689. He was a publisher and a globe and instrument seller with ties to members of government. For example, Samuel Pepys lists him as his map advisor and colorist. He was not known primarily for his own original works, but for his reworking and reissuing of the work of others, particularly the county maps and world map of Christopher Saxton. He also acquired plates from John Seller, John Ogilby, and William Morgan, among others. Later in his career, he collaborated frequently with Herman Moll. After his death in 1700, Philip’s wife, Anne, carried on the business for several decades.

John Thornton Biography

John Thornton was a respected and prominent chartmaker in London in the latter part of the seventeenth century. He was one of the final members of the Thames School of chartmakers and served as the hydrographer to the Hudson's Bay Company and the East India Company. He produced a large variety of printed charts, maps, and atlases in his career, but he was also a renowned manuscript chart maker. Born in London in 1641, he was apprenticed in the Drapers Company to a chartmaker, John Burston. After being made free of the company (1665), he was part of the combine that took over John Seller’ English Pilot in 1677. Thornton was trusted by the naval and navigational establishment of the day; one of his clients was Samuel Pepys, naval administrator and diarist. Thornton died in 1708, leaving his stock to his son, Samuel, who carried on the business.

Samuel, born in ca. 1665, also had apprenticed in the Drapers Company and was made free a year after his father’s death. He continued the business until 1715, when he died. His stock then passed to Richard Mount and Thomas Page.