Speculative Polar Cartography – Then and Now

Co-published with http://www.realclimate.org.

The curious mismapping of Greenland’s ice sheet cover by the venerable Times Atlas recently has excited a lot of outraged commentary. But few people noted that this follows an old tradition of speculative cartography of the polar regions. ‘Modern’ mapmakers as early as the 16th century combined real facts and scientific knowledge with fundamental misinterpretations of that knowledge to create speculative mapping of the world’s unknown shores – and nowhere was this more prevalent than at the poles.

Mercator's 1606 Map of the North Pole

Mercator's 1606 Map of the North Pole

Early cartographers had a particularly difficult time mapping the Polar Regions. Factually, they based their maps on reports from mariners who dared sail the dangerous waters. This was supplemented by information from earlier maps, speculations based upon their personal theories of geography, religious beliefs, and the fiscal and political ambitions of their patrons.

The earliest specific map of the North Pole is Gerard Mercator’s 1595 Septentrionalium Terrarum Descriptio (‘Northern Lands Described’, shown here is the 1606 edition). Mercator interprets a lost work known as the Inventio Fortunata (“The Fortunate Discovery”), which, though we don’t know for certain, supposedly refers to early journeys to Iceland and the Faeroes in the 14th century. Complementing and interpreting the Inventio, Mercator added real geographic knowledge collected by explorers Martin Frobisher (1535-1594) and John Davis (1550-1605) (amongst others). Mercator used the Inventio description of lands and peoples, Frobisher and Davis’s reports on currents, ice extent, and other elements, to compose this masterpiece of cartographic speculation.

At the North Pole Mercator placed a great mountain, the Rupes Nigra (“Black Rock”) around which flows a mighty whirlpool (hence the strong currents recorded by Davis and Frobisher). From here four powerful rivers flow inward dividing a supposed Arctic continent into four distinct lands. Mercator referenced the Inventio to populate these lands with pygmies, Amazons, and other anomalies. Between Asia and America Mercator added another great sea mountain to which he ascribes magnetic properties. This mountain evolved from a pet theory devised by Mercator to explain magnetic variation. It is also noteworthy that the seas all around the poles are open and navigable – it is very likely Mercator had in mind the interests of royal patrons eager for a Northwest or Northeast Passage.

Buache's 1763 Map of the Antarctic

Buache's 1763 Map of the Antarctic

Two hundred and fifty years later, in 1763, the French geographer Phillipe Buache (1700-1773), issued another wonderful attempt to address the problematic Polar Regions. Buache drew this map to expound upon his own theory of water basins wherein he hypothesized that the Antarctic contained two distinct land masses separated by a frozen sea. From the frequency of icebergs seen by early explorers such as Halley and Bouvet, Buache presumed that there must be a semi-frozen sea at the South Pole. This sea, which he argued (correctly) could only be fed by mountains in the surrounding polar lands, disgorged ice into the southern seas. He thus maps “Land yet undiscovered” and “Frozen Sea as Supposed”, “Supposed Chain of Mountains” as well as other speculations in order to conform not only to his own theories but to accepted mappings of this region by venerable cartographers of the 16th and 17th centuries such as Kaerius and Orteilus, Buache also joins New Zealand to the Antarctic mainland and adds an expansive reservoir he names “Siberia”. Buache was highly influential in his time and aspects of his geographical speculation found their way into numerous maps of the period.

Maps such as these abound in early cartography and most, no matter how misguided, are genuine attempts to rectify the known and unknown. Some, like the maps above and the more contemporary Times Atlas’ map of Greenland, are derived from real scientific knowledge, but exhibit either a misunderstanding of geography or an erroneous hypothesis. These often lead to fictitious interpretations of factual data. Such errors do have ramifications. In the early days of polar exploration such maps often inspired to ill-fated nautical expeditions in search of pygmies, polar seas, and new lands. In modern times, such speculative mappings, both early and contemporary, have been used by some to disprove global warming, advocate for the continent of Atlantis, and prove that space aliens mapped the earth in antiquity and in

Map of the Week: 1893 Cane Map of the Columbian Exposition – the world’s first cane map.

The world's first cane map - a rare novelty from the 1893 Columbian Exposition showing Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show.

An extremely rare and unusual cane and map prepared in 1893 for the Chicago World’s Fair or, as it is better known, the 1893 Columbian Exposition. This is the earliest known example of a cane map. The genre was invented by the Columbian Novelty Company and, as the map itself notes, the patent was still pending when issued for the fair in 1893. All subsequent cane maps, most of which date to the first half of the 20th century, follow on model of this cane as patented by the Columbian Novelty Company.

The map extends from an internal spring loaded roller mechanism in the top of the cane. It is printed and hand colored on both sides. The primary side shows the grounds of the Columbian Exposition, now Jackson Park and the Field Museum, naming all important buildings walks, pavilions, markets, etc. Among the specific sites noted are “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show & Congress of Rough Riders”, the Chicago University Grounds, and the various pavilions established for manufacturing, mining, transportation, liberal arts, agriculture, machinery, etc. In the upper left quadrant there is a aerial view of the entire fair. A larger inset along the right hand side of the map focuses on the Midway from Stony Island to Cottage Grove.

The 1893 Columbian Exposition or Chicago World’s Fair was a pivotal moment in the history of the United States. Chicago won the right to host the World’s Fair over New York, Washington D.C., and St. Louis. During its six month run, nearly 27,000,000 people, roughly half the population of the United States at the time, attended the fair. Its numerous displays and exhibits established conventions for architecture, design, and decorative arts, in addition to initiating a new era of American industrial optimism.

The layout and design of the fair, as seen here, is the work of Daniel Burnham and Frederick Law Olmsted, the genius behind New York City’s Central Park and Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, among others. Most of the fair was designed in the Beaux Arts tradition, a popular movement in Paris that was quickly gaining global momentum. In the years following the fair, this influential architectural style redefined the cityscape of Chicago, Boston, New York, and many other prominent American cities.

Printed by August Gast of St. Louis for the Columbian Novelty Company of Chicago. Originally sold in the gift shops of the 1893 Columbian Exposition.


Map of the Week: Grierson Pirate of Herman Moll’s Codfish Map of North America

To His Grace Hugh, Lord Archbishop of Armagh, Primate and Metropolitan of all Ireland and One of the Lords Justices of the said Kingdom this map of North America According to the Newest and most Exact Observations is most humbly Dedicated by your Graces most humble Serv: Geo: Grierson.

To His Grace Hugh, Lord Archbishop of Armagh, Primate and Metropolitan of all Ireland and One of the Lords Justices of the said Kingdom this map of North America According to the Newest and most Exact Observations is most humbly Dedicated by your Graces most humble Serv: Geo: Grierson.

An antique map discovery of the utmost rarity. Ostensibly, this is a fine example of Hermann Moll’s important and highly desirable 1720 Codfish Map, entitled “To the Right Honourable John Lord Sommers…” Upon closer inspection however, an entirely different picture emerges – this is in fact the Irish map publisher George Grierson’s 1732 piracy of Moll’s Codfish Map, entitled, “To his Grace Hugh Lord Archbishop…”. Although clearly copied from Moll’s map, Grierson’s map is actually a completely new engraving, with original cartouche work, an Irish-centric dedication, and a host of lesser variations throughout. Grierson’s piracies of Moll’s maps are far rarer and more desirable than Moll’s own work, the present example being the only known Grierson Codfish Map to have ever been on the market and possibly the only one extant.

Grierson published this map, and many others, in the year of Moll’s death, 1732, a clear piracy of Moll’s The World Described, most largest and impressive atlas. Today no known complete example of Grierson’s The World Described has survived, though very rarely individual maps, like the present example, do surface. In The Cartographer and the Literati – Herman Moll and his Intellectual Circle ( Edwin Mellen Press, 1997), Dennis Reinhartz notes that

two editions of [Moll’s Large Atlas] The World Described… were done by the Dublin publisher George Grierson… all of the maps in the Irish editions were completely re-engraved, even to the point of understandably having been rededicated to contemporary Irish notables. The Grierson atlas had new and/or changed cartouches, dedications, details, and comments. It also showed obvious erasers and additions, and some of the maps were updated.

Moll’s map, “To the Right Honourable John Lord Sommers…”, was originally published in 1718 or 1720 (there is some dispute on the matter) in counterclaim to Guillaume de L’Isle’s most influential map, the 1718 “Carte de La Louisiane de du Cours du Mississipi”. Moll and many other Englishmen were infuriated by De L’Isle’s cartographic advocacy for French hegemony in the region, including a vast Louisiana looming over the English coastal colonies and the ceding of Carolina to France. Moll’s response was this, a much larger and more inclusive map that, though drawing much of its basic cartography from De L’Isle’s definitive map, advocates for the British colonies particularly in Carolina.

This map gets is common name, the “Codfish Map”, from the illustration, at left center, of the Newfoundland cod fishery. Dried cod was possibly the most important North American export of the 18th century, and was a mainstay of the British Royal Navy. The British also operated the largest cod fishing fleet in the Grand Banks. Moll illustrates all stages of the fishery, from the catching, to the drying, to the cleaning and packing, to the clothing of a typical fisherman.

This is also one of the last maps to represent California as an Island. Moll’s confidence in the insular California theory, despite prevailing wisdom of the time, came from his claim that he “had in [his] office mariners who have sailed round it.” The idea of an insular California first appeared as a work of fiction in Garci Rodriguez de Montalvo’s c. 1510 romance Las Sergas de Esplandian, where he writes

Know, that on the right hand of the Indies there is an island called California very close to the side of the Terrestrial Paradise; and it is peopled by black women, without any man among them, for they live in the manner of Amazons.

Baja California was subsequently discovered in 1533 by Fortun Ximenez, who had been sent to the area by Hernan Cortez. When Cortez himself traveled to Baja, he must have had Montalvo’s novel in mind, for he immediately claimed the “Island of California” for the Spanish King. By the late 16th and early 17th century ample evidence had been amassed, through explorations of the region by Francisco de Ulloa, Hernando de Alarcon and others, that California was in fact a peninsula. However, by this time other factors were in play. Francis Drake had sailed north and claimed “New Albion” (identified here on the northwest coast of California Island) near modern day Washington or Vancouver for England. The Spanish thus needed to promote Cortez’s claim on the “Island of California” to preempt English claims on the western coast of North America. The significant influence of the Spanish crown on European cartographers caused a major resurgence of the Insular California theory. Just before this map was made Eusebio Kino, a Jesuit missionary, traveled overland from Mexico to California, proving conclusively the peninsularity of California.

The intriguing and speculative explorations of the Baron Louis Armand de Lahonton appear in the northwestern quadrant of North America. Lahonton (1666-1715) was a French military officer commanding the fort of St. Joseph, near modern day Port Huron, Michigan. Abandoning his post to live and travel with local Chippewa tribes, Lahonton claims to have explored much of the Upper Mississippi Valley and even discovered a heretofore unknown river, which he dubbed the Longue River. This river he claims to have followed a good distance from its convergence with the Mississippi. Beyond the point where he himself traveled, Lahonton wrote of further lands along the river described by his guides. These include a great saline lake or sea at the base of a mountain ranger. This range, he reported, could be easily crossed, from which further rivers would lead to the mysterious lands of the Mozeemleck, and presumably the Pacific. Lahonton’s work has been both dismissed as fancy and defended speculation by various scholars. Could Lahonton have been describing indigenous reports of the Great Salt Lake? What river was he on? Perhaps we will never know. What we do know is that on his return to Europe, Lahonton published his travels in an enormously popular book. Lahonton’s book inspired many important cartographers of his day, Moll, De L’Isle, Popple, Sanson, and Chatelain to name just a few, to include on their maps both the Longue River and the saline sea beyond. The concept of an inland river passage to the Pacific fired the imagination of the French and English, who were aggressively searching for just such a route. Unlike the Spanish, with easy access to the Pacific through the narrow isthmus of Mexico and the Port of Acapulco, the French and English had no easy route by which to offer their furs and other commodities to the affluent markets of Asia. A passage such as Lahonton suggested was just what was needed and wishful thinking more than any factual exploration fuelled the inclusion of Lahonton’s speculations on so many maps.

Just to the south of Lahonton’s Longue River, past “Parts Unknown”, the kingdom of Great Teguayo (Great Teguaio) is noted. Teguayo was believed to be one of the seven Kingdoms of Gold presumably to be discovered in the unexplored American west. The name Teguayo first appears in the Benevides Memorial, where it is described as a kingdom of great wealth to rival Quivara, another mythical kingdom which curiously does not appear on this map. The idea was later popularized in Europe by the nefarious Spaniard and deposed governor of New Mexico, the Count of Penalosa, who imagining himself a later day Pizzaro, promoted the Teguayo legend to the royalty of Europe. Originally Teguayo was said to lie west of the Mississippi and north of the Gulf of Mexico, but for some reason, Moll situates it far to the west.

Much like Moll’s map of the West Indies, this map can also be understood as a guide to English piracy and privateering in the Americas. Moll, most likely through his acquaintance with the pirates William Dampier and Woodes Rogers, offers a wealth of information on the traffic of silver bearing Spanish treasure fleets en route from the Mexican port of Veracruz, through the islands, to Spanish ports in Europe. Following the dotted line, Moll identifies the Spanish treasure fleet’s entrada into the Caribbean via the passage between Granada and Trinidad. The fleet then sailed westwards, skirting the Spanish Main until they reached Cartagena, where they rested and provisioned before heading northwards, rounding western Cuba and stopping in Havana. Using the strong Gulf Stream current – shown here – ships would sail northwards from Havana while being steadily forced to the southeast thus alighting at the deep water port of Veracruz. On the return, laden with silver from the mines of San Luis Potosi, the Spanish fleet took advantage of eastward blowing trade winds, which helped to overcome the strong current on the sail to Havana. From Havana they would travel northwards via the narrow passage between Florida and the Bahamas before cutting eastward and out to sea at St. Augustine. It was here, in this crucial passage between the English dominated Bahamas and Spanish Florida, where the most nefarious pirates lay in wait for their prey. In addition to descriptions of the sailing routes and currents, Moll provides insets of six important treasure ports, including Port Royal, Veracruz, Havana, Porto Bella, and Cartagena. As privateer fleets grew in strength and number in the early 18th century full scale assaults on major ports became increasingly common. Moll’s choice of these key treasure ports leaves little doubt regarding his intentions and sources.

As a whole this is a truly remarkable map, rich with captivating elements, beautifully rendered, unique in its piratical executions, and extraordinary rare. Truly a once in a lifetime opportunity for the right collector.


Johnson’s Map of the Southwest – a study in progress

Johnson’s map of the American southwest is one A. J. Johnson’s most significant and desirable atlas maps. This unusual map went through multiple variants from its inception in 1861 to the final editions of Johnson’s Family Atlas in the 1880s, chronicling through its many changes the exploration and development of the region. The standard wisdom identified 7 issues, but our experience suggests there may be as many as 17. The series has been a staple in Transmississippi Americana collections for the past 100 years, but to this day we know of no specific treatment of the map series. This short blog post, which can be expected to undergo updates and expansions as research progresses, will take a first step in correcting this cartobibliographic oversight.

Before we dive into the map itself, it is best to first discuss the Johnson atlas and its history. A. J. Johnson began publishing maps in the 1850s, but is first major atlas project was the “New Family Atlas” published in 1860. This edition of Johnson’s Atlas, by far the rarest, is heavily derived from J. H. Colton’s well-known atlas, published from 1855 onwards. Though the relationship between Johnson and Colton is vague, they did enter into some sort of business partnership in 1859 following Colton’s brief bankruptcy. From 1860 onwards the two firms published in tandem, freely borrowing from one another to advance their own individual atlases. While most of the maps from Johnson’s Family Atlas are taken directly from Colton, with only new border work and occasional updates to the titles to distinguish them, Johnson did issue several maps of his own accord. One of these is Johnson’s map of the Southwest, which appeared with the first edition of Johnson’s Atlas in 1860.

Johnson’s Southwest, initially titled “Johnson’s California Territories of New Mexico and Utah” seems to be derived from Johnson’s wall map of North America, “Johnson’s New Illustrated and Embellished County Map of the Republics of North America”. This map, which was a joint issue between A. J. Johnson, D. G. Johnson (no clear relation), and possibly J. H. Colton was issued in 1854 or 1855 and laid out the base plan of the U.S. Southwest that would consistently appear, in various states, in all subsequent Johnson’s atlas issues. The Johnson Atlas did not follow a strict annual update schedule and often multiple editions of certain maps appear within the same year. The following represent known issues of this map and will include updates as they become available:

1860a1860a – This is the first state of the map and possibly the rarest. Bears the Johnson & Browning imprint and was issued as plate no. 47 and 48 in the 1860 edition of Johnson’s Atlas. This example follows closely on the Johnson wall map of North America. Predates the formation of Colorado with the Utah – Kansas – Nebraska border following the Rocky Mountains west of South Park, east and therefore inclusive of Middle Part, and then west again exclusive of North Park. The Utah – Nevada border, here a curiosity as the name Utah still stretches across both territories, followed the Santa Clara River past the Vegas de Santa Clara Mission to Lake Sevier. Fillmore City is identified as the capital of Utah. Curiously, the Confederate Territory of Arizona is here presaged – as the events of the Civil War that lead to the territories creation have not yet come to pass. This is most likely reflects appeals to Congress by the population of southern New Mexico to be recognized as a separate territory. These events are recorded as early as 1857 and in 1860 the region was provisionally recognized. However, the events of the Civil War prevented official recognition by the U.S. Congress.The Gadsden Purchase is highlighted in red. (Lourie, 1.0)

1860b Johnson's California Territories of New Mexico and Utah.

1860b Johnson's California Territories of New Mexico and Utah.

1860b – This is the second 1860 state of the map and nearly as rare as the first. Bears the Johnson & Browning imprint and was issued as plate no. 54 and 55 in the late 1860 edition of Johnson’s Atlas. This example follows closely on the Johnson wall map of North America. Predates the formation of Colorado with the Utah – Kansas – Nebraska border following the Rocky Mountains west of South Park, east and therefore inclusive of Middle Part, and then west again exclusive of North Park. The Utah – Nevada border, here a curiosity as the name Utah still stretches across both territories, followed the Santa Clara River past the Vegas de Santa Clara Mission to Lake Sevier. Fillmore City is identified as the capital of Utah. Curiously, the Confederate Territory of Arizona is here presaged – as the events of the Civil War that led to the territory’=s creation have not yet come to pass. This is most likely reflects appeals to Congress by the population of southern New Mexico to be recognized as a separate territory. These events are recorded as early as 1857 and in 1860 the region was provisionally recognized. However, the events of the Civil War prevented official recognition by the U.S. Congress. The Gadsden Purchase is highlighted in red. Strapwork Border. (Lourie 2.0)

1861 Johnson's California Territories of New Mexico and Utah.

1861 Johnson's California Territories of New Mexico and Utah.

1861 – The 1861 edition of this atlas features the first appearance of Colorado on Johnson’s map. The borders between Colorado and Utah as well as between Utah and Nevada territories are rectified along the 109th and the 116th lines of longitude, respectively. Though Arizona is identified, the Gadsden purchase shaded according to the earlier editions, and though the boundary line between New Mexico and Arizona included, the line is not highlighted as in earlier editions, suggesting that the entire region is governed full from the territorial capital in Santa Fe. This reflects the Congressional denial of Arizona’s petition for territorial status. Fillmore City remains the capital of Utah. Of particular interested here is the California – Nevada border. Nevada became a territory in 1861. The outbreak of the Civil War and the wealth of silver under Virginia City (here identified as ‘Mormon Settlement’) hastened the conferment of territorial status on Nevada. The new borders of Nevada as set in the territorial charter forced Johnson to revise his 1860 map, moving the Utah-Nevada border three degrees west to longitude 116 and the California border westward to the Sierra Nevada range. This unusual choice infringed upon California’s border charter inciting a border dispute between the two regions. The dispute was formally resolved in 1863 roughly according to the original California charter. This is the only example of Johnson’s southwest map to show Nevada’s original territorial border configuration. Strapwork border. (Lourie 3.0)

1862 – Johnson and Ward. 54-55. Strapwork border. (Lourie 4.0)

1863 Johnson's California Territories of New Mexico and Utah.

1863 Johnson's Californai Territories of New Mexico and Utah.

1863a & b – This is the scarce Civil War issue of Johnson’s California Territories of New Mexico and Utah and the second state to bear the Johnson and Ward imprint. In this state of the map Arizona, whose identification as a territory by color coding was abandoned in 1861 reappears as “Arrizona”. This reflects the 1861 invasion and conquest of Southern New Mexico by the Confederate Col. John Robert Baylor. Baylor, declaring himself “Governor” promptly granted Arizona the territorial status denied to the region by the Union government in Washington D.C. In other parts of the map various borders have been rectified. The Nevada-California border is firmly set at 120 degrees longitude and the Nevada-Utah border is set at 116 degrees. Filmore city is the capital of Utah and the route of the Pony Express can be identified in central Nevada. The U.S. Mail Route, which roughly follows Lieut. Parke’s proposed railroad route is clearly identified running through Arizona and California. This variant of the map is nearly indistinguishable from another version of the map, also published in 1863, which has printing on the verso. Strapwork border. (Laurie 5, Laurie 6 is identical on recto but features printing on verso)

1863c – Johnson and Ward. 58-59. Fretwork Border. (Laurie 7)

1863d – Johnson and Ward. 58-59. Fretwork Border. Text on verso. ( Laurie 8 )

1864 – Johnson and Ward. 66-67. Fretwork Border. Text on verso. (Laurie 1)

1865 – Johnson and Ward. 66-67. Fretwork Border. Text on verso. (Laurie 2)

1866a – Johnson and Ward. 66-67. Fretwork Border. Text on verso. (Laurie 3)

1866b – Johnson. 66-67. Fretwork Border. Text on verso. (Laurie 4)

1867 – Johnson. 67-68. Fretwork border. Text on verso. Nevada border is corrected to reflect southern extension as far as California along the 114th degree of latitude.

This work would have been impossible without the painstaking research and valuable reference provided by Ira Lourie’s website “Johnson U.S. Map Project”, http://www.johnsonmapproject.org.

The 1606 Mercator / Hondius Map of the American Southeast

Virginiae Item et Floridae

The most influential map of the American southeast to emerge in the 17th century.

Published in 1606 by the Mercator – Hondius firm, this is the most influential map of the southeastern part of North America to emerge in the 17th century and the first map to depict by Virginia and Florida. Entitled, “Virginiae Item et Floridae”, Hondius’ map covers from the Spanish colony of St. Augustine northwards, past the Outer Banks of the Carolinas, as far north as the entrada to the Chesapeake Bay. Cartographically Hondius’ map is a synthesis of the two landmark North American maps of the previous century, the 1591 Jacques Le Moyne map of Florida and the 1590 John White map of Virginia and Carolina, both of which were published by Theodore de Bry. The influence of this map, augmented by the gravity of the Mercator name, would dominate the cartographic perspective of the American southeast well into the 18th century, propagating in the process a number of errors that would appear on maps well into the 1700s.

Despite referencing both sources, Hondius’ map is a unique production, with a number of elements that would influence the cartographic perspective of this region well into the 18th century. The most notable of these deal with the lakes and rivers found in the southwestern quadrant of the map. This region was tenuously mapped by the French during their disastrous attempt to settle the Forida from 1552 to 1565, when they were finally driven out by the Spaniards of St. Augustine. Le Moyne was part of this expedition and, though the French settlers likely did very little actual mapping of the interior, good terms with the indigenous Floridians did enable them to produce an impressive and very accurate early map of the southeast. The Le Moyne – De Bry map, as it is known, identifies several major lakes in the interior of Florida, all of which are noted here, however, where Le Moyne was surprisingly accurate, Hondius’ interpretation is surprisingly erroneous.

The most significant deviation from Le Moyne’s map is Hondius’ placement of the River May and Lake Apalachy, here identified as the “Lacus Aquae Dulcis” (Sweet Water Lake). Where Le Moyne correctly mapped the River May (St. John’s River, Florida) in an inverted “V” form, first heading north, then south to meet with a large inland lake (in all likely hood Lake George or one of the other great inland lakes of Florida), Hondius maps the course of the May heading to the northwest, thus relocating the “Lacus Aquae Dulcis” far to the north. This error can be understood in terms of magnetic variation, temperature issues associated with isothermal lines, and navigational errors related to the confusion of the star Asfick with Polaris. While Le Moyne correctly located the mouth of the River May at 30 degrees of latitude, Hondius maps it between 31 and 32 degrees. This led to a misassociation of the River May with the Savannah River. Thus, while the River May dips southward, the Savannah River heads almost directly NW into the Appellation Mountains, forming the modern southern border of South Carolina. Hondius, no doubt taking his cue from navigators who rarely trekked inland and therefore rerouted the May River to flow from the northwest. Without an accurate picture if the interior, Hondius followed Le Moyne’s example and translocated the great freshwater lake to the north. Others have speculated that the Le Moyne’s River May is in fact the St. John’s River, and that the “Lacus Aquae Dulcis” is in fact the Okefenokee Swamp – however, this argument is against established convention. The influence of the Mercator-Hondius firm was so pronounced in Europe that most subsequent cartographers followed their lead. Lactus Aquae Dulces appeared in maps by Jansson, Laet, Janszoon, Blaeu, Allard, Ogilby, Speed, Homann and others well into the 18th century, becoming one of Hondius’ most tenacious legacies.

Another curious and striking element drawn directly from the Le Moyne map is another lake fed by an enormous waterfall. To our knowledge, there are but two maps that depict this lake, this being the second. Some believe this unusual lake may have been based on native legends of Niagara Falls. A note near the lake and falls reads that the natives of this land find grains of silver in this lake. The sources for this lake are, unfortunately, as unclear in this map as they were in Le Moyne’s, and will most likely remain a mystery. The third mysterious lake, Sarrope, appearing the southwestern quadrant, is most likely a mismapping of Lake Okeechobee, as Le Moyne places it much further to the south in roughly the correct position.

Like the Le Moyne map, this map is also one of the earliest maps to depict and name the Appellation Mountains, here identified as Apalatcy Montes. A note suggests that the Apalatcy, a term presumably derived from a once populous American Indian nation inhabiting the Pensacola region, are rich in gold and silver.

To the east and north of Port Royal, the former site of the failed 1552 French colony, Hondius draws most of his cartography from John White’s map of 1590. This map, which is the first to accurately detail the Grand Banks, was drawn by White following Sir Walter Raleigh’s mysterious and ill-fated attempt to colonize Roanoke Island in 1585. Hondius’ takes far fewer liberties with White’s work, following closely on the cartography of the older map, though he has included a few Spanish names including C. S. Romano Hispanis, Medano, and Hispanis. These names most are most likely derived from early Spanish forays up the North American coast from St. Augustine, though few of these expeditions yielded discoveries of any note.

Another noteworthy error is the jutting distorted horizontal projection of Virginia-Carolina, which erroneously places Carolina and the Outer Banks too far to the east. This error follows on earlier maps and relates to difficulties 16th century mariners experienced in calculating longitude and accounting for magnetic variance. It was not until the invention of the marine chronometer in 1714 that longitude cold be accurately measured at sea. Nonetheless, one can image the misrepresentation being problematic for earlier sailors short on supplies after a lengthy trans-Atlantic crossing. Fortunately, most ships navigating to this region would have stopped first in the West Indies then followed the coast northward rather than make directly for the colonies along the Grand Banks. This approach no doubt influenced the longevity of this cartographic error.

This map is further profusely illustrated with various decorative illustrative elements drawn from various early accounts of American Indians. These include a Floridian King and Queen, sailing ships, sea monsters, and an American Indian fishing canoe taken from De Bry. To the right and left of the title cartouche, upper left quadrant, are views of American Indian villages, illustrating the construction differences between Florida and Virginia villages.

This map remained the most important map of the North American southeast for nearly 70 years, until superseded by the 1672 publication of Ogilby-Moxon’s “Description of Carolina.” It was published in numerous editions in various languages, but there is only one state as the map remained unaltered in all subsequent publications. From the verso text, we can identify this example as being drawn from the 1628 French edition of Gerard Mercator and Jodocus Hondius’ Atlas. Mercator died in 1594 and though the maps and atlas bear his name, most of the individual maps were edited and updated by Hondius prior to the 1606 Atlas’s publication.


Cumming, W., The Southeast in Early Maps, no. 26 and plate no. 2.
Boston Public Library, Leventhal Collection, G3870 1633 .H66.
Williams & Johnson #3.
Burden, P., The Mapping of North America, #151.
Koeman, C., Atlantes Neerlandici. Bibliography of Terrestrial, Maritime and Celestial Atlases and Pilot Books, Published in the Netherlands up to 1880, vol. 2, p. 282 no. 141.
Van der Krogt, P., Koeman’s Atlantes Neerlandici, 9400:1A.
Goss, J., The Mapping of North America: Three Centuries of Map-Making 1500-1860, no. 23.
Lowery, W., The Lowery Best Miter Saw Collection, 100.

The Viele Map of Manhattan’s Topography and Waterways

Viele Map

The Viele Map - One of the most important and enduring maps of New York City ever published.

This is Egbert L. Viele’s 1865 topography and waterways map of Manhattan, one of the scarcest, most important and most enduring maps of New York City ever published. Covering the entirety of Manhattan Island, Viele’s map details the canals, swamps, rivers, ditches, ponds, meadows, and drainage basins of Manhattan as they existed prior to the city’s urban development. A version of the Viele map remains in use today by architects and contractors who need to be certain they are not building over underground rivers and swamps that may destabilize a new construction’s foundation.

Roughly translated “Manhattan” is an American Indian term meaning “Island of Hills”. The American Indians living in the region prior to the Dutch settlement of Manhattan treated the island as a huge hunting and fishing reserve full of trout streams, bass swamps, and sunfish ponds. Viele contended that as streets and buildings were constructed the city’s natural drainage retreated underground where, stagnating, it led to a “humid miasmic state of the atmosphere” conducive to yellow fever, malaria, plague, and other epidemic illnesses.

Viele dedicated nearly 20 years to researching and perfecting this masterpiece of cartography. The basic map and above ground topography of the Viele map is drawn from John Randel’s surveys of 1807 and the Commissioner’s Plan of 1811, which formally laid out New York City’s grid system. Viele then used early survey work, new survey work, and studies of older maps to recreate Manhattan’s water system as it must have existed when the first Dutch settlers built a fur trading post of the tip of the island. Viele presented an unfinished early state of his map, covering only lower Manhattan to the New York State Senate in 1859, claiming, “The Sanitary condition of any city or district or country is intimately connected with its proper drainage . . . that any inquiry into causes or remedies for sanitary evils . . . shall be based upon a thorough knowledge of the topography of the island”. It took another six years of meticulous study to produce the final product – this extraordinary achievement.

Though Viele may never have imaged his map’s most important legacy would be as a construction aid, architects, engineers, and contractors were quick to grasp the usefulness of the map. Paul Starett, who built the Empire State Building and Stuyvesant Town, used this map to prepare estimates of construction costs. Melvin Febish, part of the team constructing the Citicorp Center, “found that it’s accurate within feet”. The builders of our own apartment building, at 105th and Amsterdam, may not have consulted this map, for had they done so they may have noticed the underground river that has caused innumerable foundation problems in the 80 plus years since it was built.


Inscribed by the Author to "Ches Davis"

This edition of Viele’s “Topographical Map of the City of New-York” was issued to accompany his manifesto calling for future city development to take natural waterways and drainage into account when planning expansion. It is the first complete state of Viele’s map and comes with its original green leatherette binder and text, which the author (Viele) has inscribed to a mysterious “Ches Davis”. Haskell, in his cartobibliography of Manhattan maps, for some reason identifies this map as being issued in 1864, but no known example exists from that date, nor are there any recorded copyrights on this map from 1864. The first complete edition is this, 1865.

In closing we would like to make a final comment on condition. This map was issued on two joined panels, printed on fine bank note paper, and folded for issue in various publications. Consequently most examples exhibit considerable wear and damage along the original fold lines as well as cropped or off-center borders, general wear, soiling, water damage, and color loss. This example, on the other hand, is in near pristine condition. We have had it professionally removed from its original binder and flatted with archival tissue added for backing and support. Its color is original and remarkably vivid with no signs of the degradation typical on maps from this period. If you hope to add an example of this map to your collection, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity.


References: Rumsey 3723.000. Augustyn, R. T. and Cohen, P. E., Manhattan in Maps, p. 136 – 139. Haskell, Daniel, Manhattan Maps, A Co-operative List, 1132. Stokes, I. N. P., The Iconography of Manhattan Island, 1498-1909, Compiled from Original Sources and Illustrated by Photo-Intaglio Reproductions of Important Maps, Plans, Views and Documents in Public and Private Collections, vol 3, p.777-778.

Teguayo, Great Salt Lake, and Atzlatan

Mannert Map of Teguayo in North America

Mannert, in 1796, maps Teguayo as a both region and a city.

One of the most enduring myths, or perhaps the right term is legends, of the American west is Teguayo. To some it is a lake, to others a mythical homeland, to still others a lost city of gold, and to others, an outlandish hoax. We shall examine all of these to some extent in this article below, but first, it is best to put Teguayo in cartographic context.

Teguayo was mapped in the American southwest from the mid 17th century well into the 19th century. In most cases, Teguayo is mapped as a region, sometimes called Gran Teguayo, though it is occasionally entered as a city or, in later maps, a lake. The first recorded mention of Teguayo, and this is tenuous as we have not been able to isolate the primary source, is in a document discovered by Theodore Greiner, a Pueblo Indian Agent and territorial administrator during the Civil War. Greiner apparently discovered a hitherto unknown document recording an interview between Cortez and Cuauhtémoc, the last Aztec Emperor, regarding Aztec dominions in modern day New Mexico and Arizona. The fascinating snippet is quoted in full below:

I command this province, which is the first of New Mexico, the Pueblo of Tigueyo, which governs one hundred and two pueblos to be the best ship car cross country region. In this pueblo there is a great mine close by, in which they cut with stone hatchets the gold of my crown. The great province of Zuni, where was born the great Malinche. This pueblo is very large, increasing in Indians of light complexion, who are governed well. In this province is a silver mine, and this capital controls eighteen pueblos. The province of Moqui, the province of the Navajos, the great province of the Gran Quivira, that governs the pueblos of the Quercs and the Tanos. These provinces have different tongues, which only Malinche understands. The province of Acoma, in which there is a blackish colored hill, in which there is found a silver mine.”

Homann associates Tigux and Teguayo.

Homann associates Tigux and Teguayo.

Although this statement mentions a number of early place names that bear further research, our concern is with the first line, regarding the “Pueblo of Tigueyo”. While there is no certainty that the above quote is authentic or even traceable, if it is true it seems to be the first recorded reference to Teguayo.

The first hard historical evidence of Teguayo appears in ever fascinating and violent journals of the Coronodo expedition. Fought in New Mexico somewhere around 1540, between Coronodo’s conquistadores and the Puebla of Tiwa, the Tiguex or Tiwa War is generally considered to be the first armed conflict between Europeans and Native Americans in the American West. The Spanish chroniclers transliterated Tiwa as either Tiguex or Tiguea. This powerful Pueblo is most likely one and the same with the “Tigueyo” described to Cortez by Cuauhtémoc.

The next significant report of Teguayo or Tiguex appears in the celebrated 1630 Benavides Memorial. Alonso de Benavides was a Franciscan missionary active in New Mexico in the early 17th century. Benavides composed the memorial and published it in Madrid in a push for the Spanish crown and the Catholic Church to establish a New Mexico bishopric. Though sincere in his passion for gentle conversion of the indigenous Americans of the southwest, Benavides clearly exaggerates the scale, wealth, and sophistication of the land and peoples he encountered. The pueblo of Tiguex (Teguayo) he describes as being ” by rights the great city of the king of this province” having “four thousand or more houses, all quite large, in each of which live from ten to fifteen neighbors”, with “high corridors and terraces, and very high towers,” and “situated on a plain on the banks of a river and enclosed by rock walls, set not with lime by with Gypsum”. It was a place so remarkable that “the Spaniards were simply awestruck with its beauty”.

Unbeknownst to Benavides, this exaggeration would have a significant impact on the next figure in the Teguayo drama, the nefarious Don Diego Dionisio de Peñalosa. Peñalosa could generously described as a roguish adventurer but is more accurately a traitorous scoundrel in the true conquistador fashion. Born in Peru, Peñalosa took various positions in the Spanish colonial regime before being dismissed from his position in Lima for “misconduct”. Peñalosa attempted to return to Spain but a shipwreck landed him in Mexico where he seems to have had better luck. Calling himself the Count of Peñalosa, he flattered his way into increasingly powerful positions with the Viceroyalty, eventually being awarded governorship of New Mexico. The former governor, known for his kind and humane treatment of the indigenous population, fell afoul of the Spanish Inquisition for, supposedly, hindering the efforts of the Franciscan friars to convert the natives.

Peñalosa arrived in New Mexico in 1661, eager to take up his position and abuse it for personal enrichment. The constant thorn in his side was his clerical counterpart, the Franciscan friar Alonso de Posada. Both were ambitious and strong willed men who quickly established a mutual loathing. A number of conflicts followed that ended with Peñalosa being excommunicated and Posada imprisoned. Eventually Posada returned to Mexico City where he filed charges against Peñalosa who, meanwhile, fled to England.

Of importance to our story is that despite near constant conflict, both Posada and Peñalosa published narratives describing presumed explorations of the region. Peñalosa’s account is by far the most interesting; claiming, among other things, that he discovered an outlet to the “North Sea” and the gold rich indigenous empires of Teguayo and Quivara. Modern researchers have put forth strong evidence that both men, involved in their own ambitious and petty disputes, fabricated part or all of their journals. Most likely Peñalosa (and possibly Posada) discovered manuscript versions of the Benavides Memorial in the official archives of the New Mexico governor and used these documents to further their own ends. Peñalosa extracted Benavides’ exaggerated account of Teguayo and took it one (or more likely 10) steps further. Posada, on the other hand, is the first to clearly and directly associate Teguayo with the Aztec homeland of Atzlatan and with the Lake of Copala (Copala was recorded as the home of the Aztecs in the journals of the 1628 Onate expedition and in the 1563 journals of the Ibarra Expedition. It is sometime erroneously associated with Cibola).

Leaving Atzatlan - the Codes Boturini

Leaving Atzatlan – the Codes Boturini

Briefly, Atzatlan is the semi-mythical homeland of the Aztec or Mexica peoples. It appears in a number of early Aztec codices including the Tiera de Peregrinacion, Historia Tolteca-Chichimeca, Codex Boturini, and the Codex Aubin. Translated directly it means “Place of Reeds” or “Place of Egrets”. It was supposedly a vast, populous, and wealthy land rich in gold, silver, and precious stones. It was even claimed that sickness did not touch those who dwelt there. The legend of the Aztec migration suggests that some natural or political disaster forced the Aztecs to flee their paradisiacal homeland, Atzatlan, which was a large shallow lake full of reeds and waterbirds. According to the detailed Aztec calendar this event and the beginning of the Aztec migration occurred around May 24, 1064 CE. This date is not only contemporary with the beginning of the Aztec calendar, but also roughly coincides with the massive volcanic eruptions of Sunset Crater, Arizona. The migration seems to have lasted some 250 years before the Aztec, now Mexica, peoples settled on the shores of Lake Texcoco and founded Tenochtitlan. Lake Texcoco, tidat buried under the sprawling urban center of Mexico City, was once a vast shallow lake rich in fish and bird life. To the itinerant Mexica, Texcoco must have seemed very similar to “the Place of Egrets”, or Atzatlan.

The association of Teguayo with Atzatlan had two important results. First it attached the legendary wealth of Atzatlan and the known wealth of the Aztecs to a new conquerable and unexplored land. Secondly, it associated Teguayo with the Lake of Copala, the legendary lake of Atzatlan. Peñalosa, likely having never explored the region himself, may even have believed in both his own exaggerations and those of the Benavides Memorial. Even so, he was not about to share his discoveries with the Spanish, whose Inquisition had excommunicated him and whose colonial viceroy in Mexico, spurred by Posada, was eager to execute him. Instead he presented a plan to the King of England. With a small force of men, Peñalosa argued, he could travel up the Rio Bravo and seize control of New Mexico, including the fabulously wealthy empires of Teguayo and Quivara. In his own mind, Peñalosa was the next Cortez. The King of England, busy with his own colonial efforts in New England, had little interest in Peñalosa’s designs and dismissed them entirely. Peñalosa next took his plan to Louis XIV of France who also dismissed his plans, denying him the troops and logistic support such a mission would have required. Ultimately, though no European prince ever embraced Peñalosa’s plans for the conquest of New Mexico, his claims were not ignored. The important French cartographer Guillaume Delisle, among others, embraced the idea of a wealthy indigenous province roughly where Peñalosa places Teguayo and it subsequently found its way into the mainstream European cartographic lexicon. (it is also of interest that the Penalosa’s fictive narrative reports the discovery of a “North Sea”, which may have influenced Delisle’s speculative mapping of the Sea of the West).

Humboldt Maps Teguayo as Great Salt Lake.

The next figure to take up an active interest in Teguayo was none other than the great German naturalist Alexander von Humboldt. Humboldt strongly advocated cartographic interpretation and incorporation of indigenous knowledge. While in Mexico, Humboldt had access to both historical accounts by conquistadors and explorers and indigenous knowledge preserved through missionary reports and oral legend. His remarkable map of 1811 Mexico and New Spain, the most accurate yet seen, was compiled entirely from these sources. Just as Humboldt compiled indigenous and colonial reports into his great map of Mexico, he also compiled the legends of Teguayo and Atzatlan. From the Aztec Codices he mapped the Aztec migration, noting each stop on his map; from the journals of Peñalosa and Posada he associates Teguayo with legendary Atzatlan and Onate’s Lake of Copala; based upon Escalante’s travel notes he recognizes a similarity between descriptions of the Utah Lake and Great Salt Lake with indigenous descriptions of Atzatlan; Humboldt thus takes the leap of identifying one of the Great Basin lakes as Teguayo, the homeland of the Aztecs. Humboldt’s reasoning is, as always sound, though it is unlikely in this case that he was correct, for he relied too heavily upon the fictitious reports of ambitious conquistadores. Nonetheless, Humboldt’s significance and fame, as well as the overall superiority and accuracy of his great map of Mexico and New Spain in all other ways , influenced maps of the region for the next 50 years.

Humboldt, Alexander von, Views of nature: or, Contemplations on the sublime phenomena of creation…, (tr. Otte & Bohn), 1902.
Anderson, G. B., History of New Mexico: its resources and People, pp. 11-15.
Pierre Margry, ed., Découvertes et établissements des Français dans l’ouest et dans le sud de l’Amérique septentrionalce, 1614–1754 (6 vols., Paris: Jouast, 1876–86).
France V. Scholes, Troublous Times in New Mexico, 1650–1670 (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1942).
Alfred Barnaby Thomas, trans., Alonso de Posada Report, 1686 (Pensacola: Perdido Bay, 1982).
Carson, P., Across the northern frontier: Spanish explorations in Colorado, 1998.
Murphy, L. R., Journal of the Southwest. “William F. M. Arny Secretary of New Mexico Territory 1862-1867”, Vol. 8, No. 4 (Winter, 1966), pp. 323-338.
Benavides, Alonso de, A harvest of reluctant souls: the memorial of Fray Alonso de Benavides, 1630, (tr. Baker H. Morrow), 1996.
Freytas, N., The Expedition of Don Deigo Dionisio de Penalosa, (tr. John Gilmary Shea), 1882.

Samuel Hearne and Alexander MacKenzie’s Discovery of the American Arctic

Pinkerton's 1818 Map of Canada

The discoveries of Hearne & MacKenzie in the Canadian Arctic

In the late 18th century two transcontinental journeys, today little known, redefined the popular conception of the North American interior. These were the explorations of Samuel Hearne and Alexander MacKenzie, fur traders both, who, in search of profit and glory, separately penetrated the Canadian interior and in doing so became the first Europeans to see the Arctic Ocean from the shores of the North America. By traveling northward along an overland route from known territories, the work of these important explorers finally put an end to European ambitions for a Northwest Passage to the Pacific via inland waterways. Once Gear News of their discoveries reached Europe, cartographers were quick to update their charts, filling in a significant part of the Canadian Northwest and redefining the cartographic perspective of the region.

Hearne's Trek to the Arctic

Hearne's Trek to the Arctic

The first of these two journeys was made by Samuel Hearne. Hearne was a young Londoner who, after seven years at sea, transferred to the Hudson Bay Company. The vastly profitable Hudson Bay Company enjoyed a royal charter and for over 100 years maintained a near monopoly on the Canadian fur trade. Despite their astounding profits, or perhaps because of them, the Hudson Bay Company had long neglected the secondary provisions of their charter which involved exploring and developing the natural resources of their territory. Meanwhile, competition had emerged further west in the form of the rival North West Company. The North West Company had no royal charter, but was founded a gaggle of ambitious frontiersmen on the principal of exploration and exploitation. The NWC’s energetic exploration of northwestern America quickly opened a number of new regions to the fur trade. The HBC consequently began to notice a diminishment in their own profits. It was perhaps pressure from investors to keep competitive with the NWC that motivated the officers of the HBC to initiate an exploratory expedition of their own. Rather than compete directly with the NWC for fur profits, the HBC determined that it would leverage its vast financial reserves to diversify into whaling and minerals. Moses Norton, then the HBC’s chief factor at Prince of Wales Fort on the Hudson Bay had a near obsession, which he inherited from his father who held the same position, with legends of a copper mine far to the north from whence the indigenous Chipewyans often brought copper samples. Seeming the ideal target for diversification, the HBC thus sent one of its newest factors, the young trapper Samuel Hearne, on a quest for the mine, as well as for the whale rich Arctic Sea, in the unexplored north. In the process it was further hoped that Hearne would discover a waterway that might ultimately open a new Pacific trade route through the Northwest Passage.

Samuel Hearne

Samuel Hearne

Hearne, just 24 at the time, could not have been less prepared for the journey ahead. The young man had no experience in Arctic travel, had never undergone a similar journey, had no idea what to pack, and only a basic midshipman’s understanding of surveying and positioning. Hearne’s first attempt at this journey lasted but 30 days during which he was deserted and robbed by the local Indians he hired to guide him. His second attempt, though lasting nearly 8 months, also met with disaster when his quadrant, without which any proper surveying and positioning work is possible, was knocked to the ground and shattered by an unexpected gust of wind. Nonetheless, Hearne, ever persistent, prepared a third trip. This attempt, with some experience under his belt and a new trustworthy Indian guide in the form of the Indian chief Matonabbee, who had in fact traveled through and mapped out the region a decade earlier, proved that indeed “the third time is charmed”.

It was most likely Matonabbee whose able leadership and experience in the Arctic made the mission a success, but as with so many early explorations in the Americas, it is the handsome young European Hearne who ultimately received the lion’s share of credit. Between 1771 and 1772 Hearne and Matonabbee traveled steadily northwards, making maps and notations along the way, until they finally reached the Arctic Sea in July of 1771. This was doubtless Coronation Gulf though Hearne, through lack of experience using a sextant, mismapped it at 71 55 N, some 300 miles northward of his actual location. Nonetheless, the exploration was complete in that the Coppermine River as far as the Arctic had been explored. Hearn even found a gigantic ingot of pure copper with which to impress his superiors. Hearn, Matonabbee, and their entourage returned to their starting point, arriving at Prince of Wales Fort in June of 1772, having spent 19 months completing the mission.

In an act of greed and lethargy typical of large corporations even today, the Hudson Bay Company chose to suppress Hearne discoveries lest others take advantage of them first. It was not until 1782, when the Frenchman La Perouse captured Prince of Wales Fort, that information about Hearne’s achievements spread beyond the HBC. Perouse allowed Hearne, who was still stationed at Prince of Wales Fort, to take his maps and journals back to England. There Hearn compiled and published his accounts and maps.

MacKenzie's Trek to the Arctic

MacKenzie's Trek to the Arctic

Meanwhile, further west, on the opposite shore of the Great Slave Lake, the NWC was sending out its own Arctic expedition. The North West Company was an amalgam of independent traders who made it their mission to explore and exploit fur trading opportunities in the American northwest. One of these was figures was the outrageous Peter Pond. Pond was an old school fur trader, that is to say: a hot head, a misanthrope, an adventurer, a liar, an egoist, an explorer, and an outright greedy bastard. He was the first to exploit the rich fur resources around Lake Athabasca and in the process he seems to have killed off most of his competition in the region. Nonetheless Pond began the work of mapping out the area around Lake Athabasca including the river systems in the vicinity of Great Slave Lake. From indigenous reports he was also able to sketch out the possible courses of several important rivers heading north and west of the Great Slave Lake.

Despite falling out with most of his peers, Pond seemed to have a fairly amicable and unlikely relationship with is second in command and apprentice in the fur trade, a young British nobleman named Alexander MacKenzie. It was possibly from the educated MacKenzie that Pond learned of the results of Cook’s third voyage in 1779. He was fascinated by references to Cook Inlet, in Alaska, which Cook did not explore fully and mistakenly took for a river estuary. Vastly underestimating the distance between Alaska and the Great Slave Lake, Pond immediately assumed that the great river leading westward from his lake could be none other than the same river that Cook discovered. Pond sketched out his vision of the region and of the river leading to the Pacific in 1787, only one year before he would retire, leaving his post and his legacy to his second, Alexander MacKenzie. A year later, before the results of MacKenzie’s own explorations around Great Slave Lake were known, Pond confessed his theories to friend Isaac Ogden, who wrote “There can be no doubt but the source of Cook’s River is now fully discovered and known.”

Alexander MacKenzie

Alexander MacKenzie

MacKenzie set out, in 1789, to prove Pond’s theory and finally discover the inland Northwest Passage. Sadly and to his dismay, the river identified by Pond heading westward from Great Slave Lake turned sharply north. MacKenzie and his team, fighting against the current, powered their canoes upward along the river, sometimes traveling 17 hours a day, before ultimately reaching a tidewater which they associated with the Arctic Ocean. MacKenzie named the river Dissapointment, but it was later renamed the MacKenzie River in his honor. Though MacKenzie considered his voyage a failure it was quickly publicized in Europe, reaching the public within a year of Hearne’s journals.

MacKenzie’s expedition had very much the same results as Hearne’s but from the opposite direction. Both proved that no watery Northwest Passage existed through North America’s inland river systems. The journals of Hearne and MacKenzie filled in many of the blank spaces in the American west and would be the most significant accountings of their respective regions for the subsequent 100 years. It was not until the mid to late 19th century that explorers and cartographers were able to reconcile these important explorations with new data to develop a full map of the region.

1796 Mannert Map of the Americas

Mannert's 1796 Map of the Americas - one of the first to show Hearne & MacKenzie's Discoveries

Of the two explorers, both had distinguished follow-up careers. Hearne retired from exploration and became an important and eccentric figure in the Hudson Bay Company. He was later mentioned in the works of Darwin and was known for collaborating with naturalists in an effort to further science through his discoveries. He also, it is said, inspired Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner. MacKenzie continued to search for a route to the Pacific and ultimately became the first European to cross North America north of Mexico and reach the Pacific, with little to no stopover while traveling.

Helm, June, “Matonabbee’s Map”, Arctic Anthropology, Vol. 25, No. 2 (1989), pp. 28-47.
Hayes, I. I., “Arctic Exploration”, The North American Review, Vol 118, N. 242 (Jan. 1874), pp. 23-69.
Hearne, S., A Journey to the Northern Ocean: The Adventures of Samuel Hearne, foreword by Ken McGoogan, 2007.
McGoogan, Ken, Ancient Mariner: The Arctic Adventures of Samuel Hearne, the Sailor Who Inspired Coleridge’s Masterpiece, 2004.
Mowat, F., Coppermine Journey: An Account of Great Adventure Selected from the Journals of Samuel Hearne, 1958.
Speck, Gordon, Samuel Hearne and the North West Passage, 1963.
Mears, R., Northern Wilderness, chapters 4-6.


The Evolution of the Comparative Mountains and Rivers Chart in the 19th Century

Tableau Comparatif

Andriveau-Goujon's 1834 Tableau Comparatif - the most elaborate comparative mountains and rivers chart of the 19th century.

The comparative mountains and rivers chart is possibly the most interesting cartographic convention to develop and reach is fullest expression in the 19th century. This type of map or chart was generally constructed as a scientific and reference tool, comparing various mountains and rivers within the same plane and on the same scale, thus showing their relative magnitudes. Occasionally mountains and rivers charts are limited to the comparative geographies of specific countries or continents, but more commonly they are drawn on a global scale. The first comparative charts focused on mountains and evolved in response to late 18th century philosophical and scientific innovations. Most were initially conceived as combinations of traditional coastal profiles as used in navigation and mountain profiles commonly used with air purifier.

Pre-19th Century

Typical 18th century shore profiles.

While the proper mountains and rivers chart did not evolve until the 19th century, we can see its roots in the coastal profiles drafted on many 18th century nautical charts. Such profiles appear quite early in the history of the nautical chart, but were first introduced into regular usage by the London cartographer William Faden. Shore or coastal profiles focusing on specific and important stretches of coastline were designed to enable the navigator to recognize important land side features from far out at sea. These profiles, while often not drawn to scale, were among the first cartographic representations of mountains and rivers that placed distant and unrelated geographic features in close proximity to one another. Although not designed to this purpose, the juxtaposition of such significant geographical features could not help but to suggest a comparison.

Philosophical Background

Around this time a major philosophical transformation was occurring in western epistemological thought. One of the great philosophical debates of the 18th century was the between the British Empiricists and the Continental Rationalists. The British Empiricists, lead by David Hume and John Locke, believed that all knowledge was based upon experience and that scientific knowledge, though flawed, could be induced from this. The Continental Rationalists, on the other hand, based their scientific approach on the philosophy of Rene Descartes, who advocated that sensory experience itself was untrustworthy and that knowledge could only be obtained through reason. In 1787 the German philosopher Immanuel Kant introduced Transcendental Idealism, essentially a compromise between these conflicting ideas. In The Critique of Pure Reason, Kant argues that both rationalism and empiricism are fundamentally flawed. Rationalism, he claimed reached its limits when addressing issues beyond human experience, such as God or Free Will, which by definition could not be known or addressed with reason alone. Empiricism, he argued, was also limited in that while experience is a necessary underpinning of all knowledge, without reason it is impossible to form collected experience into coherent ideas. This synthesis, which would prove enormously influential in both philosophy and science, opened the doorways to the modern scientific approach. In our case, it set forth the need to assess experience through the window of reason – thus through the juxtaposition and analysis of different experiences of a thing, say a mountain, it is possible to form a better understanding of mountains in general.

Alexander von Humboldt

Humboldt's Comparative Mountains Chart

Humboldt's important proto comparative mountains chart.

Among the first scientists to take Kant’s ideas into the field was Alexander von Humboldt, who, as with so many things, proved pivotal in the evolution of the comparative mountains and rivers chart. Humboldt, as a well educated German nobleman, was heavily indoctrinated into the philosophy of Immanuel Kant. During his epic journey into South America, Humboldt used illustrative techniques to catalog, define, and reason through the scientific data he collected. His published work is full of illustrations, maps, and charts, many of which were incredibly influential. In our case, we must focus on Humboldt’s profile of the Andes “Geographic der Pflanzen in den Tropenlandern, ein Naturgemalde der Anden”. Humboldt’s 1805 chart, shown to the right, is not strictly speaking a comparative mountains and rivers chart, however, it was extremely influential with regard to the development of the genre and is one of the earliest examples of a “more formal and scientific means of expressing the vertical dimension”. With this chart, Humboldt was attempting to illustrate his research and experience in climbing Ecuador’s Mt. Chimborazo. At the time Chimborazo was considered to be one of the world’s tallest mountains and indeed, though dwarfed by Everest, Chimborazo may still be considered the tallest mountain in the world if measured from the center of the earth. Humboldt’s ascent of Chimborazo was a significant accomplishment, not only because he reached an unprecedented altitude, but also for the detailed scientific observations he took along the way. Possibly influenced by the mountain profile diagrams he worked with as a mining engineer in Germany, Humboldt commissioned a Viennese landscape painter to assemble this chart according to his specific instructions. The chart compares and contrasts vegetation and mineral composition, noting tree and snow lines, rock forms, and even some subterranean elements. While only Chimborazo is specifically drawn in profile, Humboldt sets the stage for future development of this genre by textually noting the elevations of several other well known mountains, including Popocatepetl, Mont Blanc, Vesuvius, and Orizaba, as well as the elevation of Quito and the highest point reached by Condamine.

A New Cartographic Convention

Lizars' Comparative Mountains Chart

Lizars' and Thomson's Comparative Mountains chart of 1817 was one of the first of this genre.

The first formal comparative mountains chart of the 19th century is most likely Lizars’ chart of 1817, drawn for issue in Thomson’s New General Atlas.* This chart divides the world’s mountains by hemisphere, with the great Himalayan peaks of the Eastern Hemisphere dominating the right hand side of the sheet. Lizars embraces and expands on many of the ideas introduced by Humboldt, showing elements of related to geology, plant life, volcanic activity, and even incorporating important cities, mines, and as a point of comparison, the greatest achievement of man, the Great Pyramids of Egypt. That Lizars was directly influenced by Humboldt’s work is evidenced by the presence of Humboldt himself, a duly noted speck on the left hand face of Chimborazo. Though the arrangement of the mountains on this chart may initially seem haphazard, they are in fact arranged by hemisphere, with the mountains of the Americas appearing to the left and those of the Eastern Hemisphere appearing on the right. Though this chart enjoyed enormous popularity, it convention of dividing mountains by hemisphere while maintain a uniform global scale was not embraced again until the 1880s. Lizars’ chart of the world’s great mountains would continue to be published in various atlases until about 1827 when its primacy was supplemented by a new style of chart incorporating rivers.

The Lengths of Rivers

Thomson's 1822 Comparative Rivers of Scotland - one of the first comparative river charts of the 19th century.

The charting of the comparative lengths of rivers developed slightly later than the comparative mountains chart, but evolved out of the same Kantian Transcendental Idealism that inspired Humboldt do draw his profile chart of Chimborazo. Numerous early atlases incorporated tables defining the lengths of the world’s great rivers, but it was not until 1822 that the first rivers chart appeared in John Thomson’s Atlas of Scotland. A year later in 1823 Fielding Lucas expanded this idea into a global chart. Both of these charts attempt to show not only the length of a particular river system, but also details about its course, including places where the river expands into lakes and seas, twists about mountains, or abruptly falls from great heights. The development of this style of river chart further suggested the incorporation of additional data such as chart of comparative waterfalls and comparative lakes. A further fact, that many rivers arise in mountainous regions, as shown in Thomson and Lizars “1822 Comparative View of the Lengths of the Principal Rivers of Scotland” where the Scottish highlands loom in the background, automatically suggest the next step in the evolution of the Comparative Mountains and Rivers Chart.

Bringing it all Together

Darton & Gardner's 1823 Mountains and Rivers

The first known comparative mountains and rivers chart.

The incorporation of the mountains chart with the rivers chart in William Darton’s 1823 “New and Improved View of the Comparative Heights of the Principal Mountains and Lengths of the Principal Rivers In The World” and Bulla’s 1826 “Tableau Comparatif” and marks the pinnacle of this type of chart’s development. In a single massive sheet, Bulla and Darton not only compare and contrast the heights of mountains and the lengths of rivers, but also add a table of waterfalls, show volcanic activity, levels of plant growth and tree lines, and add select cities and European buildings. Bulla even incorporates the achievements of the balloonist Gay-Lussac who ascended to 7000 meters in 1804. The example shown at right and at top, J. Andriveau and J. Goujon’s 1836 Tableau Comparatif et Figure, though heavily based on Bulla’s chart, is even more elaborate, with a reconstructed waterfalls section, added scientific and geographical knowledge, more important cities notated, extensive textual annotations, a section indicating undersea and subterranean regions, and wide border region full of contextual and statistical data. This style of chart was incorporated into numerous atlases and published in several rare independent issues until the mid 1850s when cartographers began to experiment with other variants.

Making it all Work

Tableau Comparatif

Andriveau-Goujon's 1834 Tableau Comparatif - One of the first charts to combine comparative mountains and rivers on a single sheet.

Once the convention of the comparative chart was established in the early 19th century, the challenge for subsequent engravers and cartographers was making it all work. The earliest such charts were effective in defining mountains on both a global and hemispheric scale. However, with the rise in prominence of the Bulla chart with its combined presentation of mountains and rivers on a global level, much of the more local and hemispheric context was lost. As engravers played with the style from the mid 1840s to the late 1880s, a number of new conventions and approaches emerged, some more popular and advantageous than others. Much of the evolution of the comparative geographical chart can be understood as a struggle to make a chart that was effective both in maintain regional context and representing the subject matter on globally. Below is an overview of the significant comparative mountains and rivers charts throughout the 19th century with a short discussion of their effect on the genre.

Carey's Comparative Mountains Chart

1825 Carez (Carey & Lea) Issue of Lizar's Mountains and Rivers

Carte Des Principales Montagnes Du Globe – This is a French version of John Carey’s 1822 adaptation of the traditional Lizar’s chart that appeared in Thomson’s 1817 atlas. Though the chart itself is reduced in scale, a plethora of statistical information has been added to the expanded marginal regions. Both this chart and the Lizars chart divide focus only on mountains, but are highly effective in displaying the world’s great mountains both in a hemispheric and global context – an important convention that would soon be abandoned only to resurface half a century later. This particular example was published in France under the name of Carez.

Finley's Mountains and Rivers Charts.

Finley's Mountains and Rivers Charts.

Table of the Comparative Heights of the Principal Mountains & c. in the World. / Table of the Comparative Lengths of the Principal Rivers throughout the World.– In 1827 the American cartographic publisher Finely introduced separate charts for mountains and rivers. Though his rivers chart adheres closely to convention established by Fielding Lucas, his comparative mountains chart is significant in that it is one of the first such to be center weighted with the tallest mountains situated at the heart of the chart. Later map makers would adopt the center weighted convention and eventually consolidate it with the rivers chart into a single sheet. This style of mountains and rivers chart would become exceptionally popular among both American and English engravers (most notably Tanner, Mitchell, and A. & C. Black) well into the late 19th century.

1834 S.D.U.K. Comparative Rivers

1834 SDUK Rivers Chart

A Map of the Principal Rivers shewing Their Courses, Countries, and Comparative Lengths.– This curious comparative rivers chart published in 1834 by the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge is somewhat unique in that it imagines all of the great rivers of the world letting out into a circular inland sea. Concentric circles show the general lengths of the rivers as the bird files, but cannot take into account the twists and turns of the rivers themselves. What this chart does show is, to a degree, the direction and course of the river’s flow. Direction, which in other comparative rivers charts is indicated textually, here is illustrated visually. Nevertheless, though innovative and physically attractive, the S.D.U.K. comparative rivers chart never caught on beyond its initial publication. It is unclear to us whether or not the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge ever published a separate comparative mountains chart.

Heights Of The Principal Mountains In The World. Lengths Of The Principal Rivers In The World– This stunning mountains and rivers chart was drawn by the

Mitchell's 1846 Comparative Mountains and Rivers Chart

Mitchell's 1846 Comparative Mountains and Rivers Chart

American engraver H. S. Tanner in 1836. The example at right is S. A. Mitchell’s 1846 use of Tanner’s engraving for his own important Atlas. This stunning center weighted chart, built on the Finley model, makes the significant advance of incorporating both mountains and rivers with substantial scientific and statistical data. The problem with both this map and Finley’s is that the center weighted style fails to express context on a local level, thus diminish the magnitude of smaller yet highly significant ranges (like the Andes or the Alps) in comparison to the majesty of the Himalayas. Mitchell published this chart in his atlas from 1846 to the late 1850s before discontinuing the series and selling his map plates to DeSilver.

Andriveau-Goujon's 1850 Comparative Mountains Chart

Andriveau chart showing volcanic activity.

Tableau Comparatif de la Forme et de la Hauteur des Principales Montagnes du Globe Terrestre, Dedie a Monsieur le Baron, Alexdre. de Humboldt– Another fine French comparative mountains chart produced by Andriveau-Goujon c. 1850. This chart is an entirely independent engraving by Amboise Tardieu and is dedicated to Alexander von Humboldt, who inspire this entire genre. No less than eight volcanoes are depicted spitting flames into the air. Though other charts of the period also identified volcanoes in this way, Tardieu takes the idea to an entire new level, thus establishing a convention that would later be developed expanded upon by other chart makers. This chart’s greatest drawback is that while it effectively shows the great mountains of the world relative to one another, it fails to offer continental even hemispheric context. In this sense it is a step backwards from the earlier 1817 Lizars and Thomson comparative mountains chart.

1864 German Comparative Mountains Chart

1864 German Comparative Mountains Chart

Die Benkannteren Hoehen uber der Meeres Flache in Transparenten Profilen. – This German chart issued by publisher Justus Perthes in 1864 is of a style that evolved independently in Germany between 1840 and 1870. In this example mountains are shown in a transparent profile with multiple ranges overlapping. While the chart focuses on the Alps, which would have been significant to the Perthes audience, it also incorporates the mountains of America, Africa, and Asia, as well as the Caucuses, Scotland and England. While this excessively complex style of rendering comparative elevation never caught on outside of Germany, its sophisticated use of profile may have had an impact on the early 20th century comparative global elevation profiles that adorn the base of many modern school maps.

1855 colton's Mountains & Rivers

1855 Colton's Mountains & Rivers Chart

Mountains and Rivers– In 1856 J. H. Colton introduced the first American published Comparative Mountains and Rivers chart to embrace the Bulla model in which mountains appear in the lower right and rivers in the upper left. Though not a direct copy of the Bulla map, the association is obvious and often correlates exactly with the earlier chart. This form had a number of advantages, not the least of which that it managed to place the world’s great mountains in proximity to one another regardless of their physical location. This however, was also its greatest disadvantage, for in taking the mountains out of context it became nearly impossible to relate them on a continental rather than global level. Many of the changes to the comparative mountains and rivers convention that would develop later in the 19th century were in response to this issue.

1864 Johnson's Mountains and Rivers

1864 Johnson's Mountains & Rivers

Johnson’s Chart of Comparative Heights of Mountains, and Lengths of Rivers of Africa. / Johnson’s Chart of Comparative Heights of Mountains, and Lengths of Rivers of Asia. / Johnson’s Chart of Comparative Heights of Mountains, and Lengths of Rivers of Europe. Johnson’s Chart of Comparative Heights of Mountains, and Lengths of Rivers of South America. Johnson’s Chart of Comparative Heights of Mountains, and Lengths of Rivers of North America.– Initially the prominent American atlas publisher A. J. Johnson based his mountains and rivers chart upon Colton’s chart above. However, in 1864 Johnson re-imagined his mountains and rivers chart in an attempt to address the issue of context by isolating and grouping mountains by continent and incorporating them into five distinct charts. His is also possibly addressing his clientele from whom the nearby Rockey mountains are far more important than the distant peaks of Asia. While Johnson’s chart does give users a relative perspective on a continental level, it fails to maintain a uniform scale, thus sabotaging the need to relate mountains globally. Johnson published this chart in his important and popular atlases well into the 1870s, but the convention he established never caught on with other publishers and remains distinctly Johnsonian.

1851 Tallis Mountains and Rivers

1851 Tallis Mountains and Rivers

A Comparative View Of The Principal Waterfalls, Islands, Lakes, Rivers and Mountains, In The Western Hemisphere / …Eastern Hemisphere– John Tallis and company, publishing in 1851 segregated mountains, rivers, waterfalls, lakes, and Islands by hemisphere. Clearly another attempt at addressing the context issue, Tallis succeeds on the hemispheric level, but again fails globally as the two charts are not comparable in scale. The most significant advancement of this chart was to place all of the common comparative values of each hemisphere into a single plate. Future mapmakers, inspired by this work would develop the hemisphere model considerably.


Mitchell's important combination of the comparative chart and the hemisphere map.

Western Hemisphere. / Eastern Hemisphere.– Samuel Augustus Mitchell Jr. (son of the above S. A. Augustus Sr.) was possibly inspired by the Tallis model when he chose to forgo a separate mountains and rivers chart and instead incorporate this data into his existing hemispheric projections. This was an important stepping stone in the ultimate resolution of the context issue and is one of the first examples of a comparative geological chart and a map on the same sheet. When Mitchell’s separate hemispheric plates were ultimately joined into a single double hemisphere sheet, comparative mountain and river data had to be adjusted for scale on a globular level.

1779 Gray Map of the World in Hemispheres - most likely the first modern comparative mountains and rivers chart.

1779 Gray Map of the World in Hemispheres - most likely the first modern comparative mountains and rivers chart.

Gray’s New Map of the World in Hemispheres, with Comparative Views of the Heights of the Principal Mountains and Lengths of the Principal Rivers on the Globe.– This map and chart, introduced in 1885 by O.W. Gray and Son must be considered the first modern comparative mountains and rivers chart. Gray combines Mitchell Jr.’s hemispheres into a single global double hemispheric projection and incorporates correctly scaled comparative data in each of the map’s corners. The advantages of this system are obvious, for not only does Grey offer comparative data isolated hemispherically, he also places each in such that it can also be compared globally. Possibly pandering to his audience, Gray also incorporates a center weighted chart that details the peaks of the United States.

Subsequent comparative mappings of the world’s mountains and rivers generally follow the Gray model. Maps of today typically abandon hemispheric limitations and attempt to show elevation contextually using a global cross-section in which the placement of individual geographic features roughly correspond to their longitudinal bracket.

Wolter, J. A., “The Heights of Mountains and the Lengths of Rivers”.

Antique Map of the Week: 1839 David Burr and Jedediah Smith Map of the United States

Map of the United States Of North America With parts of the Adjacent Countries

Burr's extraordinary map of the United States.

Entitled “Map of the United States Of North America With parts of the Adjacent Countries”, this is David H. Burr’s all but unobtainable 1839 wall map of the United States. Burr’s map is an accomplishment of staggering significance and is considered the culmination of one of the most dramatic and romantic periods in the mapping of the American West. It is further one of the most significant maps in the opening of the American West to the Gold Rush that, in just a few years, would transform the nation. Between the expedition of Louis and Clark in 1804 – 1806 and the work of Fremont in the 1840s, the exploration of the Transmississippi experienced a kind of dark age. Nevertheless, while no official teams were pushing cartography westward, trappers and fur traders were slowly penetrating the region. Most of these figures were illiterate and did little to extend cartographic knowledge. The exception was Jedediah Smith, a trapper whose wanderings in the west and subsequent cartographic innovations the historian C. I. Wheat considers a “tour-de-force unprecedented and never equaled in the annals of Western exploration”. Smith spent roughly 9 years, between 1821 and 1830, exploring the Great Basin, the Sierra Nevada, the Rocky Mountains and the valleys of California, but sadly perished before his important work could be published. Smith’s now lost map was taken by his partner and friend, Missouri Congressman William H. Ashely, and eventually made its way into the hands of David H. Burr, who was then composing his own important map of the United States – offered here. Smith’s work must have seemed a revelation to Burr who struggled to reconcile conflicts between the mappings of Humboldt, Pike, Miera, and of course, Lewis and Clark. Burr, realizing the importance of Smith’s work, incorporated it throughout his map, thus redefining the cartographic representation of the region. Shortly after Burr published this seminal map, Smith’s original manuscript was lost, making Burr’s map the sole printed representation of Smith’s work. Curiously and somewhat inexplicably, this map never attained significant popularity in its day, leading to a very small publication run and, today, extreme rarity.

Our survey of Burr’s map must begin in the east. Burr, having just competed individual state plates for the 1835 issue of his New Universal Atlas had a relatively easy task of assembling the individual mappings into a cohesive whole. However, several elements do bear note. Burr identifies the nation’s fledgling rail network, which is strongest in the northeast, with bold blue and red lines. In the state of Maine both the disputed British boundary, roughly along the 47th parallel, and the far northern boundary claimed by the state of Maine are noted.

Heading west the territory becomes less settled and the character of the map changes. Particularly in Wisconsin and what would soon become Iowa, towns are few and far between, instead the map shifts its focus to notating American Indian Nations as well as the locations of forts, mills, lakes, portages, rapids, and waterfalls. Several land exchanges and treaties with various American Indian groups including the Sioux, the Sacs and Foxes, and the Chippewa are also identified.

When Burr drew this map, Missouri was the westernmost state and the jumping point for most significant journeys westward. Beyond the borders of Missouri the territory is dominated by the American Indian Nations recently relocated to western lands by the Indian Removal Act of 1830. These includes the Osages, Cherokee, Creek and Choctaw. Further north the territories of the Otoes, Kansas, and Shawnees are noted. The map also identifies important landmarks on the route westward including the fur trapping forts on the Arkansas River (Gant and Bent), various springs, Pikes Peak, James Peak, and the Spanish Peaks. Where known military routes through the region are sketched in, including Major Long’s Route and more importantly the Route of the Dragoons under Col. Dodge who, just a few years previous in 1834, initiated the first official contact between the U.S. Government and the Plains Indians.

As Burr took up the pen to draw this map, Texas was in the process of declaring its 1836 independence from Mexico. Years earlier the Mexican government offered significant land grants to those with the means and interest to settle Texas – which in accordance to Humboldt, many considered to be a wasteland. Nonetheless, many citizens felt that the United States had been cheated of Texas, which according to some treaties should have been included in the lands acquired under the Louisiana Purchase. Burr notes this border, along the Rio Grande or Rio del Norte, as the “Ancient Boundary of Louisiana as possessed by the French.” Consequently, when Mexico began offering grants, land hungry adventurers from north of the border seized the opportunity. The result is etched upon the Texan landscape to this day – Austin, Dewitt, McGloin, Burnett, Williams, McMullen, Wilson, Padilla, Chambers, and Cameron received grants to large swathes of territory that they were eager to develop. Many of these grants Burr notes with care, perhaps predicting the Mexican American War and the annexation of Texas that, as more expansionist Americans flooded into the newly independent region, seemed inevitable. Himself uncertain of the outcome of the Texas independence movement, Burr offers a curious compromise. On the Texas – U.S. border, Burr pens a distinct line with color coding that suggests a separate nation distinct from both Mexico and the United States. The Mexican border with Texas is, on the other hand, noted only as the aforementioned ancient Louisiana border. Ever the cartographic diplomat, Burr is thus able to appease both the U.S. recognition of an independent Texas and the Mexican denial of the same.

To the north and west of Texas from the Rocky Mountains to the Columbia River to the modern Mexican border, Jedediah Smith’s cartographic work comes to the fore. Clearly composing this map with Ashley’s copy of the Smith map in hand, Burr delineates Jedediah’s nine years of wandering throughout the region. Most of the copious notations and commentary are drawn directly from Smith’s map, as are the corrected courses of many of the region’s river systems. It was Smith’s significant study of this vast area that ultimately united the discoveries of the 18th century Escalante-Miera map to the more contemporary mappings of Louis and Clark – finally brining the entire region into context. Smith also accomplished the first successful crossing of the Great Basin and the Sierra Nevada range. In the Sierra Nevadas he identifies Mount Rogers (likely Mt. Shasta) and, just to the South, Mt. Joseph. This map, via Smith, is the only published period example of Smith’s trailblazing work in this region, the extent of which is far too broad and significant to fully embrace in this simple medium, but which ultimately played a significant role in the American expansion westward. (With regard to further research on Smith’s cartographic significance we refer you to Wheat’s classic study, Mapping the Transmississippi West where an unprecedented entire chapter is dedicated to Smith’s travels) In 1849, when settlers and prospectors flooded into the region in response to the Gold Rush, they traveled along passages that “Old Jed” Smith had trail-blazed years before as a trapper and fur trader.

In the northwestern quadrant of the map Burr leaves the Oregon border open to the north, extending well into modern British Columbia. The British believed this territory fell into the land controlled by the Hudson Bay Company, while expansionist Americans asserted a claim to the region as far north as Russian America (Alaska). Five years following the Burr’s construction of this map this conflict would escalate into the 54°40′ dispute. The turmoil ultimately gave rise to slogans like “Fifty-four Forty or Fight!” and the catchphrase “Manifest Destiny”. However, exhausted with war following the Mexican-American conflict, the two sides finally signed the 1846 Oregon Treaty, settling the border along the current 49th parallel.

Wheat considers this map “in every respect a towering example especially in the Far West” and an essential chapter in the cartographic history of America. Burr composed this map in preparation for inclusion in his impossibly rare 1839 American Atlas. Most of the maps in the American Atlas were dissected and mounted linen – a common procedure at the time. This map, however, though clearly issued from the same printing plate, was a contemporaneous, but entirely independent issue. Though a few lucky libraries and museums, including the Library of Congress, the New York Public Library, and the David Rumsey Collection, do possess examples of this map from the American Atlas, none possess a wall map issue. We have been able to identify no other examples of this map in wall map format in any collection, public or private, nor, as far as our records indicate, has it ever been offered at auction or in any dealer catalog. This is a once in a lifetime collecting opportunity.