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2006 Catalog > Lt. John Ross, Course of the Mississippi

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The First Large-Scale Map of the Mississippi River

14. Lt. John Ross. “Course of the River Mississippi, from the Balise to Fort Chartres; taken on an expedition to the Illinois in the latter end of the year 1765” (London: Robt. Sayer, 1 June 1775) Second state. Published in The American Atlas. Two-sheet copperplate engraving with original outline hand color for the Mississippi. 13 1/2 x 44" at neat line. Sheet size: 21 1/4 x 45 3/4". Overall toning; minor scattered spotting in lowest quadrant; several marginal chips along right edge. Good condition.

Price: SOLD.

The famous Ross Mississippi is the first large-scale map and the most detailed military survey of the Mississippi River in the eighteenth century. It is the only early chart focusing on the entire river south of St. Louis. Lieutenant Ross was a British military surveyor who documented the Mississippi in 1765, two years after Great Britain had gained control of the eastern half of North America after the French and Indian War. As the new western border of British territory, the Mississippi was strategically crucial for economic, political, and military reasons. Ross based his map on previously published French sources but updated it with his own observations. The level of detail is amazing and includes accurate information on the course of the river and its connecting tributaries, settlements, ancient Indian sites, abandoned French forts, portages, quarries, mines, and natural resources. The 1775 edition is the second state of the map, which shows alterations around New Orleans and the addition of Forts St. Leon and St. Mary. Sayer and Bennett included this edition in their seminal American Atlas, the major cartographic reference for America in the eighteenth century.

Refs.: Goss, Mapping of North America, no. 67 (illus.); Phillips, Atlases, 1165; Sellers and Van Ee, Maps and Charts of North America, no. 781; Stevens and Tree, no. 31b in Tooley, Mapping of America, p. 81.

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