A wonderful 1775 map of the Arctic regions of the Western Hemisphere by John Green or Braddock Mead. Focusing on Alaska (Bering Strait) and the Canadian Arctic, map covers from the Sea of Okhotsk (Penschinaska Guba) to Iceland and the east coast of Greenland; as well, from about 85 degrees north latitude to the southern shores of Greenland and Hudson Bay. Technically this is the northern panel of a massive three panel map of North and South America issued by Sayer and Bennett for the 1776 Thomas Jefferys American Atlas
. Nonetheless, unlike many maps that were intended as a set, the present offering easily stands on its own.
The cartographer, Braddock Mead / John Green, is uncommonly forthright with his process and, through his many annotations, we can to some extant begin to understand his reasoning as he attempts to piece together a mostly unexplored land. We imagine him leaning over a desk strewn often conflicting maps prepared by his contemporaries. We imagine him drawing tables of latitudinal and longitudinal points drawn from the records of known navigators and comparing them with those of other cartographers - much as appears in the 'Comparative Table' at top center. Here, Mead offers his own latitudes and longitudes and compares them with those of Bellin, and D'Anville, thus arguing for the superiority of his own research. Throughout he references explorations and discoveries, often offering commentary and delineating the route of notable navigators including Baffin, Hudson, Vitus Bering, and others.
As much attention as Mead lavished on the Hudson Bay, his map's its most compelling cartography appears far to the west. Here Mead is attempting to reconcile the discoveries of Vitus Bering with earlier cartographic speculations and recently 'rediscovered' Japanese cartography. Here Mead draws heavily on maps published one year earlier by Jakob von Staehlin. It was Staehlin, working in 1774 from the records of Bering, Gvozdef, and Fedorov, among others archived in the repository of Royal Academy of Sciences at St. Petersburg, who first drew the Peninsula of Tchuktschi and defined an island named Alaschka. Technically, from the Russian perspective, Alaska (Alaschka¬), which was derived from the Aleut 'alaxsxaq' meant 'object toward which the action of the sea is directed,' 'great continent' or, quite basically, 'the mainland.' The notion that it might have been an island seems to extend from reports by Russian traders and military officers. Specifically, in 1768, Krenitsyn and Levashev, Russian naval officers, wrote of a large island called 'Alaxa' northeast of Unimak Island referenced by Alaskan natives as the 'Island of Alaschka.' Staehlin applied these reports to reconcile anomalies on the Japanese map acquired by the German naturalist, physician, and orientalist Engelbert Kaempfer - as Mead suggests here. This Japanese map shows an unnamed island in the vicinity of Alaska, which Staehlin expands in size and reorients to correspond to lands discovered by Gvozdef in the wake of the Bering-Chirikov expedition. The other islands, some of which are named, and some of which are not. Are derived from the reports of Captain Ivan Sindt (Sindo). Sindt sailed with Bering and later, in 1768, led his own expedition to the region. As some have suggested he seems to have greatly exaggerated both the size and quantity of the islands he encountered. Staehlin used this to fill in the blanks between the Kaempfer Japanese map and the Bering maps.
When Captain James Cook visited this region a few years later, in 1778, he had Staehlin's in hand. Based upon Staehlin's cartographer Cook surmised that he should be able to sail around 'Alaschka' thus making his way northward into the fabled Northwest Passage. He initially believed that he may have found such a passage at Cook Inlet, but did not explore further. Still, Cook we intensely disappointed by Staehlin's geography, of which he wrote,
What could induce him to publish so erroneous a Map in which many of these islands are jumbled in regular confusion without the least regard to the truth, and yet he is pleased to call it a very accurate little map? A map that the most illiterate of his illiterate Sea-faring men would have been ashamed to put his name to.
This map was drawn by Braddock Mead and prepared by Sayer and Bennett for publication by Thomas Jefferys in the 1776 edition of his iconic American Atlas
Braddock Mead (c. 1688 - 1757), also known as John Green, was an Irish cartographer and map engraver active in London during the middle part of the 18th century. Mead is one of the most interesting and colorful figures in cartography whose louche personal life sharply contrasted with the high standard of his maps. Mead was born in Ireland around 1688 and seems to have come from a good family and received a respectable education. His brother Thomas Mead held the position of Lord Mayor of Dublin in 1757. Braddock Mead left Dublin for London around 1717 where he plunged into vice, subsidizing his cartographic work with hack work and gambling. In 1728 Mead fell in with a plot to defraud a 12 year old Irish heiress, Bridget Reading, of her fortune by kidnapping and marrying her himself. Mead suffered jail time for the crime but was more fortunate than his partner, a fellow Irishman named Kimberly, who was hanged. As a cartographer Mead cannot have exhibited a more antithetical character. He held himself and others to the highest standards of accuracy and scholarship, and issued a call for greater transparency in the field of mapmaking. Mead worked with Ephraim Chambers on the Universal Dictionary, as well as with Cave and Astley in the publication of various travelogues and explorer's journals, notably Astley’s New General Collection of voyages and travels. Eventually he came to work for the publishing house of Thomas Jefferys, who saw through Mead's personal failings to appreciate his cartographic brilliance. Mead has been called the genius behind Jefferys and he seems to have had a hand in the production of many of Jefferys' most important maps. William Cumming notes that Mead
had a number of marked characteristics as a cartographer ... One was his ability to collect, to analyze the value of, and to use a wide variety of sources; these he acknowledged scrupulously on the maps he designed and even more fully in accompanying remarks. Another outstanding characteristic was his intelligent compilation and careful evaluation of reports on latitudes and longitudes used in the construction of his maps, which he also entered in tables on the face of the maps ... Mead's contributions to cartography stand out ... At a time when the quality and the ethics of map production were at a low ebb in England, he vigorously urged and practiced the highest standards; in the making of maps and navigational charts he was in advance of his time. For this he deserves due credit. Learn More...
Robert Sayer (1725 - January 29, 1794) was an important English map publisher and engraver active from the mid to late 18th century. Sayer was born in Sunderland, England, in 1725. He may have clerked as a young man with the Bank of England, but this is unclear. His brother, James Sayer, married Mary Overton, daughter-in-law of John Overton and widow of Philip Overton. Sayer initially worked under Mary Overton, but by December of 1748 was managing the Overton enterprise and gradually took it over, transitioning the plates to his own name. When Thomas Jefferys went bankrupt in 1766, Sayer offered financial assistance to help him stay in business and, in this way, acquired rights to many of the important Jefferys map plates as well as his unpublished research. From about 1774, he began publishing with his apprentice, John Bennett (fl. 1770-1784), as Sayer and Bennett, but the partnership was not formalized until 1777. Bennett retired in 1784 following a mental collapse and the imprint reverted to Robert Sayer. From 1790, Sayer added Robert Laurie and James Whittle to his enterprise, renaming the firm Robert Sayer and Company. Ultimately, Laurie and Whittle partnered to take over his firm. Sayer retired to Bath, where, after a long illness, he died. During most of his career, Sayer was based at 53 Fleet Street, London. His work is particularly significant for its publication of many British maps relating to the American Revolutionary War. Unlike many map makers of his generation, Sayer was a good businessman and left a personal fortune and great estate to his son, James Sayer, who never worked in the publishing business. Learn More...
Thomas Jefferys (1695 - November 20, 1771) was one of the most prominent and prolific map publishers and engravers of his day. Jefferys was born in Birmingham and was apprenticed to the engraver Emmanuel Bowen in 1735. Later, in the 1740s he engraved several maps for the popular periodical Gentleman's Magazine. Around 1740 Jefferys was finally able to go into business for himself and in 1746 received an appointment as 'Geographer to Fredrick, Prince of Wales,' which shortly after translated to the position of 'Royal Cartographer to King George III.' Jefferys initially specialized in compiling and re-engraving the works of earlier cartographers into more coherent cartographic wholes. Later, while not salaried position, Jefferys' appointment as 'Royal Cartographer' guaranteed preferential access to the most up to date cartographic material available, allowing him to produce new and updated charts of exceptional accuracy. He his best known for his maps of the Americas, particularly the posthumously published 1775 American Atlas, which included some of the finest and most important late colonial era maps of America ever made. Despite his prolific publishing history, royal appointments, and international publishing fame, Jefferys lived most of his life in dire economic straits. He was bailed out of bankruptcy by Robert Sayer during the production of the American Atlas. In the end, Jefferys died suddenly with very little to his name. Nonetheless, his cartographic legacy survived, and even after his death in 1771, many of his important maps continued to be published and republished by Sayer and Bennet, Conrad Lotter, Georges Louis Le Rouge, Laurie and Whittle, and others. Many attribute some of Jefferys best maps to the colorful and criminally inclined Irish cartographic genius Braddock Mead (John Green, c. 1688 - 1757), who is considered the 'secret behind Jefferys.' Jefferys was succeeded by his son, also Thomas, who had little success as a cartographer and eventually partnered with, then sold his stock and plates to William Faden - Jefferys' true heir. Learn More...
Jefferys, T., The American Atlas: Or, A Geographical Description Of The Whole Continent Of America, (London) 1776.
Very good. Some fold reinforcement on verso.
Rumsey 0346.001. Tooley, R. V., The Mapping of America, (Stevens and Tree), 4(d). Wagner, H. R., The Cartography of the Northwest Coast of America To the Year 1800, 649.