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1835 Hall Map of British North America or Canada

British North America. - Main View

1835 Hall Map of British North America or Canada


One of the eariest maps to accurately show the true Northwest Passage.


British North America.
  1835 (undated)     17 x 21 in (43.18 x 53.34 cm)     1 : 13824000


This is a fascinating map of British North America or Canada from Sidney Hall's extremely scarce 1835 New General Atlas. It covers from the North Georgian Islands to the United States including Greenland, Iceland and Russian Territories of what is now Alaska. Upper Canada (Ontario), Lower Canada (Quebec), Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland are depicted in detail. The boundary settled in 1825 between Canada and the Russian Territories is noted here. It also shows all the Great Lakes Ontario, Erie, Superior, Michigan and Huron. The map offers copious notations throughout, such as 'The Indians descend it in three days' and 'Point reached by the Blossom's boat.' Also notes numerous American Indian nations including the Knisteneaux (Cree), Blood, Fall, Blackfoot, Hare, Copper, etc. 

This map is particularly interesting as it is one of the earliest maps to accurately depict the Northwest Passage, predating the Robert McClure expedition by more than 15 years. Hall correctly maps what are today called the Northwestern Passages between Baffin Bay and the Arctic Ocean. His mapping extends as far west as Melville Island and Banks Island, though does not include Prince Patrick Island. Even so, beyond Melville and Banks Islands, there is little but ice and seasonally open sea as far as Alaska and the Bearing Straits.

Also of interest is Hall's concession of British Columbia to the United States as far north as 54 40,' a highly unusual move for a British cartographer. In the first half of the 19th century the Pacific Northwest was the last frontier in the century's long slaughter of the American beaver in the name of European fashion. Both the British, in the name of the Hudson Bay Company, and the Americans, championed by John Jacob Astor's Pacific Fur Company, were eager to claim monopolistic right over the region. Astor's establishment of Fort Astoria on the Columbia River, marked here but not specifically named, only served to further tensions with the Northwest Company - the Pacific subsidiary of the Hudson Bay Company. The dispute escalated, giving rise to the Oregon Boundary Dispute and the American expansionist slogan 'Fifty-four Forty or Fight!.' The dispute was not resolved until the 1846 Oregon Treaty which, through concessions on both sides, formally set the boundary at the 49th parallel.

According to the earliest written accounts, the Russians were the first Europeans who reached Alaska and eventually became permanent settlers. The modern Canadian provinces and territories were under British and French control from the 16th century, until France gave up its claims in the Treaty of Paris in 1763. This map was drawn just prior to the Canadian Rebellions of 1837 against the British Empire which would eventually lead to a single colony of the United Province of Canada and the adoption of representative government by 1848.  Canada would remain a collection of British colonies until its confederation in 1867, when the British colonies of Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia would become Canadian provinces.  Although known as the 'Birthplace of Confederation,' Prince Edward Island would only join the confederation in 1873.

Sidney Hall's New General Atlas was published from 1830 to 1857, the first edition being the most common, with all subsequent editions appearing only rarely. Most of the maps included in the first edition of this atlas were drawn between 1827 and 1828 and are most likely steel plate engravings, making it among the first cartographic work to employ this technique. Each of the maps in this large and impressive atlas feature elegant engraving and an elaborate keyboard style border. Though this is hardly the first map to employ this type of border, it is possibly the earliest to use it on such a large scale. Both the choice to use steel plate engraving and the addition of the attractive keyboard boarder are evolutions of anti-forgery efforts. Copper plates, which were commonly used for printing bank notes in the early 19th century, proved largely unsuitable due to their overall fragility and the ease with which they could be duplicated. In 1819 the Bank of England introduced a £20,000 prize for anyone who could devise a means to print unforgeable notes. The American inventors Jacob Perkins and Asa Spencer responded to the call. Perkins discovered a process for economically softening and engraving steel plates while Spencer invented an engraving lathe capable of producing complex patters repetitively - such as this keyboard border. Though Perkins and Spenser did not win the prize, their steel plate engraving technique was quickly adopted by map publishers in England, who immediately recognized its value. Among early steel plate cartographic productions, this atlas, published in 1830 by Longman Rees, Orme, Brown & Green stands out as perhaps the finest. This map was issued by Sidney Hall and published by Longman Rees, Orme, Brown & Green of Paternoster Row, London, in the 1835 edition of the Sidney Hall New General Atlas.


Sidney Hall (1788 - 1831) was an English engraver and map publisher active in London during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. His earliest imprints, dating to about 1814, suggest a partnership with Michael Thomson, another prominent English map engraver. Hall engraved for most of the prominent London map publishers of his day, including Aaron Arrowsmith, William Faden, William Harwood, and John Thomson, among others. Hall is credited as being one of the earliest adopters of steel plate engraving, a technique that allowed for finer detail and larger print runs due to the exceptional hardness of the medium. Upon his early death - he was only in his 40s - Hall's business was inherited by his wife, Selina Hall, who continued to publish under the imprint, "S. Hall", presumably for continuity. The business eventually passed to Sidney and Selina's nephew Edward Weller, who became extremely prominent in his own right. More by this mapmaker...


Hall, S., A New General Atlas, with the Divisions and Boundaries, 1835.    


Very good. Original platemark visible. Minor wear and verso repair near original centerfold. Some offsetting. Blank on verso.


Rumsey 4224.046 (1830 edition). Philips (Atlases) 758. Wheat, C.I., Mapping the Transmississippi West, no. 386.