Amérique septentrionale avec les routes, distance en miles, villages et établissements françois et anglois
French edition of John Mitchell's large 8 sheet map of North America, a landmark in the mapping of the continent and British cartography.
The map extends from Louisiana in the west till the Atlantic Ocean in the east; and from a part of Hudson Bay in Canada "Nouvelle France" in the north till Florida and the Mexican Gulf in the south. Mitchell was succeeded in illustrating British territories in Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia. This was the element that gave the map its important political value at the time. In the upper left corner, it includes an inset map of Hudson Bay and Labrador based on the latest surveyed maps. The map's embellishment is reserved to a large elegant title cartouche and two compass roses.
Sources of Mitchell's map
Mitchell map is viewed as intriguing and interesting by many scholars since it was made by the author when he was residing in England any yet characterized by extreme detail in depicting colonies, forts, travel routes, lakes, rivers, villages... In fact, this map should be regarded as a joint production between George Montagu Dunk (1716-1771), the second Earl of Halifax and Mitchell. Due to the earl's high position int the British government as the the president of the Board of Trade, he and Mitchel had direct access to manuscript cartographic material received directly from colonies overseas. In July 1750, Halifax sent an urgent instructions to all of North America's colonial governors, requesting precise surveys and maps of colonial frontiers, and information on French expansion. (1) The colonies that responded with maps and textual accounts were: the London officers of the Hudson's Bay Company, the governor of Massachusetts Bay, the governor of New Jersey, the lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania, the acting governor of Virginia, the governor of North Carolina. These governors sent the following material respectively: (2)
1- A map of the territories they claimed to the north of New France;
2- large map of New England specially surveyed and compiled by Richard Hazzen;
3- An impression of Lewis Evans's map of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York;
4- Manuscript version of the same map;
5- Map of the province of Virginia by Joshua Fry and Peter Jefferson;
6- Plan of the Virginia-North Carolina;
The Map's Political Value in the XVIIth century
Mitchell's map has served a great political purpose since its first edition in 1755, at a very critical time in the century. The mid-eighteenth century was a time of intense competition among colonial powers for territory in what is now the United States of America. Thanks to Halifax, copies of this map were widely distributed among government officials. This map quickly became the standard reference map of the region until the end of the century, and was used to solve border disputes in the region; it was the officials' source for most American treaties at the time (3). Notably, by John Jay for the Paris Treaty of 1783, that ended the American Revolution war and recognized the United States' independence. It was also, used by Nicolas King for the map he prepared for Meriwether Lewis, as per Thomas Jerfferson's recommendation. The later viewed this map as a trusted source and acknowledged the author's precision, knowing that Mitchell's sources came directly from British officials. This popularity was due to the authors' continuous revision of the map, which Edney refers to in his article as the "Imperially Expansive Map." Mitchell updated his map with notes as the territories of Britain and France expanded. It should also be noted that the first edition of this map was published one year before the Seven Years' War between the French and the Indians.
Publication history of the map
Mitchell first completed his manuscript for this map 1750, it's first state was published in 1755 by Andrew Miller. As per Tooley 7 states of this map appeared between the years 1755 and 1775. The second edition of this map published in 1757 is quickly recognizable as it shows blocks of text added. After Mitchell's death in 1768, the company Jeffreys and Faden bought the map's copperplates and reprinted 3 editions of this map in 1773, 1773, 1775. Other than the its English editions, this map was published in French, Dutch and Italian editions. (4) The present example is the French translation by Georges-Louis Le Rouge, it was published in 1777 after some corrections were made by M. Hawkins in 1776.
(1) Edney, Matthew H. (2008). "John Mitchell's Map of North America (1755): A Study of the Use and Publication of Official Maps in Eighteenth-Century Britain" Imago Mundi. 60(1), pp. 63-85.
(2) Ibid, pp. 72
(3) Tooley (1985). "A sequence of Maps of America". The Mapping of America. London: The Holland Press, pp. 317.
(5) Tooley