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2015 Bookseller Resource Guide

Red Morocco and Maine on Vellum

Colonial Massachusetts, Modern Maine

Manuscript maps of colonial Massachusetts, £84,000 ($137,760) and £60,000 ($98,400) at Bonhams of London on June 7.

A colonial-era vellum map of lakes and rivers in Maine once owned by Sir Francis Bernard. Courtesy of Bonhams.

Two of five such map lots sold for close on half a million dollars in London by a direct descendant of Sir Francis Bernard, the last properly appointed royal governor of Massachusetts.

The untitled but very detailed vellum map of the river and lake system from Penobscot and Passamaquoddy Bays in the south and east to the Chaudière River, the St. Lawrence, and Quebec in the northwest is centered by Moose Lake, but Native American names for mountains, rivers, and smaller lakes are rendered in what the cataloguer describes as “challenging transliterations.”

Bernard himself held something in the region of thirty thousand acres in the Penobscot Bay area, much of it now part of the Acadia National Park, and an old label attached to this map describes it as a map of his “American Estate & the Adjoining Country.”

Manuscript map of Mount Desert Island, off the Maine coast. Courtesy of Bonhams.

One of the three lots bought by US dealer Graham Arader comprised two working manuscript maps on paper (one shown here) of the first English settlement of townships on Mount Desert Island, off what is now the Maine coast. Bernard did not routinely join his surveyors in their work, but this trip had a special purpose—to exert some control over settlers—and The Papers of Francis Bernard (Colonial Society of Massachusetts, 2007) prints a journal that Bernard kept during a 1762 voyage from Boston to Mount Desert Island in the sloop Massachusetts.

In one entry he describes finding a settlement at the head of what is now Somes Sound: “We went on shore & into Solmes’s log-house, found it neat and convenient, tho’ not quite finished, & in it a notable Woman with 4 pretty girls clean and orderly. Near it were many fish flakes with a great quantity of fish drying there. From thence We went to a Bever pond, where We had an opportunity to observe the artificialness of their dams & their manner of Cutting down trees to make them. We returned to our sloop about 4 o’clock … Gunners brought in plenty of Ducks & partridge.”

He continues, “I find myself obliged to enter into Conditional contracts with proposed Settlers, to put a stop to the depredation of others, & to engage in several Articles of Expence in the same manner as if my title was absolute. In short I am obliged to enter into possession of the Island as the positive owner thereof, or also must see it overrun by Numberless people without any title at all to possession.”

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