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Fine Map of Eastern Canada and the Original American West

First edition of John Cary's detailed map of Canada, centered on the Great Lakes.

The map includes several annotations in Ohio and New York, along with remarkable detail along the river and lake system between Lake Superior and Lake Winnipeg. Lower Canada is to the west, with Upper Canada farther east; a dotted line marks the border between them, which follows the Montreal River and a mountain range. The border between the United States and Canada is marked with another dotted line running through the lakes.

Away from the East Coast and the shores of the lakes and some rivers, there are few settlements. This area was little known to those of European descent, as evidenced by labels like “Immense Forests” near Lake Ontario. However, what was known at the time is included by Cary, including tribal names and lands. Also included are significant geographic features. Niagara Falls includes this note: “Here the Niagara falls down a stupendous precipice 146 feet perpendicular and 1040 wide.”

Frontier forts are also detailed, many of which tell stories of conflict as colonists expanded westward onto lands already in use by indigenous peoples. For example, Fort Recovery is centrally marked in the Western Territory. The fort was built in late 1793 and early 1794 on the orders of General Anthony Wayne. Wayne defended the nascent stronghold against attack in June 1794, but the fort was abandoned in 1796. Later, a village grew up around the ruins of the fort. Interestingly, the fort is shown here far from the Wabash River, along the shores of which the fort was actually built.

The map includes several routes of early explorers and immigrants west of the Appalachians and northwest of Lake Ontario, underlining the desire of British colonists and American settlers alike to move west and found new towns and farms. For example, a portage route links Nipising Lake (Lake Nipissing) to the Montreal River. The lake empties into Lake Huron farther south. This lake was first visited by Europeans when the French fur trader Étienne Brûlé arrived in 1610. It was known as the Lake of Sorcerers to the French, but the British colonists preferred an indigenous name meaning “big water.”

To the east, Lake Superior is linked to Lake Winnipeg by a complicated combination of small lakes, portages, and rivers. In the middle of the route is “Slave Falls 20 feet High 100 Yards wide, tremendous.” Other notes include “Cliffs in the Crevitses of which a quantity of Arrows are stuck” and “Provision Store Moving Waters.” This information came from Alexander Mackenzie’s Voyages from Montreal (London: Cadell and Davies, 1801). In the account, Mackenzie recounts his adventures and offers a history of trade in the area. By the time Cary published this map, however, the trade route, which was used by a fur company for whom Mackenzie worked, had moved to the Kaministiquia River.

This underlines the quixotic and changeable nature of geographic knowledge; revisions and updates like this are why Cary reissued the map several times, as the area was of intense interest to his customers. This is a first edition, published in 1807.

Condition Description
Original hand-color. Small separation at the bottom of the centerfold mended on verso.
Thanks to Dr. Barbara Belyea for her input on this map and its sources. KAP
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.