HUTCHINS, Thomas (1730-1789). An Historical Narrative and Topographical Description of Louisiana, and West-Florida, comprehending the River Mississippi with its Principal Branches and Settlements… Philadelphia: Printed for the Author, 1784.
8vo., (8 1/8 x 5 1/8 inches). (Lightly browned throughout). Modern half morocco, spine lettered in gilt.
Provenance: Contemporary manuscript marginalia.
First edition. A fascinating account from the first (and only) official Geographer of the United States. Hutchins fought on the side of the British during the French and Indian War, and in fact was in London at the outbreak of the Revolutionary War. A native of New Jersey, he resigned his commission in the British army and was subsequently charged with treason to the crown and imprisoned in 1779. In 1780, upon his release, he reached out to Benjamin Franklin and sailed for America, joining the American army. “Hutchins resided for several years in West Florida, presumably in the latter 1760’s, when he examined minutely its coasts, lakes, rivers, and harbors. Hutchins describes first the Mississippi River and Louisiana, the advantages for trade and commerce; the coast and islands about the mouths of the Mississippi, with advice to mariners; the shifting of the channels and mouths; the town and fortifications of New Orleans and its future prospect as a great port. Then he treats the settlements between New Orleans and West Florida, the Acadian settlements, and important geographical details in ascending the Mississippi to Natchez and the mouth of the Arkansas River. Next he traces the coast of West Florida eastward to Mobile, with directions for entering Mobile Bay and the Alabama River; to Pensacola Bay and Town, then eastward to Rose Island, St. Andrews Bay, and as far as Cape St. George’s. At the end of the book is a ‘Table of Distances’ in various directions from the Belize or the mouths of the Mississippi” (Clark I, p. 259).