Philadelphia: Sold by the Editors Matthew Clarkson & Mary Biddle, 1 November 1762. Engraved role map, laid on original linen and mounted on old (likely original) wood dowels. 20x27¼ inches.
The Clarkson-Biddle map of Philadelphia, a storied rarity in the urban cartography of America and a foremost colonial-interest map.
"With the exception of the Penn plan of 1682, Scull's handsome aerial survey is the earliest and most important engraved plan of Philadelphia." - Deák, Picturing America, 113.
"The first detailed map of the interior of the city... completes [Scull's] great contribution to Philadelphia iconography." - Snyder, City of Independence: Views of Philadelphia Before 1800, figure 27.
Nicholas Scull II was born in 1687, son of the surveyor Nicholas Scull. He was responsible for much important surveying in Pennsylvania, a task he took up in 1722, and he eventually became the Surveyor General of the colony. Scull died in 1761, the year before this map was published. The project was completed by his daughter and executrix Mary Biddle with the help Matthew Clarkson. According to Snyder, Clarkson might have been the engraver of the map as well. Although the map was published after his death, Scull was credited in the title with having prepared the surveys on which it was based.
As alluded to in the aforementioned quote from Snyder, this map should be seen as the culmination of Scull's contributions to the depiction of Philadelphia, and as the apex of the mapping of the city prior to the Revolution. The map follows directly from Scull's previous work with George Heap, which produced the A Map of Philadelphia, and Parts Adjacent (1752), and from the subsequent An East Prospect of the City of Philadelphia (1754). The Clarkson-Biddle map shares the same "foreground" and nautical descriptive device as An East Prospect in the form of a Delaware River packed with commercial sailing vessels. Interestingly, this map actually fulfills some of the criteria laid down by Thomas Penn when he commissioned the 1754 view of the city; it shows Philadelphia's extensive river port capacity and the city's relationship to the New Jersey side of the Delaware. These features were insufficiently depicted in the original issue of An East Prospect, which was one of the reasons for Jefferys' update of 1756.
The map includes two plans of the city between the Schuylkill and Delaware rivers, positioned within an unusual trompe-l'oeil inset at the top left. The plan on the farthest left is described "According to Holmes's Plan", a reference to the 1683 grid of the city, and the layout includes five public squares. The positioning of these public squares was an important city planning issue at the time. In fact it was so much so that the Common Council of Philadelphia awarded funding to Clarkson, saying he would receive "Ten pistoles towards defraying the Expense of the plate [but only] on Condition, nevertheless, that the Publick Squares laid down in the original Plan of the City, be so described that the Claim of the Inhabitants of the said City may not be prejudiced." The plan to the right is attributed to Benjamin Eastburn, a surveyor who, to our knowledge, is only recorded here. In including these earlier plans, Clarkson and Biddle apparently side-stepped the squares issue.
The majority of the map is given over to the detailed survey of the built city. Deák says of that plan:
"The streets of Philadelphia, as they recede from the Delaware River in this high aerial perspective, are depicted with mathematical precision. The principal horizontal streets are Front, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth. The principal streets running perpendicular to the river are South or Cedar, Pine, Spruce, Walnut, Cesnut (sic), High or Market, Mulberry or Arch, Sasafras or Race, and Vine. Small alleys and lanes are marked, as are the slips, wharves, and docks on the river. Public buildings are indicated by a reference letter keyed to the legend in the upper right corner. many of these are churches and meeting houses. Other s of importance are the Pennsylvania Hospital, the city's Alms House, the Loganian Library, the celebrated State House, the Gaol, the Court House, the Market and the 'Colledge and Accademy.'"
We are not aware of any other Clarkson-Biddle maps in this condition or better coming to market in the last 50 years. According to our records, Scull and Heap's 1752 map was offered by a dealer in 1988 for $125,000.
Historical Society of Pennsylvania (2 examples, one is defective).
Library Company, Philadelphia.
New York Public Library, Stokes Collection.
Library of Congress.
Bedini, S., "The Scull Dynasty of Pennsylvania Surveyors," in Professional Surveyor Magazin (May 2001).
Deák, Picturing America, 113.
Snyder, City of Independence: Views of Philadelphia Before 1800, figure 27.
Wheat and Brun 456.
The map is in a wonderfully unsophisticated state for an American wall map of its age. There is some staining and toning in the image, and the edges are shallowly frayed.