A Map of the Inhabited Part of Virginia, containing the whole of the Province of Maryland with Part of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and North Carolina. Joshua Fry (1699-1754) and Peter Jefferson (1708-1757). Engraved map with original hand color in outline by state, the title within a fine rococo cartouche. London: Thomas Jefferys, August 1753. 30 3/8 x 48 6/8 inches sheet, 41 x 50 inches framed. This map was used by the French Naval and Military Commanders to plot strategy for the French and Indian War and the American Revolution. Provenance: FROM THE PERSONAL COLLECTION OF JACQUES NICOLAS BELLIN (1703-1772), inscribed on the verso: “Pour Mr. Bellin Ingenieur de la Marine”; with the ink and embossed stamps of the French Hydrographic Office, the Depot de la Marine.
ONE OF ONLY FOUR KNOWN EXAMPLES OF THE FIRST EDITION, FIRST STATE, OF THE MOST IMPORTANT 18TH CENTURY MAP OF VIRGINIA, EVEN MORE NOTABLE FOR BEING THE PERSONAL COPY OF JACQUES NICOLAS BELLIN, CHIEF MAPMAKER TO THE FRENCH GOVERNMENT DURING A PERIOD THAT INCLUDED THE FRENCH AND INDIAN WAR AND THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION
This copy with pencilled gridlines, suggesting that it was used as a prototype for subsequent ?French copies of the map. Compiled by Peter Jefferson and Joshua Fry in the first years of the 1750s, the map is all but unrivaled in its significance for the history of the mapping of Virginia, and of North America as a whole. It went through several editions and states (alterations to the printing plates), and each version is of extreme rarity, but none more so than this map: only the fourth example known of the very first state of the first edition. The three other copies are in the collection of the New York Public Library, in the Alderman Library at the University of Virginia, and in the collection of the of Duke of Northumberland at Alnwick.
This exceedingly rare map is further distinguished for being the personal copy of one of the most celebrated French cartographers, Jacques Nicolas Bellin, head of the government hydrographic office, or Depot de la Marine. It is possible to imagine that this very example of Fry and Jefferson’s seminal map was the one that Bellin consulted during the crucial military campaigns that took place over the course of two wars waged on American soil: the French and Indian War, which pitted the French against the British, and the Revolution, in which the French again found themselves opposite the English, this time in alliance with the Americans. This is the map that Bellin would have used as a point of departure for his own maps of the region, and that he would consulted in order to advise the French commanders during critical military maneuvers that held momentous historical import.
The Fry-Jefferson map of the broad area known as Virginia is the fundamental cartographic document of the region from the 18th century. The first map to focus on Virginia was Captain John Smith's of 1612, but after that early and primitive attempt to delineate the area, no exhaustive study was made for over a century. This basic lack was first confronted by the team of Peter Jefferson -- the father of Thomas Jefferson -- and Joshua Fry. The two men were commissioned by the Virginia legislature after a 1751 mandate, issued by the English Lords of Trade, requiring each colony to produce an adequate survey of the region. Fry's experience as master of mathematics at William and Mary, and Jefferson's as a surveyor, was enough to recommend them as commissioners for the compilation of the Virginia map.
The result of the ambitious collaboration between the two men was the most accurate, comprehensive, and complete project in the history of Virginia mapping. The Fry-Jefferson map was the first to delineate the interior regions of Virginia beyond the Tidewater, and included all the major plantations along Virginia's rivers by family name. It was the first printed map to depict the valleys of the Appalachian and Allegheny mountain ranges of the western interior, and to show the complete Virginia river system. The striking cartouche at the lower right is one of the earliest surviving pictorial representations of the Virginia tobacco trade, and a testament to the fact that Fry and Jefferson ensured the same quality in the map's artwork as in its cartography.
It has been suggested that "this first printing of the Fry and Jefferson map of Virginia was intended for limited use by officials and select individuals rather than for general distribution. The initial cost of production argues against such a hypothesis. The lavish cartouche, for example, which appeared on the August 1753 and all subsequent printings, was designed by Francis Hayman and engraved by Charles Grignion, luminaries of the London art world (Figure 10). Such an embellishment would have been an extravagant and unnecessary expense for a map printed in a limited number for strictly utilitarian purposes. By the summer of 1753, the escalating tension with France had apparently increased the topicality of colonial maps to such an extent that Jefferys most likely added the cartouche to the Fry and Jefferson to broaden its appeal to the general market" (Henry Taliaferro: Fry and Jefferson Revisited, in Journal of Early southern Decorative Arts, 2014, volume 35).
There are many significant differences between this, the earliest issue, of the Fry and Jefferson and subsequent ones, including the next issue proposed for publication only three months later in December of 1753 (although no known example survives). The title of the map omits the word 'Most', which was added to the subsequent issues. For this first issue Jefferys discarded the original draught map's "far western part when he engraved the plates in 1753. At that time, Jefferys retained Fry and Jefferson’s original title, “A Map of the Inhabited Part…,” a title that seemed odd as it was initially applied to a map that may have extended as far west as the Mississippi River. Fry’s decision to include the word “Inhabited” in the title of the draught was a political choice. It supported Britain’s claim to all the territory assigned to Virginia under its charter through the fiction that English settlement extended as far as the colony’s westernmost limits when in fact it was clustered in the easternmost regions. After the map was published without its western part, it must have occurred to Jefferys (or Halifax) that the title, as it stood, implied that all settlement was confined to the eastern (“Inhabited”) part of Virginia and that the discarded western lands were wholly uninhabited. The addition of the word “Most” to the title of the December 1753 state of map corrected the oversight" (Taliaferro).
Great differences appear between this first issue of the Fry and Jefferson map and the third printing in January of 1755: it is the earliest surviving version of the map to include details of Virginia's road system; there is a complete reworking of the western sheets of the map to include "the momentous increase in geographical knowledge for the Ohio Valley region between 1751 and the summer of 1754" (Taliaferro); and to the eastern sheets a number of place names and landmarks are added. Stevens and Tree 1, Taliferro 1, Verner 1.