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John Cary's First Printed Map

Nice example of John Cary's map of the Southeastern United States, Florida and the Caribbean, published on August 1, 1783.

Published in August, 1783, the map was issued one month prior to the signing of the Treaty of Peace between the United States and Britain, ending the American Revolution and formalizing American Independence.

The map presents a fine picture of the South at the birth of America.  South Carolina is divided by precincts, the subdivisions which preceded its District and County systems.  The detail in Western Georgia (Mississippi and Alabama) is quite impressive, with an unusual number of Indian Settlements shown.

The dating of the map gives his map the distinction of being the earliest printed map issued by John Cary.  While previous scholars have identified  An Accurate Map of the United States of America, with part of the surrounding provinces agreeable to the Treaty of Peace of 1783, as the first map printed under Cary's name, his map of the United States bears the date August 6, 1783, 5 days after the present map.


While the map is known to survive in several examples, it has, for reasons unknown, been overlooked by modern scholars.  We note examples at the Library of Congress, British Library, Wisconsin Historical Society and Yale.  

John Cary Biography

John Cary (1755-1835) was a British cartographer and publisher best known for his clean engraving and distinct style which influenced the entire map industry. Born in Wiltshire, John was apprenticed to an engraver in London. He started his own business by 1782 and moved to several premises before settling at 86 St James’s Street in 1820.

Cary had several significant collaborations during his career. John Wallis and Cary diversified Cary’s business to include broader publishing projects. Brother William and John made globes together, while brother Francis participated in the company’s engraving work. Finally, geologist William Smith and Cary developed and sold geological maps, some of the first of their kind. The pair also produced a notable series of county maps starting in 1819. Cary’s atlases, of English counties and the world, were the standard texts of the early nineteenth century. He was appointed surveyor of roads to the General Post Office in 1794, which led to the New Itinerary, first published in 1798.  

John trained his son, George, in engraving and George and his other son, John Jr., took over the business in 1821. It was then known as G. and J. Cary and continued in trade until 1850. The firm’s materials were then acquired by George Frederick Cruchley and then Gall and Inglis. By the time John died in 1835, Cary was the authoritative name in private map publishing and his business was a leader in the field throughout the first half of the nineteenth century.