1818 Pinkerton Map of British North America or Canada

British Possessions in North America.

1818 Pinkerton Map of British North America or Canada


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British Possessions in North America.
  1818 (undated)    20 x 27.5 in (50.8 x 69.85 cm)


Pinkerton's extraordinary 1818 map of the British Possessions in North America. Based on Arrowsmith's historic map of North America, this map covers the continent north of the 40th degree of latitude, including all of the territory currently claimed by Canada.

This fascinating map follows roughly 100 years of vigorous exploration of this region by adventurers in search of a navigable river and lake route from the Great Lakes to the Pacific. And yet, even after all of this exploration, much of the territory remains vague and uncertain. Details numerous river systems and lakes, some real, some fictional, between the Hudson Bay and the Rocky Mountains. Offers copious notations throughout, such as 'great quantities of coal in this creek' and 'Knistineaux war route.' Shows the Missouri River as far as the Mandan settlements where Louis and Clark wintered. Though the official narrative of Louis and Clark's historic journey had not been published when this map was in production, it is possible that Pinkerton had access to some preliminary accounts. Names several sightings of the Arctic Sea, far to the north, by the explorers Mackenzie and Hearne in the 18th century. The west coast, including Vancouver Islands, is particularly well mapped. Also notes numerous American Indian nations including the Knisteneaux (Cree), Blood, Cattanahowes, Snake, Assinpolls, Snake, Atnah, etc.

Drawn by L. Herbert and engraved by Samuel Neele under the direction of John Pinkerton. This map comes from the scarce American edition of Pinkerton's Modern Atlas, published by Thomas Dobson & Co. of Philadelphia in 1818.


John Pinkerton (1758-1826) was one of the leading masters of the Edinburgh school of cartography which flourished from roughly 1800 to 1830. Pinkerton & his contemporaries (Thomson & Cary) redefined European cartography by abandoning typical 18th century decorative elements such as elaborate title cartouches and fantastical beasts in favor of detail and accuracy. Pinkerton's principle work is the "Pinkerton's Modern Atlas" published from 1808 through 1815 with a special American reissue by Dobson & Co. in 1818. Today Pinkerton maps are becoming increasingly rare as they are highly admired for their unsurpassed quality, monumental size, vivid hand coloration, and flawless detail.

Thomas Dobson was an American publisher active in Philadelphia during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Dobson was born in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1751 and emigrated to Philadelphia c. 1780. In Philadelphia, he established a successful printing business by republishing edited and updated versions of important British reference materials in matching quality but at a much lower price point. He is best known for publishing the first American edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica. He also published America's first Hebrew Bible. Cartographically Dobson's most notable work is 1818 republication of Pinkerton's fantastic Modern Atlas.


Pinkerton, J., A Modern Atlas, from the Lates and Best Authorities, Exhibiting the Various Divisions of the World with its chief Empires, Kingdoms, and States; in Sixty Maps, carefully reduced from the Larges and Most Authentic Sources. 1818, Philadelphia, Thomas Dobson Edition.    


Good condition. Mild to moderate damp staining in lower quadrants Original centerfold. Blank on verso.


Rumsey 0732.046. Phillips (America), p. 195. Phillips (Atlases) 724. National Maritime Museum, 409.