Course of the River Mississippi from the Balise to Fort Chartres


One of the finest maps of the Mississippi River published during the 18th century.

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This incredible two-sheet map covers the course of the Mississippi River between Fort de Chartres in modern-day southern Illinois and the Gulf of Mexico. At the time of publication, claims to the territory were split between the Spanish and the British on the western and eastern banks, respectively. The French were forced to relinquish most of their New World holdings with the Treaty of Paris that ended the Seven Years’ War just over a decade prior and a party of English troops was sent to reinforce the terms in the mid-1760s.

Among them was a surveyor, Lieutenant John Ross, who created this map; shown here in its second edition, published in London by Robert Sayer in 1775. Although the detail isn’t fine enough for navigational purposes, the enthralling image shows a wonderful overview of the vital waterway on the eve of the American Revolution.

Sparse European settlement (many are marked as abandoned) is shown in conjunction with abundant natural resources such as mines and vast tracts of arable lands. Numerous Native American tribes are labeled throughout, with the implication of possible friend or foe a constant consideration of the British. Certain annotations reference some of the former conflicts between native tribes and European interlopers, while others describe geographic features and the spot at which Ferdinand De Soto first discovered the Mississippi in 1541.

Also of interest is the concentration of buildings on the west bank of the river, just up from New Orleans, known colloquially as the German Coast. Encouraged by the French, a group of German settlers first colonized the area in the early 1720s to provide agricultural products to the growing city. Their subsequent success would lead them to fight for independence from Britain in the Revolutionary War.

Sources: Sellers & Van Ee #781; Schwartz & Ehrenberg, p. 204; Historic New Orleans Collection

Map Details

Publication Date: 1775

Author: John Ross

Sheet Width (in): 20.25

Sheet Height (in): 46

Condition: B+

Condition Description: Two sheets joined along a seam and folded twice, as issued. Moderate toning across the three horizontal fold lines and some additional wear visible in the upper and lower margins. A few faint scattered spots are visible within the image, but overall the map remains in very good condition with original outline color. Printed on thick watermarked paper.


1 in stock