1812 Pinkerton Map of the Western Hemisphere (North America and South America)

[Western Hemisphere]. - Main View

1812 Pinkerton Map of the Western Hemisphere (North America and South America)




[Western Hemisphere].
  1812 (dated)     21.5 x 20.5 in (54.61 x 52.07 cm)     1 : 40000000


This is a scarce, beautiful, and exceptionally interesting example of John Pinkerton's stunning 1812 map of the Western Hemispheres. The map is a representation of North America and South America from the perspective of the Western Hemisphere. Cartographically this map represents a notable attempt to combine cartographic speculation with new discoveries and political advocacy and is most interesting for its presentation of North America.

Drawn at the height of British - American hostilities related to the War of 1812, the North American portions of this map heavily advocate for British interests. Despite being issued in 1812, the western boundary of American terminates at the Mississippi River - a clear rejection of the 1803 Louisiana Purchase. There is a reason for this. By the turn on of the 19th century, it had become abundantly clear to everyone involved that the true wealth of North America lay in the fur trade, particularly the export of beaver pelts to the infinitely wealthy markets of Asia. By this time there were two forces in the fur trade, semi-independent American traders following in the footsteps of Lewis and Clark and British traders operating under the jurisdiction of the Hudson Bay Company, whose territorial monopoly they were actively extending towards the Pacific. The key to exploiting this region was control of the Columbia River, which provided an easy access point to the interior. The explorations of Lewis and Clark, as well as the acquisition of Louisiana and its tentative inclusion of the as yet unnamed Oregon region put the commercial ambitions of the Hudson Bay Company's Northwest Coast wing in jeopardy. Violent clashes between the Hudson Bay Company and American fur traders working in the region were common.

Beyond the political elements of this map, there are various cartographic elements of extreme interest. Pinkerton had particular difficulty reconciling the course of the Missouri River between conflicting accounts provided by the Welsh Hudson Bay Company explorer David Thomson and the American explorers Lewis and Clark. Both possible river courses are ghosted in, suggesting Pinkerton's unwillingness to advocate for either. The more northerly course, referred to as 'Missouri River according to former conjectures,' is attributable to Thomson's 1798 explorations. The more southerly route follows the explorations of Lewis and Clark and is identified as 'Course of the Missouri according to Captain Lewis 1806.'

In the far north hopeful traces of the Northwest Passage remain, with the seas identified by Mackenzie and Hearne in 1789 - likely the Dolphin and Union Strait - duly noted. 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, which, 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, including Pinkerton, were quick to update their charts, filling in a significant part of the Canadian Northwest and redefining the cartographic perspective of the region.

South America exhibits its typical clear outline and speculative interior. Pinkerton resurrects the idea of Lake Parima in Guyana - supposed site of El Dorado - which had all but disappeared from most other early 19th century. He has however, dropped the Apocryphal Laguna de Xarayes, commonly located at the northern extremis of the Paraguay or Parma River. However, he does note several supposed gold mines deep in the Amazon, which may or may not reflect indigenous legends of El Dorado.

The map includes much of western Polynesia, including the Friendly Islands, the Society Islands, Hawaii, and Tahiti.

All in all this an important and often neglected map in this history of Transmississippi exploration. The map was drawn by L. Herbert and engraved by Samuel Neele under the direction of John Pinkerton. It was published in the 1813 edition of Pinkerton's Modern Atlas. It is noteworthy that the color work reflects publication for European audiences. Other issues with a more full color approach were intended for sale to other markets.


John Pinkerton (February 17, 1758 - March 10, 1826) was an Scottish writer, historian, and cartographer. Pinkerton was born in Edinburgh, Scotland. He was a studious youth with a passion for the classics. As a young man, he studied at Edinburgh University before apprenticing as a lawyer. Around this time, he began writing, with his first book, Elegy on Craigmillar Castle published in 1776. Pinkerton moved to London in 1781 to pursue his writing career in earnest. He successfully published several works of literature, poetry, and history. Pinkerton proved passionate in his literary and historical writings, but his correspondence with other cartographers has been labeled as aggressive, even insane. In addition to his work as a writer and historian, Pinkerton was one of the leading masters of the Edinburgh school of cartography which flourished from roughly 1800 to 1830. Pinkerton and his contemporaries (Thomson and Cary) redefined European cartography by abandoning typical 18th century decorative elements such as elaborate title cartouches and fantastical beasts in favor of detail and accuracy. Pinkerton's principle work is Pinkerton's Modern Atlas published from 1808 through 1815 with a special American reissue by Dobson and Co. in 1818. Pinkerton relocated to Paris in 1818, where he managed his publishing business until his death in 1826. More by this mapmaker...


Pinkerton, John, A modern atlas, from the latest and best authorities, exhibiting the various divisions of the world, with its chief empires, kingdoms and states, in sixty maps, carefully reduced from the largest and most authentic sources, (London: Cadell & Davies, Longman Hurst Rees, & Orme) 1813.    


Very good. Minor wear and verso repair along original centerfold.


Rumsey 0732.001 (1812 edition). Phillips (atlases) 724.