The Single Most Important Revolutionary War Chart of Narrangansett Bay -- Used by Both the English and French Navy
Important Revolutionary War Plan of Narrangansett Bay, prepared by Charles Blaskowitz, for the use of the British Navy during the American Revolution.
This fine plan, first published in 1777, is without question the most important eighteenth-century chart of Narraganset Bay. Nebenzahl notes that
"it is certain that the British, after occupying Newport at the end of 1776, used this map for their operations in this pivotal area. The detail shown is remarkable, including even the names of farmers on their land locations."
The French also quickly seized upon the map when they made Newport their primary base of naval operations after joining the American cause in 1778. By 1780, a French copy of the map had been published for use by the French Navy.
As the map’s title suggests, it contains military information, indicating both British and American batteries and forts throughout the area. The map also shows the location of then Brown College in Providence and provides street plans of Newport, Providence, Bristol and other cities. The area’s road system and extensive nautical information are also provided.
The map itself is unusual, in that it is a combination of a nautical chart and topographical map (and hence the title, "A Topographical Chart..."). The Bay is clearly shown with its many islands and intricate inlets, with numerous soundings which give accurate readings of the treacherous waters. On the shore, impressive detail is depicted, with individual farms named and elegant hachuring showing elevations. Eight batteries are shown via lettered references, with a key at the top right corner which details the numbers and types of canons. Along the right side of the map are the names of the principal land owners of the region, along with a brief description of the area. A large and well-designed dedication by Faden, to Lord Percy, appears just below.
Charles Blaskowitz arrived in America in the early 1760s, where he began surveying work in upstate New York and along the St. Lawrence River. In March 1764, he was commissioned as part of Samuel Holland's North American Survey team and would eventually become Holland's Deputy Surveyor by 1775. Blaskowitz's first assignment was to survey Aquidneck Island and Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island, in order to determine whether Newport would be a suitable location for a naval base. Blaskowitz completed this survey in 1764 and later re-surveyed the region as part of Holland's larger surveys of the coast in 1774, for the Board on Trade and Plantations.
Blaskowitz's surveys would be used for two printed charts, by Des Barres and Faden, respectively. The Faden chart was a much more accomplished production, on a larger sheet and more elaborately engraved (and according to Pedley, costing two and a half times as much at the time of publication). The map was sold separately or within some copies of Faden's North American Atlas.
The colonies were already on the brink of Revolution and Newport was a hotbed of insurrection. In 1772, British naval ships laid siege to Narragansett Bay, in order to enforce customs duties on incoming vessels. After months of antagonizing the city's merchants, the much-hated British captain of the HMS Gaspee, was injured and the ship burned. Lt. Dudingston, the captain of HMS Gaspee, was treated by one of the attackers before he was taken off the ship. He was then delivered to a nearby physician for further treatment. Dudingston lived until 1817.
The region instantly became a point of great interest in Great Britain, with the King offering a reward for the capture of the insurrectionists. In May 1776, Rhode Island became the first Colony to declare its independence and the British would occupy Newport from November of 1776, until the end of August 1778.
The chart is rare on the market. Rarebookhub notes only 1 example of the map in the past 30 years at auction (Sothebys, 1991). We note only 2 examples in dealer catalogs in the past 10 years.
Jointly owned with Boston Rare Maps.
William Faden (1749-1836) was the most prominent London mapmaker and publisher of the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries. His father, William Mackfaden, was a printer who dropped the first part of his last name due to the Jacobite rising of 1745.
Apprenticed to an engraver in the Clothworkers' Company, he was made free of the Company in August of 1771. He entered into a partnership with the family of Thomas Jeffreys, a prolific and well-respected mapmaker who had recently died in 1771. This partnership lasted until 1776.
Also in 1776, Faden joined the Society of Civil Engineers, which later changed its name to the Smeatonian Society of Civil Engineers. The Smeatonians operated as an elite, yet practical, dining club and his membership led Faden to several engineering publications, including canal plans and plans of other new engineering projects.
Faden's star rose during the American Revolution, when he produced popular maps and atlases focused on the American colonies and the battles that raged within them. In 1783, just as the war ended, Faden inherited his father's estate, allowing him to fully control his business and expand it; in the same year he gained the title "Geographer in Ordinary to his Majesty."
Faden also commanded a large stock of British county maps, which made him attractive as a partner to the Ordnance Survey; he published the first Ordnance map in 1801, a map of Kent. The Admiralty also admired his work and acquired some of his plates which were re-issued as official naval charts.
Faden was renowned for his ingenuity as well as his business acumen. In 1796 he was awarded a gold medal by the Society of Arts. With his brother-in-law, the astronomer and painter John Russell, he created the first extant lunar globe.
After retiring in 1823 the lucrative business passed to James Wyld, a former apprentice. He died in Shepperton in 1826, leaving a large estate.