Maps of the North American Continent
The title of English Empire in America reflects its 1695 publication date, almost a decade before the Acts of Union of England and Scotland (1706 & 1707) that created the Kingdom of Great Britain and the British Empire. Even so, John Senex republished this map with minor changes in 1717 and retained the title English Empire.
The most unique feature of this map is its fanciful mountain ranges, which resemble an irregular four-armed starfish with its body in western North Carolina. Extending northeasterly from there, the “Apalitean Mountains” become scattered as they reach southern Pennsylvania. Another range extends directly west across what becomes Tennessee to the Mississippi River. The northern arm reaches all the way to the tip of the southern peninsular of Michigan and is labeled: “On the top of these mountains is a Plaine like a Terras Walk aboue 200 miles in length.” The southern arm extends deep into Florida and presents a mountain range as the watershed divide on that flat peninsular. The most accurate details relate to the coastal regions. It includes information about rivers and settlements in the Carolinas but not in the area destined to become Georgia.
In the early 18th century, Claude Delisle (1644-1720) and his four sons became the preeminent family of French cartography. The most accomplished was the child prodigy Guillaume Delisle (1675-1726), who served as the chief royal geographer and is considered the first modern scientific cartographer. This map is significant for several reasons. Using the reports of French explorers and his father’s earlier drawings, Guillaume produced the first accurate depiction of the mouth of the Mississippi and the Gulf Coast. This work became the main source for later cartographers dealing with this area. Both the Missouri and the Rio Grande Rivers are shown in a fairly accurate manner but by earlier names. The Missouri, however, is shown as flowing around the northern end of the Rocky Mountains. Meriwether Lewis and William Clark shared that same belief or hope, and some scholars believe that the Delisle’s work was the oldest map consulted by these later explorers. This work also represents an example of political cartography as Delisle greatly circumscribes the extent of English settlement as a means of expanding the French empire. He inaccurately asserts that Charles Town was the failed French outpost Charles Fort from the 1650s. His representation of Carolina does not extend to the Savannah River. In general, this representation of the interior along the East coast is inaccurate. This work was the first to show de Soto’s route through the Southeast. In some of its key points Delisle’s route is very close to the recent reinterpretations of De Soto’s march by archaeologists at the University of Georgia.
(Some information from the text of a University of Virginia Library exhibit.)
Known as Moll’s “Sasquesahanok Indian Fort” map after the image in the upper left, the map’s title indicates its design, to refute Guillaume Delisle’s “Carte de la Louisiane” map (1718) that showed circumscribed English land claims along the Atlantic coast. Moll warned “those Noblemen, Gentlemen, Merchants &c., who are interested in our Plantations,” of the French “incroachements.” And he urged that good relations be maintained with the old English Allies, the “Charakeys” and Iroquois. Moll included the number of Cherokee villages in several locations to indicate their military strength. Moll’s information about the Southeast was garnered from first hand observers. He was aware of Sir Robert Montgomery’s 1718 plan to create the Margravate of Azilia. Moll probably advocated the proposal because it promised to fortify the southern border of the English empire.
Moll’s social life revolved around Jonathan’s coffee house in London, where he exchanged ideas with literary figures such as Jonathan Swift and Daniel Defoe and intellectual pirates like William Dampier. His involvement in that circle also led to his producing maps that encouraged investment in the South Sea Company that burst in a bubble just as this map appeared.
This is a reproduction Popple’s key map used to index the twenty separate sheets of the bound version of this massive work. He also sold this version as a large roll-up wall map. Popple’s father and brother served as secretary to the British Board of Trade and Plantations, and Henry served briefly as its clerk. In that capacity, he saw the need for accurate maps and grasped the commercial possibility of a grandiose series of North American maps. He sold the publication rights before his death in 1743, and his map continued to appear in various forms for years. James Oglethorpe did not return from his first trip to Georgia in times to incorporate his cartographic observations into the first edition, but he did play a role in updating the Georgia portion of later editions.
Many scholars view this as the most important map in American history because of its role in defining the new nation. Mitchell, a Virginian educated in medicine in Edinburgh, created this map for political reasons, to show how the French were encircling the British in North America. The Board of Trade saw his 1750 draft and commissioned this 1755 version. The Americans and British negotiators drafting the 1783 peace treaty drew the U.S. borders on this map. Since that time, it has been used on numerous occasions to settle international and interstate boundary conflicts.
As an active London engraver and map publisher in that period, Seale’s numerous works depicted various areas of the British empire, other countries, and the world. Many cartographers who depicted North America in the second half of the 18th century relied on Jean Baptiste B. d’Anville’s 1755 map. D’Anville showed an expanded French empire that the English re-interpreted as encroachments on British territory.