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The Earliest Obtainable Map of Mobile Bay

Rare early English map of Mobile Bay, engraved for Thomas Jefferys in London in 1763.

The map was published separately (see King's Topographical Collection note below) and was also featured in William Roberts'  An account of the first discovery, and natural history of Florida, published in 1763 in London, the year the British took official control of the area following the Treaty of Paris and the end of the French & Indian War.

Drawn in part from Jean Baptiste Bourguignon d'Anville's 1732 map of Louisiana, this is the earliest obtainable printed map to focus on Mobile Bay.  As noted by Old Florida Maps (on-line, University of Miami)

This map shows one of the important and controversial ports which belonged to West Florida during the British Period (1763-1783) and the first part of the Spanish Period 1783-until it was ceded back to France by the Spanish in 1795, including all the portion of West Florida west of the Perdido River. That is the current western border of the panhandle portion of Florida. That western part was later to become part of the United States when the Louisiana Purchase took place in 1803 and later divided between Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama in 1811 and 1812.

The Harbor of Mobile had been valuable to the British and was described by a Captain Robinson in 1750 as ""a most noble and spacious harbour running thirty miles north and six miles broad to the several mouths of the Halabana and Chicasaw rivers. It affords good anchorage, and is capable of containing the whole British navy.""  The continued interest in this by the British and French and Spain's inability to use it or properly defend it and Pensacola was one of the factors that persuaded Spain to sell Florida to the United States in 1819.

Roberts work is considered an important review of the known history of Florida, issued immediately after its cessation from Spain 'to satisfy British curiosity concerning the territory acquired' (Howgego).  The map of Mobile is included with a letter on the colony by Captain Thomas Robinson.

While the Roberts book appears occasionally on the market, this chart of the bay is very rarely seen without the book.


We were unable to locate any other examples in dealer catalogs listed in AMPR.

King's Topographical Collection:
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.