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1811 Russell Map of North America

North America. - Main View

1811 Russell Map of North America


Depicts the explorations of Hearne and Mackenzie to the Arctic Ocean and an early Great Salt Lake!



North America.
  1811 (dated)     15.75 x 17.75 in (40.005 x 45.085 cm)     1 : 20100000


This is an 1811 John Russell map of North and Central America. The map depicts the continent from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean and from Baffin Bay and northern Canada to the extreme northern reaches of South America. The extreme northern portion of North America, above the Arctic Circle, is incomplete, due to the lack of knowledge concerning the Arctic coast. The map identifies the first two European overland expeditions to the Canadian Artic, Herne and Mackenzie.

The first, the mouth of the Coppermine River, was explored by Samuel Hearne in 1770 and 1771. He set out in December 1770, on his third (and only successful) expedition in the far north. Aided by Chipewyan guides and later joined by Dene (both members of the First Nations), Hearne became the first European to reach the shore of the Arctic Ocean by an overland route. In doing so, he proved that there was no northwest passage. The second, the mouth of the Mackenzie River, illustrates the explorations of Sir Alexander Mackenzie in 1789 on behalf of the North West Company. Mackenzie set out from Fort Chipewyan on July 10th and reached the mouth of the river in the Arctic Ocean on July 14th. Reportedly, Mackenzie names the river 'Disappointment River' as it did not empty into Cook Inlet in Alaska as he believed it would. The river was later named in his honor.

These two river systems, and others in western Canada, are illustrated in astonishing detail. Lakes and rivers that make up the system, along with houses constructed along the rivers, are labeled. To the west of the river systems the Stony Mountains and the 'Mountains with bright Stones' are illustrated. These mountain ranges were a 'real novelty' per map historian Carl Wheat. Further south, a large lake is illustrated in the lands of the Doegg Indians and was 'laid down according to Mr. Lawrence, who is said to have Travell'd through this Country to California in 1790 and 1791.' This, most likely, depicts the Great Salt Lake, and the headwaters of the Colorado, Rio Grande, and Missouri Rivers appear nearby. This map predates the joining of the Rocky Mountains into one continuous chain, with the Stony Mountains curving to the west of the Great Salt Lake. Also, the west coast of North America incorporates the information gathered by Cook's expeditions, although curiously the discoveries of Vancouver and his expedition are absent.

Overall, the level of detail present is impressive. Cities, towns, and rivers are labeled throughout the United States and eastern Canada. Each of the states is numerically identified. The detail extends into Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean, with rivers, cities, and under water hazards depicted in the Caribbean.

This map was produced and engraved by John Russell and published by Wilkie and Robinson and J. Mawman in 1811.


John Russell (c. 1750 - 1829) was a British cartographer active in London during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Russell apprenticed as a goldsmith under William Palmer before turning to engraving and printing. He drew maps and engraved for several major publishers of his period including Alexander Dalrymple, Benjamin Henry, Robert Sayer, John Moore, and William Guthrie. Russell's 10 apprentices included such prominent cartographers as Alexander Findlay and Samuel Clapp. Russell was based on Constitution Row Grays Inn Lane, Middlesex (London). Learn More...


Guthrie, W., A New System of Modern Geography (London) 1811.    


Very good. Light transference. Old repair to tear extending 2.5 inches into printed area. Blank on verso.


Wheat, C. I., Mapping of the Transmississippi West, 1540 – 1861, I: 150-152.