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Desbarres: Delaware River
Joseph Frederick Wallet DesBarres. "A Chart of Delawar [sic] River from Bombay Hook to Ridley Creek, with soundings &c. taken by Lt. Knight of the Navy . . ." with a second panel entitled "A Plan of Delawar [sic] River from Chester to Philadelphia. Shewing the Situation of His Majesty's Ships &c on the 15th. Novr. 1777 surveyed and sounded by Lieutenant John Hunter of the Navy." Prepared for The Atlantic Neptune. London: Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, 1 June 1779. Etching. 30 1/4 x 21 7/8. Nebenzahl, 136. Sellers & VanEa, 1370; National Maritime Museum Cat.: 320: 130-31; Snyder, 85. This later and mostly complete state has the advantage of showing soundings plus shading to render topography and town plans.

After the French & Indian War, the job of surveying and mapping the American coastline fell upon J.F.W. DesBarres, who had commanded the mapping of the coasts of present-day eastern Canada. The resulting atlas, The Atlantic Neptune, was called by A.P. Loring, "the first great marine atlas of the eastern seaboard." Loring quotes Obadiah Rich who called it, "the most splendid collection of charts, plans and views ever published." This is an excellent example of the maps from this important atlas.

It is a chart of the Delaware River to as far as Philadelphia in two panels. As stated on the chart, it was "Composed and Published for the use of Pilotage by J.F.W. DesBarres Esqr," so the focus of detail is on the nature of the river itself. The coastline, mouths of creeks, shoals and sand bars, and soundings are shown with careful precision, and rhumb lines are used to help with navigation of a ship up this relatively narrow river. Inland information is sparse because it is limited to that which was visible sight from navigable waters. An occasional higher elevation is shown and a basic town plans for New Castle, Chester, and Philadelphia are present. Conventional symbols for swamps and waterways are shown for as much as a few miles inland in places. In the inset map showing from Chester to Philadelphia shows the situation of the British ships off Philadelphia in mid-November, 1777. $7,500

From Marshall's Life of George Washington

Ten maps were prepared for John Marshall's Life of George Washington, which was published in French, Dutch, and German as well as English in the first decade of the nineteenth century. The first American printings were in 1804-07. Long the standard biography, a separately issued atlas provided the best maps of the campaigns of the American Revolution then being issued.


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