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Spectacular Contemporary Color Example of An Important Map of the British Colonies with the First Printed Plan of New York Harbor

Remarkable old color example of the final edition of Thornton, Morden & Lea's important map of the English Colonies in North America, which includes the earliest printed plan of New York Harbor.

Offered here in the final state by George Willdey, the map is an exceptional original color example,  by far the finest we have ever seen for this map.

Thornton, Morden & Lea's map is the first obtainable state of the finest general map of England's American colonies to date. The map is one of the earliest to include Augustine Herrman's cartography for Virginia and Maryland. To the North it includes one of the earliest depictions of the Pennsylvania colony (est. 1681), the first printed chart of New York Harbor, and significant additions to the cartography of New England.

The map shows the English colonies from Cape Ann in Massachusetts to Cape Henry at the mouth of Chesapeake Bay. The map extends as far north as the tributaries of the Hudson, and in the southwest it shows the Delaware and Susquehanna Rivers and as far west as the tributaries of the Potomac and Rappahannock. Augustyn and Cohen note the importance of the inset:

To the ambitious person, the map would have presented an enticing vista: it displays a loose federation of colonies, between and beyond which there appears to be ample unclaimed land. It creates an image of an area comfortingly linked by civilization but still containing much open territory.

The geography of Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and New Jersey derives from the Thornton-Greene Mapp of Virginia Mary=land, New Jarsey, New=York, & New England (ca 1678), whose depiction of the region is in turn based largely on Augustine Herrman's Virginia and Maryland (1673). The Thornton-Morden-Lea departs from these prototypes, however, in showing the new colony of Pennsylvania and incorporating changes to the course of the Delaware and place names along its banks.

New York and southern New England are drawn from the Thornton-Greene map, which in turn draws on John Seller's Mapp of New England (1676). Here as well Thornton, Morden and Lea have departed substantially from the prototypes: Long Island's barrier beaches are shown for the first time on a printed map and numerous place names are introduced along the Connecticut coast and on Cape Cod; the boundaries between Massachusetts, Plymouth and Connecticut colonies are drawn; and several roads are shown.

The inset of New York Harbor is also of great import, being the first separate printed chart of the area. Based on a 1683 survey conducted by Philip Wells for William Penn and the other proprietors of West New Jersey, it is far more accurate than earlier work. The inset shows particularly well the shoals that confine shipping to a single deep-water entrance around Sandy Hook.

Remarkably, the map was almost certainly originally issued as part of a 4-sheet wall map, of which only one example survives. As determined by McCorkle and Taliaferro:

The map is actually a separately-issued section of a multi-sheet wall map entitled A New Map of the English Empire in the Continent of America (1685). This ambitious project was a collaborative venture between three of London's leading map publishers, but it resulted in a map that was far too expensive to succeed. The Thornton-Morden-Lea wall map survives today only in one ... copy in the Bibliotheque National in Paris.
But the map's publishers had anticipated that the wall map would be financially risky, so they included all of the English colonies except for Carolina on one sheet, and this sheet was designed to that it could be sold separately. It was given its own secondary title, A New Map of New England New York New Jarsey Pennsylvania Maryland and Virginia, which could be trimmed off when the sheet was used for the wall map. (Richard B. Arkway and Cohen & Taliaferro, Catalogue 62, item #8).


The present example is the final state of the map, bearing the imprints of George Willdey.  The states are as follows:

  • 1685- Thornton Morden & Lea imprint
  • 1695 - Philip Lea Imprint
  • 1698 - Che Sea Peake Bay is now named
  • 1715 - Willdey imprint


The final state of the map would appear to be the rarest, with Burden noting only the examples in the Johns Hopkins, Maryland State Archives and New York Public Library.

Condition Description
Original color. Minor soiling.
Augustyn & Cohen, Manhattan in Maps, pp. 48-49; Burden, Mapping of North America, #616; Cumming, British Maps of Colonial America, p. 31, fig. 18 (detail); McCorkle, New England in Early Printed Maps, entries 680.4 and 685.3; Pritchard & Taliaferro, Degrees of Latitude, pps. 363-364; Stevens
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.

George Willdey Biography

George Willdey was an optical instrument maker. He also sold globes, maps, and toys at his shop in Ludgate Street. Born in Staffordshire, Willdey moved to London after the death of his father, where he was bound as an apprentice to John Yarwell, an optician. He was made free of the Spectaclemakers’ Company in 1702, when he began work as a journeyman.

A few years later, Willdey started in business with Timothy Brandreth, working under the sign of the Archimedes and Globe. They competed for business with Yarwell and other opticians, advertising their wares in trade cards and periodical advertisements.

Willdey and his wife, Judith, had five children, three of which survived to adulthood. Judith was a Huguenot, which allowed Willdey to create a wider network of artisans and craftsman. He expanded his stock to toys and household decorations, in addition to instruments. From 1709 he also sold printed goods, including maps and globes, which he sold in partnership with John Senex. Willdey purchased the copper plates for many maps, such as Christopher Saxton’s atlas of England and Wales.

We note the following addresses:

  • From 1707 to 1713 he operated "At the Archemedes & Globe, Ludgate Street." sometimes described as "Archimedes and Globe next the Dog Tavern nearer Ludgate."
  • In 1712 in partnership with Timothy Brandreth also advertised at Archimedes and Globe over against the Royal Exchange in Cornhill.
  • In 1715 his location was described as "At the Great Toy and Print Shop, the corner of Ludgate Street, next to St. Paul's"
  • 1718 to 1737 as "At the Great Toy, Spectacle, China-Ware, and Print Shop, the Corner of Ludgate Street near St. Pauls London." 

In 1717, Willdey split with Brandreth and expanded his stock further to include coffee and tea, snuff, medicine, china, and cutlery. He sold these wares from his shop at Ludgate and St. Paul’s Churchyard. He aggressively advertised his business in hundreds of newspaper advertisements; he also adopted many advertising gimmicks, such as erecting a giant burning glass on the roof of his store. Willdey was a leader in the Spectaclemakers’ Company. His wife frequently helped with the business and eight of his fifteen apprentices were women, which was very unusual for either the instrument and toy trades at the time.

Willdey died in 1737, although he had been in declining health for years and had tried to pass the business to his son, Thomas. He was remembered in The Old Whig, or, the Consistent Protestant as the “most noted Toyman in Europe.” After his death, the shop was run by Judith along with a former apprentice, Susanna Passavant. Thomas, it seems, was not suited to business.

Willdey’s daughter, Jane Frances, married a Peter Fenoulhet, clerk of the entries in the Excise Office. Fenoulhet sued on behalf of their son over the mismanagement of the family business by Thomas. These lawsuits produced eleven inventories of household and commercial stock between 1730 and 1737, the only extant shop accounts from the London instrument trade from this period.  

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.