COLLES, Christopher (1739-1816). A Survey of the Roads of the United States of America. [New York:] 1789.

  • $ 175,000.00
    Unit price per 


COLLES, Christopher (1739-1816). A Survey of the Roads of the United States of America. [New York:] 1789.


83 EXCEPTIONALLY FINE engraved map-sheets (8 2/8 x 6 inches) by C. Tiebout (map-sheets numbered 1-33, 40-45, 45*, 46, 46*, 47, 47*, 48-86), as issued, the majority untrimmed (some minor marginal chipping and very short tears, map-sheet 20 with long marginal tear into platemark, some light browning). Original blue-paper-board portfolio, front cover with printed label, broadside 'Proposals for Publishing a Survey of the Roads of the United States of America' (Evans 21740) used as pastedown as often, most of original ties preserved (chipped and stained). 19th-century red morocco solander box (scuffed, top edge of lid detached).  

Provenance: William Loring Andrews (1837 - 1920), New York bibliophile, with his bookplate loosely inserted; his sale, Anderson, 18 April 1921, lot 94; with Sotheby's, May 22nd, 1990, lot 4  


First edition. "A traveller will here find so plain and circumstantial a description of the road, that whilst he has the draft with him it will be impossible for him to miss his way: he will have the satisfaction of knowing the names of many of the persons who reside on the road; if his horse should want a shoe, or his carriage be broke, he will by the bare inspection of the draft be able to determine whether he must go backward or forward to a blacksmith's shop" (Colles' "Proposals").  

This fine and rare set of map-sheets by Irish-born engineer and surveyor, Christopher Colles, is considered the first road map or guide book of North America. It is divided into ten series each depicting the roads connecting the major cities from Connecticut to Virginia: New York to Stratford, New York to Poughkeepsie, Stratford to Poughkeepsie, Poughkeepsie to Albany, Albany to Newborough, New York to Philadelphia (via Trenton), New York to Philadelphia (via Allen town and Mount Holly), Philadelphia to Annapolis, Annapolis to York, and Williamsburgh to Hooe's Ferry. Each map shows twelve miles of road drawn to the same scale (one inch equals four-sevenths of a mile) and is keyed to show the locations of Episcopal and Presbyterian churches, town houses, mills, taverns, blacksmith shops, bridges, and jails.  

Colles, who emigrated to Philadelphia in 1771, began work on his road maps in 1789, but brought the project to an end in 1792 after obtaining relatively few subscriptions. But in that time, he compiled an atlas covering approximately 1,000 miles from Albany to Williamsburg, and is "invaluable today for understanding the developing road network in the new nation" (Library of Congress online). He was also the author of proposals for creating inland waterways in upstate New York, and a complex system of reservoirs, conduit pipes, and steam pumping engines to supply New York City with fresh water, which was completed in 1776. Church 1236; Evans 21741; Phillips, Maps 867; Schwartz & Ehrenberg 209; Streeter sale 7:3936. Catalogued by Kate Hunter