BEAURAIN, Jean Chevalier de (1696-1772, cartographer) - Georg Friedrich Jonas FRENTZEL (1754-1799, engraver)
Carte von dem Hafen und der Stadt Boston
Leipzig: Johann Carl Müller, 1776. Copper-engraved map, with troop positions highlighted in period colour, in excellent condition. Sheet size: 22 x 26 7/8 inches.
A very rare and highly decorative work, one of the most important Revolutionary War maps of Boston, that Krieger & Cobb cite as "the only German map of Boston [made] during the Revolutionary period."
The present map is an outstanding work on many levels. Boston and its environs are depicted on the eve of one of the most momentous events in American history, the Siege of Boston, which gave George Washington his first important victory. A great topographical work, the varied nature of the land is expressed with great virtuosity in finely engraved hachures. The superlative mapping of the coastline and the harbor is derived from J.F.W. Des Barres' "Map of the port of Boston."
The map captures the moment when British forces, still in control of Boston, prepare to face George Washington's Continental forces. Boston, on a narrow peninsula is shown to be in an increasingly precarious defensive position. In an improvement over its predecessor, Frentzel's edition makes a clear reference to the Battle of Bunker Hill (June 17, 1775), noting the "Ruinen von Charles=town." Around the city, the placement of the respective forces is depicted with unparalleled accuracy, with the British troop lines highlighted in blue and the Continental troop lines in red. Three divisions of Washington's forces are placed with one at Cambridge, one at Charlestown Neck, and another above Roxbury. The observer will notice that the British commanders elected not to place troops atop Dorchester Heights. Washington later took this ground, giving him an irrepressible advantage over the British in the ensuing siege. The British were compelled to leave the city in March, 1776.
This second version is much rarer than Beaurain's original work which was printed earlier that year with French toponymy. Preserved in the present version, in the upper-right, is a highly decorative and iconographically emblematic title cartouche. Beaurain, in homage to the French sympathies to the rebel cause, depicts an Englishman cruelly trying to depose a banner from the Tree of Liberty, against the will of an indignant American.
Although the conflict inspired considerable interest in Germany, this map is the only German map of Boston printed there during the Revolutionary period. Late in 1776, Leipzig master-engraver G. F. J. Frentzel created a new edition of the map that was faithful to Beaurain's original, and it was printed as part of the Geographisches Belustigungen zur Erläuterung der neuesten Weltgeschichte , an extremely rare German book on the early days of the War of Independence.
Cresswell, The American Revolution in Drawings and Prints , 706; Krieger & Cobb, Mapping Boston , p.181, pl. 27; The Library of Congress Quarterly Journal no.30 (1973), pp.252-253; Nebenzahl, A Bibliography of Printed Battle Plans of the American Revolution, 19; Sellers & Van Ee, Maps & Charts of North America & West Indies , 924.