MITCHELL, John (1711-1768). A Map of the British and French Dominions in North America. [London:] Publish'd by the Author Feb.ry 13th. 1755, and Sold by And: Miller opposite Katherine Street in the Strand. A MONUMENTAL engraved map of North America, by Thomas Kitchen after Mitchell, the title within a magnificent asymmetrical allegorical cartouche lower right, with original hand colour in outline.
VERY RARE FIRST EDITION, FIRST ISSUE, with the imprint reading ‘Publish’d by the Author Feb.ry 13th. 1755, and Sold by And: Miller opposite Katherine Street in the Strand’. The primary political treaty map in American history. Regarded by many authorities as the most important map in the history of American cartography, twenty-one editions and impressions of the map appeared between 1755 and 1781. John Jay used a copy of the third edition during the negotiations of what would become the Treaty of Paris (1783). It continued to be consulted in boundary disputes throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and even into the twentieth. It was used in the Webster-Ashburton Treaty of 1842, the Quebec boundary definition of 1871, the Canada-Labrador case (1926) and the Delaware-New Jersey dispute (1932), among others.
During the middle years of the eighteenth century, numerous maps were created as tensions over dominance in North America were leading up to the French and Indian War. “During those years, British and French cartographers were each claiming large, overlapping territories for their respective colonies in America. Cartographic warfare reached its peak in 1755, when several of the most enduring maps of North America were published. It was during ‘the year of the great maps’ that Dr. John Mitchell published his “Map of the British and French Dominions in North America” ... the next year, Britain was fighting a war with France that many historians consider to be the most decisive in history. At the conclusion of the French and Indian War in 1763, France surrendered more territory to the British than has changed hands in any other conflict before or since... For five years, Dr. Mitchell collected every available scrap of geographical information to create the most comprehensive and up-to-date colonial map of North America. He sought out so many geographers and historians that he told Cadwallader Colden ‘there are none I believe but what I have consulted’. Some of his other resources were the many printed maps available in the 1740s and 1750s; through the good offices of his friend George Montague Dunk, Earl of Halifax, he was given access to the repository of official manuscript maps and geographical materials on file in the archives of the Board of Trade in London. The resulting map, dedicated to Dunk, is so detailed and accurate that it has been used to resolve border disputes in the twentieth century. Nevertheless its original concern was the division of North America between the British and the French.
“On the western extremities of the map, Mitchell cites charters dated May 23, 1609, and November 3, 1620, that stated that the western boundaries of Virginia and New England stretched ‘from Sea to Sea, out of which our other colonies were granted’. In these few words, Mitchell cavalierly claimed for the British all of the vast, unexplored lands in North America reaching to the Pacific Ocean” (Cohen “Mapping the West” pages 59-60). Pritchard & Taliaferro, Degrees of Latitude 21; Stevens & Tree 54.