William Winterbotham's "An Historical, Geographical, Commercial, and Philosophical View of the American United States"

Winterbotham, William. An Historical, Geographical, Commercial, and Philosophical View of the American United States, and of the European Settlements in America and the West-Indies. London: Printed for the Editor, 1795. Four volumes. Octavo, modern-full calf and elaborately gilt-decorated spines.

This is a rare, 1795 first edition 4-volume set of William Winterbotham’s An Historical, Geographical, Commercial and Philosophical View of the American United States, with all listed maps and plates, including the large folding plan of Washington, D.C. and the important hand-colored tobacco plant plate.

This four volume set is largely a compilation of extracts drawn from various sources. The work deals with the history of America including its discovery, the growth of the colonies, the Revolution, and the histories of the states, as well as the Northwest Territory, Canada, and the settlements in South America and the West Indies.

This first edition printing has 11 maps, 9 of which are folding maps, to include the elusive large folding “Plan of Washington,” as well as numerous plans, plates, and folding tables, including the important hand-colored tobacco plate (Volume III, opposite page 427), the first color plate to be regularly published in a book about America.

The majority of the maps are by J. Russell. Below is a full list of the maps:

A. An Accurate Map of the Unites States of America, According to the Treaty of Peace of 1783.
B. A General Map of North America.
C. Map of the Northern, or, New England States of America.
D. Map of the Middle States of America.
E. Map of the Southern States of America.
F. Plan of the City of Washington in the Territory of Columbia Ceded by the States of Virginia and Maryland.
G. Map of the State of Kentucky.
H. Plan of Lystra in Nelson County, Kentucky.
I. Plan of Franklinville in Mason County, Kentucky.
J. A General Map of South America.
K. An Accurate Map of the West Indies with the Adjacent Coast of America.

The plates include portraits of George Washington, William Penn, Ben Franklin, and one of Winterbotham himself. There are two plates of waterfalls, an original hand-colored plate of a tobacco plant, and 14 plates of mammals, birds, and reptiles. A number of important plates are illustrating the West Indies’ indigenous fauna. 

William Winterbotham (1763-1829) wrote this work while in Newgate Prison following a sedition conviction stemming from two controversial sermons he preached in 1792. While in prison, he also penned his Historical, Geographical, and Philosophical View of the Chinese Empire, which was later published in London, 1795, in two parts.


Good condition. Internally clean pages, occasional scattered light foxing.  All volumes have been rebound in modern calf leather, with gilt decorated edges. The four volumes are housed in a matching handcrafted slipcase which features a portrait of General George Washington.

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