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Important Antique Map of The British Colonies in North America on the Eve of the French & Indian War

Finely colored example of the first state of Thomas Jefferys map of the British Colonies, illustrating the future eastern United States on the eve of the Seven Years War (French & Indian War).

The first state of Jefferys map is the only state annotated to include a list of French encroachments into the territory claimed by England (top left corner) and a description of the English claims, primarily in the Ohio Valley of the future United States.

The list includes grievances against the French dating back to 1687, including:

  • Schemes to conquer New York (1687) and Boston (1697)
  • Claims that the English discovered the mouth of the Mississippi in 1654 (Colonel Wood) and 1670 (Captain Bott) and that Dr. Cox explored up the Mississippi River when he established the Carolana claim in 1698, one year prior to the French
  • Violations of the Treaty of Utrecht in Nova Scotia (1719), the taking of Ft. Denonville (1726), construction of Ft. Frederick at Crown Point (1731) and Fort Shegnikto (1750) and other forts constructed in violation of the treaty.
  • Seizure of Forts on the Ohio River in 1754, driving English settlers out of the Back Country and establishment of a Fort on the Alabama River in the Creek Country
  • Jefferys notes the vast numerical superiority of the English colonists
  • Jefferys concludes with a note that "The French are intruders into Canada, part of Cabots discoveries and have no Right but by Treaties, as appears from their claiming under Verrozani's Discovery in 1524, through twenty seven years after Cabots.

At the bottom right there is an extensive historical treatise outlining the English Title to their Settlements on the Continent. The claims start with Cabot's voyage in 1497 and Drake's voyage to California in 1577, and concluding with a note that the Utrecht Treaty made the Indians in the Back Country and other points in the west the subjects of Great Britain.

The map shows the Colonies on the Eve of the French & Indian War. A note to the left of the cartouche explains that the French Incroachments are shown in Yellow, Spanish settlements in Green and English Colonies by other Colours. The boundary between New England and Virginia as established by Charter in 1609 is shown, although the date is omitted.

The map is rich with details west of the Appalachians, including Indian Tribes, early French & English forts and other contemporary information on the eve of the revolution. Main is named, but [New] Hampshire takes up all of Vermont. Massachussets Bay and Delaware Bay are named, as are East and West Florida. The region west of the Mississippi is dominated by Spanish Louisiana Territory, with the lands between the Mississippi and the Appalachians controlled by Indian Tribes.

This is the first state of the map, with the date of May 1755 and with only Jefferys imprint (no Sayer & Bennett imprint, added circa 1763).

Condition Description
Original hand-color.
Stevens & Tree 51 (not referencing this state of the map).
Thomas Jefferys Biography

Thomas Jefferys (ca. 1719-1771) was a prolific map publisher, engraver, and cartographer based in London. His father was a cutler, but Jefferys was apprenticed to Emanuel Bowen, a prominent mapmaker and engraver. He was made free of the Merchant Taylors’ Company in 1744, although two earlier maps bearing his name have been identified. 

Jefferys had several collaborators and partners throughout his career. His first atlas, The Small English Atlas, was published with Thomas Kitchin in 1748-9. Later, he worked with Robert Sayer on A General Topography of North America (1768); Sayer also published posthumous collections with Jefferys' contributions including The American Atlas, The North-American Pilot, and The West-India Atlas

Jefferys was the Geographer to Frederick Prince of Wales and, from 1760, to King George III. Thanks especially to opportunities offered by the Seven Years' War, he is best known today for his maps of North America, and for his central place in the map trade—he not only sold maps commercially, but also imported the latest materials and had ties to several government bodies for whom he produced materials.

Upon his death in 1771, his workshop passed to his partner, William Faden, and his son, Thomas Jr. However, Jefferys had gone bankrupt in 1766 and some of his plates were bought by Robert Sayer (see above). Sayer, who had partnered in the past with Philip Overton (d. 1751), specialized in (re)publishing maps. In 1770, he partnered with John Bennett and many Jefferys maps were republished by the duo.