A Highly Important Early American Cadastral Plan.
Rare early engraved map of the area around Philadelphia, as surveyed by Thomas Holme at the request of William Penn.
The present map is a single sheet version of Thomas Holme's important 6 sheet map of the region published in 1687 and incorporates an inset map of the city of Philadelphia, drawn from Holme's exceeding rare town plan Portraiture of the City of Philadelphia, issued in 1683, which is generally considered the earliest city plan of any city in the United States.
Thomas Holme's Map of Pennsylvania
Thomas Holme's original 6 sheet map from which this map is drawn has been called "the greatest of early American maps." It is without question the most extraordinary wall map of any British Colony published in the 17th Century and both a visual and cartographic masterpiece.
In 1681, William Penn was granted sole proprietorship to more than forty-five thousand square miles in a region that he named Pennsylvania. Through vigorous promotion more than a half-million acres were sold in the first year alone. Because each tract had to be laid out before it could be developed, Penn appointed Thomas Holme surveyor general of the colony in April 1682. Holme immediately began to survey the land and to lay out the future city of Philadelphia. A plan titled A Portraiture of the City of Philadelphia was published in 1683. Penn then pressured Holme to produce a general map of the colony complaining from London that "we want a map to the degree that I am ashamed here … all cry out, where is your map, what no map of the settlements!"
The completed manuscript was on its way to Penn in London by May 1687, and the finished map was advertised in January 1688. It illustrates the "improved", or settled, area of the province along the western bank of the Delaware River, a tract of approximately fifty-five miles in length and thirty-three miles in width. On a scale of one mile to one inch, it locates the holdings of 670 settlers, and was the only map of any English colony to give such a detailed account of settlement. Holme's 1683 plan of Philadelphia, the first published for any English American city, was included in reduced form as an inset in the upper right corner. The map's prolific size insured its rarity over time.
A reduced version was published by Philip Lea around 1690. The present map is the second state of the map, issued by George Willdey circa 1715.
The Holme map is rare on the market. The first edition last appeared in a dealer catalog in 2015 (Donald Heald- $62,500). Three examples of the map have appeared at auction in the past 15 years: Swann Galleries, 2006, $43,700; Sotheby's, 2019, $46,250; Sotheby's, 2021, $60,480.
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.
In 1771, 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.