Archive for the ‘Region’ Category

The first map to depict Manhattan as an Island and depict a beaver

Thursday, June 9th, 2011
Blaeu's 1638 Nova Belgica et Anglia Nova was the first map to depict Manhattan as an Island and depict a beaver

The first map to name Manhattan.

A beautiful old color example of one of the most important maps in the history of America, Blaeu’s 1638 Nova Belgica et Anglia Nova. Oriented to the west, this map covers the American coast from Virginia, past New York and Long Island to Cape Code, New England, and Quebec. It is cartographically derived from data accumulated by Adriaen Bock and other Dutch fur traders active in the early 17th century. It is known for a number of important firsts, including the first full representation of Manhattan as an Island.

Burden, in his Mapping of North America, notes:

This important map was one of the most attractive of the Americas at the time. It is noted for the fact that its primary source is the first manuscript figurative map of Adriaen Block, 1614. Indeed it is the first full representation of it in print. It is one of the earliest to name Nieu Amsterdam. Block, a Dutch fur trader, explored the area between Cape Cod and Manhattan, examining the bays and rivers along the way. This helped to create an accurate picture of the longitudinal scale of the coastline. His manuscript map is the first document to delineate an insular Manhattan; it also provides the earliest appearance of Manhates and Niev Nederland.

It has been noted that the time difference between 1614, the date of the manuscript, and Blaeu’s map whose first appearance is in 1635, appears long for such an important advance. It would seem highly feasible that Blaeu, who published many separately issued maps, would have wanted to produce one like this sooner. However, evidence points to the fact that it could not have been made before 1630. The Stokes Collection in New York possesses an example of the map on thicker paper without text on the reverse which could well be a proof issue of some kind.

There are features on Blaeu’s map that differ from the Block chart. Some of these could be accounted for by the fact that the surviving figurative map is not the original, and that the copyist omitted some place names that are referred to in the text of de Laet’s work. Block drew on Champlain’s map of 1612 for the depiction of the lake named after him, but it is here called Lacus Irocoisiensis. … The lack of interrelation between the Dutch or English colonies and the French, led for some time to the eastward displacement of this lake when its true position would be north of the Hudson River.

Some nomenclature has its origins in Blaeu’s second Paskaert of c.1630, and others, such as Manatthans, in de Laet. The colony of Nieu Pleimonth is identified. This and other English names along that part of the coast are largely derived from Smith’s New England, 1616. Cape Cod is here improved over the Block manuscript by being reconnected to the mainland, the narrow strait having been removed. The coastline between here and Narragansett Bay, which can be clearly recognized, is not so accurate. Adriaen Blocx Eylandt leads us to the Versche Rivier, or Connecticut River, which Block ascended as far as was possible. ‘t Lange Eyland is named; however, it is incorrectly too far east, being applied to what is possibly Fishers Island. De Groote bay marks Long Island Sound. The Hudson River is still not named as such, but is littered with Dutch settlements, and the failed Fort Nassau is here depicted renamed as Fort Orange. He does, however, improve on the direction of its flow. Blaeu separates the sources of the Hudson and Delaware Rivers which had been causing some confusion. Nieu Amsterdam is correctly marked as a fort at the tip of an island separated on the east side by Hellegat, or the East River. The coastline south of Sandy Hook also shows signs of improvement.

The whole map is adorned by deer, foxes, bears, egrets, rabbits, cranes and turkeys. Beavers, polecats and otters appear on a printed map for the first time. The Mohawk Indian village top right is derived from the de Bry-White engravings.

It is of note that this map was issued in a number editions but only a single state. Editions are generally identified by the text appearing on the verso with twelve documented editions, three each in Dutch, Latin, German, and French. This example corresponds to the 1638 French edition and was included in Le Theatre du Monde.

The Viele Map of Manhattan’s Topography and Waterways

Tuesday, May 17th, 2011

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.

Map of the Week: Satsuma Daimyo

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

Satsuma Daimyo

A previously unknown manuscript map of Tokugawa era trade routes between Japan, Taiwan, and China.

This extraordinary discovery is a previously unknown 1781 (Temmei 1 ) manuscript map of Taiwan and the Satsuma Daimyo. This rare map covers from the southern shores of Kyushu south along the Ryukyu Islands (including Okinawa) to Taiwan and the coastline of mainland China. The powerful Satsuma Daimyo, which flourished and enjoyed special privileges under the Tokugawa Shoguns, controlled much of the territory shown here. What is most remarkable about this piece is that knowledge of this region would have been very rare and restricted information during under the Tokugawa era Kaikin system of national isolation. Despite the isolationist policy, limited trade and information exchange did exist. One of the unique privileges associated with Satsuma control of the Ryukyu Islands was greater independence and freedom of foreign trade than most of Edo period daimyo were permitted. Consequently Satsuma trading vessels regularly traveled to Taiwan and mainland China thus acting as one of isolationist Japan’s few links to the outside world. This chart can be best understood in this context – as a rare glimpse of Satsuma’s nautical trade routes between Kyushu, Taiwan, and mainland China. Later in the Meiji period, the wealth, power, and international sophistication of the Satsuma Daimyo would have a significant influence on the Meiji Ishin or Meiji Restoration. A once in a lifetime find.

Teguayo, Great Salt Lake, and Atzlatan

Sunday, August 29th, 2010
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. 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

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010
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 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.

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

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010
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 in mining.

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

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

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.


Gog and Magog in Antique Maps

Thursday, April 1st, 2010

Gog and Magog in Sanson's Map of the World

Gog and Magog in Sanson's 1691 Map of the World

The appearance of the lands of Gog and Magog in many early maps is one the most interesting and enduring examples of Biblical lore being translated into the cartographic medium. The kingdoms of Gog and Magog appear in many early maps of Asia and the World produced between about 1200 to 1750. Generally these kingdoms are situated somewhere west of the Caspian Sea and, more frequently, to the north of China around Mongolia or Siberia. How did they get there?

The tale of Gog and Magog is, of course, Biblical in origins with elements in Jewish, Christian and Islamic traditions. They appear in Genesis and Ezekiel as cursed grandchildren of Noah and are set up early on as enemies of the righteous. The most alarming mention of Gog and Magog appears in Revelation 20:7-8:

… And when the thousand years are finished, Satan shall be loosed from his prison, and shall go out to seduce the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, and shall draw them to battle, whose number is as the sand of the sea…

But who exactly where Gog and Magog and where did this terrifying empire have its lands? The Biblical location “the four corners of the earth”, is not exceptionally helpful save that it puts these nations at the extreme edge of existence. The Jewish historian Josephus associates Magog with the Scythians. In antiquity Scythia was an empire to the north of Parthia or Persia that included much of central Asia as far east as India and Tibet.

Building Alexander's Walls

The Building of Alexander's Gates from an early Arabic manuscript.

The Alexander Romance, a c. 300 CE compendium of stories and myths associated with Alexander the Great, brings Gog and Magog into a historical context. Apparently when Alexander marched his army into the Caucuses he discovered a people beset and harassed by the empires of Gog and Magog to the north. Alexander responded to this threat by constructing an enormous wall of adamantine between two mountains known as the “Breasts of the World”. Today this is commonly associated with the Caspian Gates of Derbent. This mighty wall, reminiscent of the Great Wall of China, stretches some forty kilometers between the Caspian Sea and the nearby mountains, effectively blocking passage through the Caucuses. Though Alexander had nothing to do with this wall, it was actually constructed by the Sassanid Persians to defend against Gokturk invasions, it does once again place the lands of Gog and Magog somewhere to the north and west of the Caucuses.

Pliney too locates Gog and Magog behind a great set of gates in the Caucuses, describing a place where the mountains have been torn asunder and “gates have been placed, with iron covered beams, under the center of which flows a river emitting a horrible odor; and on this side of it on a rock stands the fortress called Cumania, erected for the purpose of barring the passage of the innumerable tribes.”

The Qur’an next takes up this story and adds its own more mythical element. The great hero Dhul Qarnayan (literally “two-horned one”, a reference to the ram horns Alexander wears on coins minted during his rule to indicate his descent from the Egyptian god Amun) is said to have walled the infernal armies of Gog and Magog behind a great gate where they will remain – until doomsday. At this point,

when Gog and Magog are let loose and they rush headlong down every height (or advantage). Then will the True Promise draw near. (Qur’an 21:96-97).

Al-Idrisi World Map

Al-Idrisi's World Map with Gog and Magog behind the wall and circled in red. Note, this map is oriented to the south so here Gog and Magog are in the proximity of China.

In the 9th century the Caliph Al-Wathik-Billa actually sent out an expedition, under one Sallam the Interpreter, to discover the Gates of Alexander. Sallam is said to have searched the Caucuses high and low without success before heading deeper into Asia where he discovered the mighty wall. Sallam’s report influenced a number of important Islamic geographies, most importantly for this story, the 12th century geographer Muhammed al-Idrisi, who was employed by the Sicilian monarch Roger II. Idrisi directly associates Alexander’s Gates, and consequently Gog and Magog, with the Great Wall of China. Idrisi’s work includes some of the most sophisticated and advanced cartographic work of pre-modern Europe and profoundly influenced European cartography for the next several hundred years. Though not widely distributed in his lifetime, nor solely responsible for the presence of Gog and Magog in later European maps, the influence of Idrisi’s map and geographical notations cannot be ignored in any consideration of how these Biblical kingdoms/figures entered the mainstream of later European cartography.

In the rest of Europe, tales of Gog and Magog and the horrors associated with them were a constant element in mediaeval religious rhetoric, which preached of an imminent “end of days”. Saint Augustine in his 15th century religious classic “City of God” discourses at length on the duo suggesting that when “final judgment is imminent . . . the whole city of Christ being assailed by the whole city of the Devil, as each exists on earth . . . which he names Gog and Magog”. Augustine did not associate Gog and Magog with an actual place, but rather with an evil that existed all around us. Even so, this concept must have been too abstract for the medieval man who continued to look for the lands of Gog and Magog. History was about to oblige.

In 1241 CE the hoards of Ghengis Khan swept out of Asia destroying and conquering everything in their path. The brutal, efficient, and alien Mongols must surely have seemed to be the wrath of god unleashed – the prophesied end of days had come and with it, Gog and Magog. One Russian chronicler says: “In those times there came upon us for our sins unknown nations. No one could tell their origin, whence they came, what religion they professed. God alone knows who they were, God, and, perhaps, wise men learned in books.” The period of the Mongol invasions lasted roughly from 1241 to 1285 CE. Nonetheless, after devastating the Chinese Empire, sacking Baghdad, laying waste to Russia, and storming into Croatia, Hungary, Lithuania, and Poland, the invincible hoard simply vanished … or so it must have seemed in Europe. In fact, beset with internal political turmoil and the death of the Great Khan, the hoards retreated to Central Asia in order to reorganize. At this time Europe, who had yet to rediscover Ptolemy and truly develop a modern cartographic tradition, wasn’t actively making maps, but when it did, a place of origin Tartars or Mongols (Gog and Magog) would have to be identified.

1697 Rossi Map of Asia - Magog appears north of China.

1697 Rossi Map of Asia - Magog appears north of China.

Marco Polo, in his Travels, is possibly the first European literary figure to identify Gog and Magog with the Tartars. Polo, claimed to have lived in China from 1271 to 1298, where he became an important functionary in the court of Kublai Khan. Polo worked for years as an emissary of the Great Khan and traveled extensively throughout the vast empire. Much of the information about Asia appearing on early maps of the continent, including the Vinland Map and the Waldseemuler Map, can be directly linked to Polo’s narratives. Polo associates Gog and Magog with the lands of Tenduk, a province to the north of China ruled by Prester John. In Polo’s narrative Gog is translated as Ung and Magog is the home of the Tartars. Ibn Battuta, the great 14th century Moroccan traveler, referring to the tale of Dhul Qarnayan, supports Polo by himself connecting the Great Wall of China with the gates setup to restrain Gog and Magog, “Between it [the city] and the rampart of Yajuj and Majuj is sixty days’ travel.”

Zoom of of Magog in Rossi's 1697 Map of Asia.

Zoom of Magog in Rossi's 1697 Map of Asia.

Though many dispute the validity of Polo’s journals, his impact on the European conception of the world was profound. With the rediscovery of Ptolemy’s Geography by Italian humanists and the development of a sophisticated European cartographic tradition the need for more advanced and updated Ptolemaic maps emerged. Many of these maps referenced Polo and al-Idrisi in adding Gog and Magog in the unknown lands of east Asia, thus influencing the cartographic representation of this area for centuries to come.

Today Gog and Magog are considered by many scholars to be a Jungian representation of “the other”, “the frontier”, or both.

References: (partially researched by Lindsay McMullen)
Augustine, Saint, The City of God, (Translated by Marcus Dods), page 658.
The Bible
The Koran
Stoneman, Richard (editor and translator) (1991). The Greek Alexander Romance. New York: Penguin. ISBN 0-14-044560-9.
Boyle, J. A., “The Alexander Romance In The East And West”, Bulletin Of The John Rylands University Library Of Manchester, 60 (1977), pp. 19–20.
Yule, Henry; Cordier, Henri (1923), The Travels Of Marco Polo, Mineola: Dover Publications, ISBN 9780486275864.
Pliny, Natural History, (translated by H. Rackham).
Lester, Toby, The Fourth Part of the World: The Race to the Ends of the Earth, and the Making of History’s Greatest Map, pp. 45-64.
Anderson, A. R., Alexander’s Gate, Gog and Magog, and the Inclosed Nations, 1932.
The Chatauquan, Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle, Chautauqua Institution, vol 3, pp. 304.

Antique Map of the Week: 1710 Nansenbushu Map of the World

Monday, March 1st, 2010

First Printed Japanese Map to Show Europe, Africa, and America

First Printed Japanese Map to Show Europe, Africa, and America

Entitled, Nansenbushu Bankoku Shoka No Zu or “Outline Map of All Countries of the Universe”, this is considered to be the first Japanese printed map to depict the world, including Europe and America, from a Buddhist cosmographical perspective. Printed by woodblock in 1710 (Hoei 7), this map was composed by the Buddhist monk Rokashi Hotan. Inspired by the 1653 publication of Si-yu-ki, a pilgrimage narrative of the Chinese monk Hsuang-Tsang’s (602-604) travels to India in search of sacred Sanskrit writings, Rokashi Hotan’s map attempts to update Buddhist mythological cartography, as exemplified in the 1634 manuscript map Gotenjikuzu (Map of the Five Regions of India), to correspond with the Si-yu-ki, as well as with contemporary and ancient religious texts, Chinese annals, travel narratives, and even some European maps. Rokashi Hotan lists these texts, 102 in all, at the top of the map. The consequent product of Rokashi Hotan’s work is this magnificent amalgam of disparate ideas and traditions.

In essence this is a traditional Buddhist world view in the Gotenjikuzu mold centered on the world spanning continent of Jambu-Dvipa. At its center is Lake Anavatapta, a whirlpool-like quadruple helix lake believed to be the center of the universe. This lake, which is commonly associated with Lake Manasarovar in northern India, is believed in Buddhist mythology to be the legendary site where Queen Maya conceived the Buddha. From the quadrouple beast headed helix (heads of a horse, a lion, an elephant, and an ox) of Manasarovar or Lake Anavatapta radiate the four sacred rivers of the region: the Indus, the Ganges, the Bramaputra, and the Sutlej.

South of Jambu-Dvipa, India is recognizable for in its peninsular form. Japan itself appears as a series of Islands in the upper right and, like India, is one of the few recognizable elements – at least from a cartographic perspective. China and Korea appear to the west of Japan and are vaguely identifiable geographically, which itself represents a significant advancement over the Gotenjikuzu map. Southeast Asia also makes one of its first appearances in a Japanese Buddhist map as an island cluster to the east of India.

On the opposite side of the map a series of islands is intended to represent Europe, which had no place at all in earlier Buddhist world maps, making this one of the first Japanese maps to depict Europe. Umukari (Hungary), Oranda, Baratan, Komo (Holland or the country of the red hair), Arubaniya (Albania?), Itarya (Italy), Suransa (France) and Inkeresu (England) are all named. Africa appears as a small island in the western sea identified as the “Land of Western Women.”

Of special note is Rokashi Hotan’s mapping of the Americas. Prior to this map America had rarely if ever been depicted on Japanese maps, so Rokashi Hotan turned to the Chinese map Daimin Kyuhen Zu (Map of China under the Ming Dynasty and its surrounding Countries), from which he copied both the small island-like form of South America (just south of Japan), and the curious land bridge (the Aelutian Islands?) connecting Asia to what the Japanese historians Nobuo Muroga and Kazutaka Unno conclude “must undoubtedly be a reflection of North America” (page 63). Whether this represents ancient knowledge from early Chinese navigations in this region, for which there is some literary if not historical evidence, or merely a printing error, we can only speculate.

While this map represents a significant step forward in the Japanese attempt to combine religious and contemporary geographic knowledge it remains in essence a Buddhist map. It is likely that Rokashi Hotan was aware important European style maps circulating in China at the time. The Mateo Ricci Map is one such example and copies were known to have reached Japan in the 17th century. It is curious that Rokashi Hotan chose to ignore it and other Eurocentric data in exchange for a religious world view, while at the same time attempting to reconcile Buddhist and modern geography. Ultimately, this map makes a lot more sense when one understands that Rokashi Hotan scaled his world map not by distance but rather by religious importance. India, the birthplace of the Buddha, is the central locale in the Jabmu-Dvipa conception and on this map. Other countries, including China, Japan itself, and even more so the distant continents of Africa, Europe and the Americas, Rokashi Hotan considered “but mote-like countries in the Jambu-Dvipa” and “as small as a millet-grain”.

Rokashi Hotan’s map became the model on which all future Japanese Buddhist world maps were drawn well into the 19th century. The confused cosmological view upon which his map is based, referencing at once religious, secular, and non-Buddhist teachings, matched the growing religio-secular conflict that would emerge in Japan during the coming centuries. Ultimately this is one of the most important, beautiful, and influential printed maps ever to emerge in Japan.

Two identical versions of this woodblock map appeared in 1710. The more common was published by Chobei Nagata of Kyoto. A less common example was published by the bookseller Bundaiken Uhei and corresponds to this example. Bundaiken Uhei’s mark and name appear in the lower left quadrant. In most examples coloration varies. A strong crisp image suggests that this is one of the first examples that Bundaiken Uhei printed, as wooden plates tend to wear quickly and many other examples show signs that the woodblock was more heavily worn.

A must for any serious collection of Japanese cartography.


Antique Map of the Week: The Turgot-Bretez Plan of Paris

Monday, February 8th, 2010

The Magnificent Turgot & Bretez Map of Paris

The Magnificent Turgot & Bretez Map of Paris - click on map for gallery listing.

This is the c. 1900 Taride edition of Louis Bretez and Michel-Etienne Turgot’s monumental 1739 map of Paris. Turgot’s map of Paris is possibly the most ambitious urban mapping ever undertaken. Shows the whole of 18th century Paris and offers a wonderful perspective on the city prior to Baron Georges Eugène Haussmann’s 19th-century redesign. Turgot, who held the mayor-like office of Prévôt des Marchands de Paris , commissioned Louis Bretez and Claude Lucas to produce this
The Turgot Plan

A dramatic contemporary presentation of the Turgot Plan.

map in 1734. Oriented to the east on an axonometrical projection, this map is best understood as an aerial view where in every building, window, tree, shadow and park is shown. It took the team nearly five years of exhaustive sketching and surveying to assemble this masterpiece. In order to produce the thousands of sketches and surveys required to complete this map, Bretez was issued a permit to enter every building in Paris. The completed map which consists of twenty individual sheets, can be assembled into a massive and striking display roughly 8 feet by 10 feet. Twenty-one loose sheets embraced in a marbled folio, this is Alphonse Taride’s c. 1900 issue of Bretez’s Plan de Paris.

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