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An Early Upper Canada Rarity - Sent To Thomas Jefferson During the War of 1812

Extremely rare separately published map of Upper Canada, Lake Huron, Lake Erie, Lake Ontario and contiguous parts of New York, Michigan, Vermont and Pennsylvania, published in New York City by Prior & Dunning.

As noted below, shortly after its publication in early January 1813, the map and accompanying gazetteer were sent to Thomas Jefferson, in order to provide him with the best geographical information at the outset of the war (see letter from Thodorous Bailey to Thomas Jefferson dated January 25, 1813, excerpted below).

The map is drawn from the surveys of David William Smyth, with significant improvements in the roads and other details south of the Great Lakes.  The map gives a meticulous accounting of the various districts north of the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario, with dozens of named townships above Lake Erie further to the West.  A survey grid is given for the lands in New York, with the Erie Canal noted from Rome New York to the Grand Island area, the last part of which is labeled "proposed."   

Several anchors are shown near Fort Erie, apparently reflecting anchorage on the river. The treatment of the roads is quite well done, with Dundas Street, which appears to extend from Kingston to York and then on to London.  A number of forts are shown in the west, including Fort Detroit, Fort Malden, Ft. Miamis, Fort Wayne, Fort Erie, Fort Niagara, etc.  Text to the north of Lake Huron reads “Great Tract of Wilderness Forest” and “Chippewa Hunting Country.”

At the time of its publication, the map was immediately recognized as a significant improvement on others maps of the region.  As noted by Theodorus Bailey in his letter to January 25, 1813 letter to Thomas Jefferson:

Dear Sir,

In place of the map of the northern and western parts of this State [of New York], by Mr. Lay, which I some time since promised to send you, I substitute and now transmit herewith, that of the Canadas; hiaving found upon examination that the former is little more than an abstract of Simeon DeWitt's map; and that the latter is original and more comprehensive, and includes a particular description of the seat of war on the lines:  it is likewise accompanied by a Gazetteer of Upper and Lower Canada . . . 

In relation to the British possessions in our Continent, I think with you that it is all important we should speedily wrest them from the Enemy . . .

According to recent advices from Great-Britain we have ground to apprehend that a large naval force will be employed in the spring to harass our trade, and blockade our ports . . .

The map &c. herewith sent, were completed only a day or two since; which will account for my not complying with my promise at an earlier day.  -- I beg you to be assured that I shall at all times be happy to serve you in any business you may have in this City or State, and to furnish you with any article that may contribute to your pleasure or advantage -- and hope you will at all times freely command me . . . 

Note: While the entry in The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Retirement Series, Volume 5 (p. 581-82) does not name Prior & Dunning, the place of publication is given as New York.  The original Smyth map and gazetteer were published in London, hence the reference could only be to the present map.

The Map and Gazetteer

The map was separately published in conjunction A Gazetteer of the Province of Upper Canada: to which is added, an appendix, describing the principal towns, fortifications and rivers in Lower Canada, also published by Prior & Dunning in 1813.  Engraved by James DeForest Stout. In the Advertisement at the beginning of the Gazetteer, the following note references the map:

The Publishers of the following Gazetteer, are indebted for the information it contains, principall to D.W. Smith, Esq., the very able Surveyor-General of Upper Canada, who drew it to accompany the map published by him a few years since.  

As neither the Map or Gazetteer have ever been offered for sale in the United States, and as the section of the country which they particularly describe, has now become very interesting, the Publishers have been induced to re-publish both; with material corrections and improvements furnished them by several gentlemen acquainted with the country.

An engraved plan of the city and works of Quebec and a description of the principal places in Lower Canada are added, which the former edition did not contain, and which was not contemplated at the commencement of the present publication.

Sabin describes the gazetteer as follows:

A reprint of the gazetteer included in “A Short Topographical Description,” below, with “material corrections and improvements furnished ... by several gentlemen acquainted with the country.” A copy in original wrappers in the New York Historical Society collection also has the above collation. Other copies were issued with a folded “Map of the Straights of Niagara from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario. 1813. Published by Prior & Dunning N. York. Drawn by I. H. Eddy N. York Robinson & Son, Sc.” C., H., NYH., WHS.

The publishers also issued in connection with the work a separate folded map in board covers on which is pasted a printed slip, “Map and Gazetteer of Canada. Published by Prior & Dunning, 111 Water-street, New-York, 1813.” The title of the map itself is: “Map of Upper Canada, describing all the New Settlements, Townships, &c. with the Countries Adjacent, from Quebec to Lake Huron. Compiled at the Request of His Excellency Major General John G. Simcoe, First Lieutenant Governor, By David William Smyth, Esqr. Surveyor General. With additions and corrections from Hollands three sheet Map New York Published by Prior & Dunning 1813 Engraved by Jas. D. Stout.” C., NYH.

David William Smyth's  A Short Topographical Description of His Majesty's Province of Upper Canada, was first published in London in 1799.  Smyth's Map of the Province of Upper Canada describing all the New Settlements, Townships, etc., From Quebec to Lake Huron. Compiled at the Request of His Excellency Major General John G. Simcoe... was first published by William Faden in 1800.


The map is apparently quite rare.  RareBookHub notes no examples on the market since 1920  (Goodspeed, #134-100) and 1917 (Rosenbach #8-227).

We note only one copy of the gazetteer in RareBookHub (Dora Hood Catalog #49-384, 1954).

Condition Description
16 sections mounted on heavy linen. Folds into a case with half leather spine and marbled paper over boards. Evidence of soiling, minor toning, foxing and wear. One stain above Lake Ontario
Sabin 85204