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The 1753 Fry-Jefferson Map and Its Predecessors and Derivatives
Guide to the Fry-Jefferson Map of Virginia and related maps in the Library of Virginia's collection
The State of Virginia from the best authorities
Samuel Lewis (ca. 1754–1822)
In “Scrapbook Relating to Thomas, 6th Lord Fairfax, His Estate and Family,” comp. Orlando Fairfax, Richmond, 18–.
Call number: G3880 1794 .L4
Drawn by Samuel Lewis for Matthew Carey’s American Atlas, the earliest atlas of the United States, The State of Virginia from the best authorities indicates the location of towns and courthouses and names the counties, although their boundaries are not included.
Lewis was a well-known cartographer who worked occasionally in association with map publishers like Matthew Carey (1760–1839). Lewis immigrated to the United States from London, where he had worked for Aaron Arrowsmith (1750–1823), one of the best mapmakers in Europe in the 1790s.
Not until 1807, more than half a century after the publication of the great Fry-Jefferson map of Virginia, did a new map supersede it. Bishop James Madison was the first bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church in Virginia and the president of the College of William and Mary, which from colonial times had jurisdiction over surveyors in Virginia. While not a cartographer himself, Bishop Madison was able to assemble the surveys and data underlying his map. He was a first cousin of President James Madison, to whom he wrote, “If our valuable friend Mr. Jefferson has collected any observations of important positions since the publication of his map, I would thank him for them.” Accordingly, one can trace a Virginia map genealogy from Fry-Jefferson through Thomas Jefferson to Bishop Madison.
In 1807 Virginia took the lead among the southern states by completing the first state map for that part of the country. Bishop Madison directed production of the map, gathering information from completed state boundary surveys, county surveys, and recent observations for longitude and latitude. He enlisted the aid of several associates to draft the map. William Prentis supervised the compilation of the map; William Davis supervised the final draft; and Frederick Bossler, of Richmond, engraved the copperplates. Madison, Prentis, and Davis published the map privately in Richmond, making it the first map of Virginia to be compiled, engraved, and published in the commonwealth.
The map’s format and content are similar to earlier state maps. Engraved on six sheets, it displays a moderate amount of detail, including county boundaries, stage and public roads, towns and villages, and selected structures (mills, ironworks, dwellings, and houses of entertainment). The mapmakers delineated an extensive drainage pattern of rivers and streams and indicated the topography of the more mountainous regions with elongated molehills. An inset of Ohio is included.
Bishop Madison’s map remained the primary cartographic representation of the state of Virginia until 1827 when the Herman Boÿe map of Virginia was published. An extensively corrected second edition was published in 1818, which included new county boundaries for the western part of the state, as well as the county names and boundaries on the inset map of Ohio.