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QUEBEC: Map of Lower Canada shewing the proposed land agencies and the townships distinct from the seigniories.



A historically important, gargantuan map of Canada East (Quebec), commissioned by the Canada’s Crown Land Office as a strategic blueprint to manage the government’s numerous infrastructure, settlement and economic development.

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This massive map of Quebec was commissioned by Canada’s Crown Land Office, and is predicated on the latest scientific surveys.  Importantly, it was made to serve as strategic overview for administrators managing intense and transformative economic, settlement and infrastructure development.  The map embraces all of the province of Canada East (formerly Lower Canada; from 1867, Quebec), dividing the territory into counties and townships.  It shows that the old areas of settlement in the Montreal –Quebec City Corridor were intensely developed, while areas inland and the outer regions (such as Saguenay-Lac St. Jean, the Ottawa Valley, and the Gaspésie) were in incipient states of development.  To mange the sale of lands, the Crown Land Office was in the process of setting up land agency districts, the boundaries of which are demarcated on the map.


Of particular note, the map features both the already realized and projected lines of the Grand Trunk Railway (GTR).  Founded in 1852, by 1856, it connected Montreal with Toronto, and had expanded as far east as St. Thomas, on the lower St. Lawrence, with branches to the south connecting Quebec with New England.  The railway had a transformative impact upon the development of Canada and was one of the factors that enabled Canadian Confederation a decade after the present map was issued.


Historical Context: Quebec on the Eve of Confederation


By the 1850s, the government of the united Canadas (administering modern Quebec and Ontario), had to mange both major opportunities and major challenges.  The long settled areas in the Montreal-Quebec City Corridor, hugging the St. Lawrence were experiencing rapid economic development, spurred in part by the growth of the railways.  At the same time, a high birth rate and mass inward migration ensured that the Crown had long run out of free land for new homesteads.  The Crown thus decided to develop the province’s outer regions; however, this required mass investment in infrastructure and administrative systems.  Beyond providing new, civilised living space, the expansion into the outer regions would unlock vast wealth in agriculture, fish, timber, and minerals.  The Crown initiated many legislative and taxation changes to enable and incentivize settlement.  


Canada’s Crown Land Office sent several different teams of skilled surveyors to trigonometrically map the province’s various regions.  In Quebec City, the draftsman Joseph-Francois Bouchette, the grandson of the legendary late Surveyor-General of Quebec, Joseph Bouchette, reduced and refined the resulting manuscripts into the present map, which was published in Montreal by George Matthews.


The present map was created under the watchful eye of Joseph Édouard Cauchon (1816-1885), who served as the Commissioner of Crown Lands of the united Canadas, from 1855 to 1857.  This office was a senior cabinet position, overseeing the government’s largest department, in charge of spearheading all designs to manage lands and infrastructure.


The present map was published as part of a series of 8 large-format ground-breaking maps of Canadian regions published to accompany the Appendix to Cauchon’s Report of the Commissioner of Crown Lands. Part II (Toronto, 1857).  The maps included (short title): 1. Lower Canada (the present map); 2. Upper Canada; 3. Gaspe and Bonaventure; 4. The Saguenay; 5. The St. Maurice Territory; 6. The Ottawa & Huron Country; 7. The North Shore of Lake Huron; and 8. Canada, Indian Territories, and Hudson’s Bay.  While the maps were sometimes bound into a volume, the marquis examples were mounted upon limp linen and folded separately within a portfolio (such as the present example).


The present map remained highly influential and served as the basis for the administrative management of Quebec during the critical Pre- and Early Confederation periods.


References: Ville de Montréal. Section des Archives: CA M001 BM007-2-D30-P001.

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