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1846 Mitchell Map of Washington D.C. and Georgetown (first edition)

City of Washington. - Main View

1846 Mitchell Map of Washington D.C. and Georgetown (first edition)


Rare first edition of Mitchell's map of Washington D.C.


City of Washington.
  1846 (dated)     12.5 x 17.5 in (31.75 x 44.45 cm)     1 : 22000


A scarce first edition example of S. A. Mitchell and H. N Borrough's 1846 map or plan of Washington D.C. Given that most of Washington D.C. was under construction when this map was drawn, Mitchell's plan is a remarkable combination of existing of existing cartography and future projections. Though Pierre Charles L'Enfant's brilliant plan for the national capital is evident in the grid and ray layout, and many of the great national monuments are identified, the practically of the national capital was that, even in 1854, more than 50 years after the city's construction began, Washington D.C. remained little more than a ragtag cluster of Grecian monuments surrounded by dense forest. Anthony Trollop, an English novelist, remarked on the barrenness of D.C.,
There is a map of Washington accurately laid down; and taking that map with him in his journeying a man may lose himself in the streets, not as one loses himself in London between Shoreditch and Russell Square, but as one does so in the deserts of the Holy Land, between Emmaus and Arimathea. In the first place there no one knows where the places are, or is sure of their existence, and then, between their presumed localities the country is wild, trackless, unbridged, uninhabited, and desolate… If you are a sportsman, you will desire to shoot snipe within site of the President's House.
Nonetheless, a city was emerging, with rail lines, bridges, parks, and city wards, surveyed and laid down for the construction teams. The Capitol Building, the floor plan of which appears in the upper right quadrant, was one of the first buildings in Washington to be completed and was functional by about 1846, though, admittedly, it was a very different building than we know today. A further list of extant and proposed monuments and government buildings, along with their wards and numerical identifiers, appears in the lower left quadrant.

This map was prepared by H.N. Burroughs as plate no. 16 in the 1846 edition of Mitchell's New General Atlas.


Samuel Augustus Mitchell (March 20, 1792 - December 20, 1868) began his map publishing career in the early 1830s. Mitchell was born in Bristol, Connecticut. He relocated to Philadelphia in 1821. Having worked as a school teacher and a geographical writer, Mitchell was frustrated with the low quality and inaccuracy of school texts of the period. His first maps were an attempt to rectify this problem. In the next 20 years Mitchell would become the most prominent American map publisher of the mid-19th century. Mitchell worked with prominent engravers J. H. Young, H. S. Tanner, and H. N. Burroughs before attaining the full copyright on his maps in 1847. In 1849 Mitchell either partnered with or sold his plates to Thomas, Cowperthwait and Company who continued to publish the Mitchell's Universal Atlas. By about 1856 most of the Mitchell plates and copyrights were acquired by Charles Desilver who continued to publish the maps, many with modified borders and color schemes, until Mitchell's son, Samuel Augustus Mitchell Junior, entered the picture. In 1859, S.A. Mitchell Jr. purchased most of the plates back from Desilver and introduced his own floral motif border. From 1860 on, he published his own editions of the New General Atlas. The younger Mitchell became as prominent as his father, publishing maps and atlases until 1887, when most of the copyrights were again sold and the Mitchell firm closed its doors for the final time. More by this mapmaker...

Horatio Nelson Burroughs (June 28, 1812 - August 23, 1896) was an engraver and later a banker based in Pennsylvania and active in the early 19th century. He was born in Washington Crossing, New Jersey. Burroughs' work first appears in conjunction with Henry Schenk Tanner and Samuel Augustus Mitchell (the elder). His name appears on the 1846 copyrights of many of Mitchell's earliest and most important atlas and pocket maps. Following 1846, Burroughs retired from engraving to become a banker, eventually becoming president of Commonwealth Bank. He married first Eleanor Douglas Mitchell (18?? - 1853), then, after her untimely death, her sister Caroline Mitchell (1818 - 1892), both daughters of map and atlas publisher Samuel Augustus Mitchell Sr. (1792 - 1868). Learn More...


Mitchell, S. A., A New Universal Atlas Containing Maps of the various Empires, Kingdoms, States and Republics Of The World. With a special map of each of the United States, Plans of Cities, (Mitchell, S. A., Philadelphia) 1846.    


Very good. Minor discoloraiton lower left quadrant)


Rumsey 0537.017.