A True Coppy From an Ancient Plan of E. Hutchinson’s Esqr. & From Jose. Heath in 1719. & Phin:s Jones’s Survey of 1731. & From John North’s Late Survey in 1752. Attest,r Thos Johnston.
A True Coppy From an Ancient Plan of E. Hutchinson’s Esqr. & From Jose. Heath in 1719. & Phin:s Jones’s Survey of 1731. & From John North’s Late Survey in 1752. Attest,r Thos Johnston.
A True Coppy From an Ancient Plan of E. Hutchinson’s Esqr. & From Jose. Heath in 1719. & Phin:s Jones’s Survey of 1731. & From John North’s Late Survey in 1752. Attest,r Thos Johnston.

A True Coppy From an Ancient Plan of E. Hutchinson’s Esqr. & From Jose. Heath in 1719. & Phin:s Jones’s Survey of 1731. & From John North’s Late Survey in 1752. Attest,r Thos Johnston.

[Boston, 1753]. Copperplate engraving on laid paper, 11.75” x 8.625” plus margins.

An exceptionally rare colonial map of the Kennebec River region in Maine, relating to the contest for land ownership between two Boston-based land investment companies, the Brunswick Proprietors (also known as the Pejepscot Company) and the Kennebec Proprietors (also known as the Plymouth Company). This is the earliest extant map printed in America to focus exclusively on a portion of Maine, and the first of two maps relating to this controversy from the hand of the celebrated Boston engraver Thomas Johnston. Originally issued as part of a broadside with text to the left of the map, we offer here the map alone. This is the second state, with Atkins Bay identified near the mouth of the Sagadahock (Kennebec) River.

The Map

This map depicts coastal Maine from Cape Elizabeth to Pemaquid Point, and the Kennebec River region from the mouth of the river to Norridgewock, with the stretch of the river from Merrymeeting Bay to the sea identified as the “Sagadahock River”—an important detail in the argument presented by this map, as explained hereafter. The settlements of Falmouth (Portland), North Yarmouth, Brunswick, and Georgetown are signified by church-like steepled buildings, and a cluster of buildings identifies the settlement of Norridgewock. Several small buildings appear along the river, including one at Cushnoc—the fur trading post established by the Plymouth Colony in 1628. Three large tracts of land are demarcated, spanning both sides of the Kennebec, and extending from Swan Island to roughly fifteen miles downriver of Norridgewock, as measured by the scale of miles incorporated into the map. Notes on land transfers and ownership appear within each tract.

Perhaps the most unusual aspect of this map is the cartouche, which features two native men, one holding a rifle and remarking “God hath planted us here” and the other holding a war club and pronouncing “God hath decreed this land to us.” This amounts to an early American political cartoon, in which the native people serve as surrogates for the Brunswick Proprietors, for whom this map was engraved and whose land claims it supports. The images of these two aggressively posed warriors derive from John Verelst’s 1710 portraits of three Iroquois leaders and one Mohican chief who visited the court of Queen Anne in London in 1709. Verelst’s portraits were reproduced as mezzotints and gained a certain cultural currency.

Background

The Kennebec Proprietors traced their ownership back to the 1661 purchase from the Plymouth Colony of an extensive tract of land along the Kennebec, and claimed all lands for fifteen miles on either side of the river from the ocean to the Wesserunsett River. The Brunswick Proprietors, on the other hand, derived their claim from the Pejepscot patent, granted to Thomas Purchas and George Way by the Council for New England, and enlarged by purchases from the native people in the 1680s. Following a long period of inactivity, the descendants of the original Kennebec Proprietors began developing their claim in the early 1750s, leading to a prolonged dispute with the Brunswick Proprietors, among others, whose settlement at Brunswick fell within the bounds of lands claimed by the Kennebec Proprietors. A pamphlet and broadside war ensued, generating some nineteen publications or more over the course of six years.

In 1753 the Brunswick Proprietors published a broadside incorporating the map offered here, described as “a very True survey of Sagadahock and Kenebeck Rivers, with the Lands adjacent, to prevent any ignorant Persons [i.e. their tenants] being deluded by the said Plymouth Company’s claim.” The upshot of the Brunswick Proprietors' argument was that the Kennebec Proprietors’ lands began not at the ocean but much further up the river, at its confluence with Cobbosseecontee Stream. Accordingly, the map shows the Kennebec Proprietors’ tract situated well inland and bounded both upriver and down by tracts owned by Byby Lake and others. This assertion of strictly inland ownership was based in part on the identification of the lower Kennebec (from Merrymeeting Bay to the sea) as the “Sagadahock,” as it appears on this map. The Kennebec Proprietors, on the other hand, adhered to what Matthew Edney has characterised as an “equally viable toponymic tradition that the Kennebec River encompassed the tidal reach and the Sagadahoc was another name for the Androscoggin.”

The Kennebec Proprietors responded to the publication of this map with a pamphlet entitled Remarks on the Plan and Extracts of Deeds lately published by the Proprietors of the Township of Brunswick, which included an affidavit by Johnston essentially stating that his map for the Brunswick Proprietors was based in part on a spurious “ancient plan” which they provided, and was in other ways contrived. Subsequently, the Kennebec Proprietors commissioned Johnston to design and engrave a much larger map supporting their claims, Plan of Kennebeck & Sagadahock Rivers & Country Adjacent, which was published in 1755. However, it appears that Johnston ultimately published it on his own account, as the Kennebec Proprietors had by then turned to the attorney general and the Board of Trade in London for resolution of the dispute.

The Engraver

Thomas Johnston (1708–1767) was an unusually versatile and productive craftsman, who served the Boston public for four decades prior to the Revolutionary War. He was an engraver, japaner, house painter and decorator, heraldic painter, a builder of organs and a music publisher. In 1973 Sinclair Hitchings noted that “The list of his published engravings has grown from eleven in Stauffer & Fielding’s American Engravers on Copper and Steel to roughly three times that number today; he engraved maps, views, trade cards, bookplates, certificates, currency, and book illustrations.” His first known engraving is William Burgis’s 1728 Plan of Boston. Other maps engraved by Johnston include the fourth state of Bonner’s map of Boston (1732), A Plan of Cape Breton, & Fort Louisbourgh (1745), Chart of Canada River (1746), A True Copy from an Ancient Plan of E. Hutchinson’s (1753, the map offered here), Plan of Kennebeck & Sagadahock Rivers & Country Adjacent (1755), Samuel Blodgett’s A Prospective Plan of the Battle Fought Near Lake George (1755), and Timothy Clement’s Plan of Hudson Rivr from Albany to Fort Edward (1756).

Rarity

Just a few copies of this map are known. Institutional holdings are as follows: Maine Historical Society, 2 copies, one of the entire broadside and one of the map alone; John Carter Brown Library, map only; Massachusetts Historical Society, entire broadside; American Antiquarian Society, entire broadside; and possibly the Public Records Office, London. The holdings at Yale and the Library of Congress cited by Wheat & Brun appear to be in error. A facsimile was published by Mass Historical in 1912.

The map is very rare in trade. We have been able to identify just two copies appearing in the market, both offered by Goodspeed’s, one consisting of both the map and the text offered in 1906, and a copy of the map alone offered in the 1930s, being the same copy offered here, as confirmed by the condition details in the Goodspeed’s description as well as an old typed copy of the description that accompanied the map when we acquired it.

This is the second map listed in the Maine section of Wheat & Brun’s Maps and Charts Published in America Before 1800. The first item listed is a chart of Casco Bay by Cyprian Southack, which he advertised in the Boston News-Letter, April 10–13, 1721, no copy of which has ever come to light, making A True Coppy From an Ancient Plan the earliest extant Maine map published in America.

REFERENCES: Wheat & Brun 161; Evans 40647; Ford, W.C. Broadsides, Ballads, &c. Printed in Massachusetts, 1639–1800, 966; Williamson, Joseph. Bibliography of Maine, no. 1670; Wroth, Lawrence. “The Thomas Johnston Maps of the Kennebeck Purchase,” in In Tribute to Fred Anthoensen Master Printer (Portland, Me., 1952), pp. 77-107; Edney, Matthew. “Competition Over Land, Competition Over Empire: Public Discourse and Printed Maps of the Kennebec River” in Early American Cartographies (Chapel Hill, 2011), pp. 276-305; Hitchings, Sinclair. “Thomas Johnston” in Boston Prints and Printmakers 1670–1775 (Boston, 1973), pp. 83-131; Kershaw, Gordon. The Kennebeck Proprietors, 1749–1775 : “Gentlemen of Large Property and Judicious Men” (Portland, Me., 1975), p. 90, pp. 159-161.

CONDITION: Good, expert restoration of 1.5” loss to printed border at upper left corner and extension of margin at left side, discreet reinforcement on verso to three old horizontal folds and edges, restoration to a few small holes in blank areas along one fold; a very attractive and presentable copy.

Item #4758

Price: $42,500.00

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