A VIEW OF BOSTON FROM THE SOUTH
DES BARRES, J. F. W.
A View of Boston Taken on the Road to Dorchester. [London] May 30, 1776. [from The Atlantic Neptune]
Black and white engraving, 19” x 25”. A fine example.
One of the finest of all early views of Boston, it was published in 1776, during the siege of that city by the American Army under the command of Gen. George Washington.
Based upon a watercolor by the British Artillery officer, William Pierie, this view is probably the only one from the colonial period that shows Boston from the south. More than any other, it therefore gives some “sense of Boston’s early geography as a peninsula” (Deak).
It was drawn near the point where the road to the town of Dorchester enters Dorchester Neck. At far left is the imposing mansion built from 1747 to 1751 by Gov. William Shirley, and still standing in Roxbury. Clearly visible in the center background is Boston Neck, which connected the city to the mainland. The city of Boston and its three large hills lie to the left. Visible on one of these hills, known today as Beacon Hill, is the beacon erected in 1634 to warn the inhabitants of any danger. These hills were later drastically cut down to provide the landfill for Back Bay. Deak notes that in this view the image of the original form of the three hills is “nicely preserved.”
Rich describes The Atlantic Neptune as “The most splendid collection of charts, plans, and views ever published.” It was executed at the expense of the British government for the use of the British Navy in America during the Revolution, “and no expense appears to have been spared in the execution in order to render it a monument worthy of the nation.” The Atlantic Neptune was compiled over a period of years (1774-1781), with new charts and plates added at they were completed. No two copies of the atlas are identical.
Deak, Picturing America, 132.
Inventory No. 8024