[Manuscript receipt for a copy of his Map of Boston and Vicinity.]. John G. Hales.
[Manuscript receipt for a copy of his Map of Boston and Vicinity.]

[Manuscript receipt for a copy of his Map of Boston and Vicinity.]

Boston, Dec. 27, 1817. Manuscript receipt on laid paper, 2.5” x 7”.

A rare manuscript receipt in the hand of mapmaker John G. Hales for the advance purchase of a copy of the map that would prove his most notable cartographic achievement.

Recorded here is Hales’ receipt of “the sum of three dollars” from one “En. Silsby” for “a Map of the Vicinity of Boston, (now publishing),” which he promises to deliver “early the ensuing Spring.” Hales’ promise, as it turned out, was rather optimistic, as his Map of Boston and Vicinity was not published until 1819. The exact cause of the delay is unknown, but finances may have been an issue, or perhaps the engraving took longer than anticipated. Whatever the case may have been, Mr. Silsby would have waited a year or so longer than expected to receive his copy of the map.

One of New England’s finest mapmakers, John Groves Hales (ca. 1785–1832) was born in England, where he became a civil engineer and surveyor, prior to emigrating to Portsmouth, New Hampshire around 1810. His first published maps appeared in 1813. These were Map of the Compact Part of Portsmouth and A Map of Upper and Lower Canada, both carrying a Portsmouth imprint, although engraved by Boston engraver Thomas Wightman. Perhaps seeking a larger market for his next map, Hales published Map of Boston in the State of Massachusetts in 1814, the most detailed map of the city published up to that time. His most important map followed in 1819—Map of Boston and Vicinity. As noted by Michael Buehler, this was an unusually sophisticated map for its time and place:

To produce it Hales conducted a trigonometric survey (also known as a “triangulation”), using careful measurements and calculations to establish a network of precisely-placed locations, which served as control points for placing the details of the natural and human landscape […] Though these advanced methods had been in use in Europe for many years, and had been applied in the surveys of the American coast published in the Atlantic Neptune, this seems to have been the first time they were applied to a terrestrial map of New England.

In addition to the aforementioned maps, Hales attempted an improved map of the state of Massachusetts, a project which failed due to a lack of official support, and possibly as a result of Hales’ conviction on charges of forgery in 1823. He also published The County of Essex From Actual Survey (1825) and undertook numerous surveys for corporations and towns. Hales’ manuscript town surveys are held by the Massachusetts State Archives. A number of these were printed and published by Pendleton’s Lithography of Boston in the early 1830s, including maps of Lexington, Concord, Holliston, Pembroke, and Northampton.

A rare manuscript document in the hand of a leading New England mapmaker.

Item #3987

Price: $675.00

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