Ricci Map Derivative Found in a Garage Sells for $24,000

Two dark, torn illustrations found in the garage of a Palm Springs home and listed for sale as “two 19th century hand colored prints of the world” turned out to be something quite possibly a bit more significant. First identified as two panels (of six) from a 1708 Korean map, Kim Jin-yeo’s Gonyeomangukjeondo (곤여만국전도), which is a derivative of Matteo Ricci’s famous Kunyu Wanguo Quantu (aka the “Impossible Black Tulip”), the panels ended up selling earlier this month for $24,000; the buyer, map dealer Barry Ruderman, is restoring the map for sale and suspects that it may in fact be a 17th-century Chinese copy rather than a Korean map. Daily MailFine Books Magazine. [WMS]

Previously: China at the Center.

Early Map of Detroit Acquired

William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan

The University of Michigan’s William L. Clements Library has acquired an early hand-drawn map of Detroit—from the period it was a British outpost—that sheds new light on the city’s early history.

A framed 21-by-40-inch map that reveals a plan of the city in 1790 was discovered in a family home in Almonte, Ontario, after the owner contacted historians to check its validity. […]

Historians concluded that the rare, previously unknown hand-drawn, hand-colored map, titled “Rough sketch of the King’s Domain at Detroit,” was indeed an original—drawn on high-quality, watermarked 18th-century paper, and signed by its author, D. W. Smith (Captain David William Smith), dated September 1790.

An exhibition centred on the map is coming in 2017. Detroit News coverage. [WMS]

Library of Congress Exhibition: Mapping a Growing Nation

buell
Abel Buell, A New and Correct Map of the United States of North America, 1784. On deposit to the Library of Congress from David M. Rubenstein.

Speaking of the Library of Congress, yesterday it opened a new exhibition both online and at the Library’s North Exhibition Gallery. Mapping a Growing Nation: From Independence to Statehood features the best known copy of Abel Buell’s 1784 New and Correct Map of the United States of North America—“which, among other things, has been recognized as the very first map of the newly independent United States to be compiled, printed, and published in America by an American. Additionally, the 1784 publication is the first map to be copyrighted in the United States, registered under the auspices of the Connecticut State Assembly.” Accompanying Buell’s map are other early maps—often the first maps—of each U.S. state; the maps will rotate on and off physical display for space reasons but will eventually all be featured online. [WMS]

Empty Maps and Virgin Territory

Herman Moll, New England, New York, New Jersey and Pensilvania, 1729. Wikimedia Commons.
Herman Moll, New England, New York, New Jersey and Pensilvania, 1729. Wikimedia Commons.

The Guardian continues to track the issue of Palestine’s absence from Google Maps. In a long essay that is definitely worth your time, Petter Hellström links the issue with the long history of colonial maps that omitted the indigenous populations that settlers would soon displace.

Because Palestine, after all, has been removed. It is there on old paper maps, of the Holy Land, of the Roman and Ottoman empires, of the British mandate. Yet in our digital age, a search on Google Maps for Israel produces a map without Palestine. It displays Israeli urban centres down to a few thousand inhabitants, and even marks Ma’ale Adumin, an Israeli settlement on the occupied West Bank. At the same time it shows no Palestinian place-names or urban centres, not even major ones like Gaza City, Khan Yunis or Nablus. The dotted, inconsistent borders of the occupied territories leave the impression that they are not claimed or administered by anyone. […]

Historians of cartography have long studied the practices and consequences of cartographic omission. In a landmark study, “New England cartography and the Native Americans”, published posthumously in 1994, the British historian of cartography J. B. Harley analysed seventeenth-century maps to follow the progressive replacement of the Native Americans with European settlers. In Harley’s analysis, the maps were something more than historical records of that process. Because they made the colonists visible at the expense of the indigenous population, they were also instruments of colonial legitimisation.

Many colonial mapmakers preferred to leave the areas of predominantly indigenous presence blank, rather than to reproduce an indigenous geography; one example is Herman Moll’s 1729 map of New England and the adjacent colonies, seen above. The traces of indigenous presence, past and present, were gradually removed from the maps as the colonists pushed west. The apparent emptiness helped to justify the settlers’ sense that they had discovered a virgin territory, promised to them by Providence. The pattern was the same in all areas of colonial activity, including Australia and Africa.

[WMS]

Previously: Google, Palestine, and the Unbiased Map.

Unique Perspectives: Japanese Map Exhibition in Chicago

artic-japanese Opening this Saturday, 25 June at the Art Institute of Chicago and running until 6 November, Unique Perspectives: Japanese Maps from the 18th and 19th Centuries “showcases the beauty of Japanese printmaking. The 18th- and 19th-century maps on view feature the world, the Japanese archipelago, and the country’s major cities, including Osaka, Yokohama, Edo, Nagasaki, and Kyoto. Highlights include works from trustee Barry MacLean’s comprehensive collection.” [WMS]

The W. K. Morrison Special Collection

bellin-accadie
Jacques Nicolas Bellin, “Carte de l’Accadie et Païs Voisins Pour servir a l’Histoire Generale des Voyages,” 1757. Map, 21 × 33 cm. NSCC W. K. Morrison Special Collection.

Nova Scotia Community College’s Centre of Geographic Sciences has begun digitizing the maps from the W. K. Morrison Special Collection. Morrison, once a cartographer at the Centre, left them his collection of more than 2,500 maps when he died in 2011.

It is a mixed media print collection of historical maps, atlases, periodicals and books that is unique in the Province in terms of its focus on the early mapping of Nova Scotia and specifically the 18th Century nautical charts of J.F.W. DesBarres’ Atlantic Neptune. The collection also contains a complete run of the Gentleman’s Magazine from 1731-1802, and other early European periodicals containing maps not present in other collections. In addition to the maps that cover the advances in geographic knowledge over five centuries, there are a number of important atlases dating from the 18th and 19th Centuries as well as an interesting collection of Nova Scotiana from the 19th and early 20th centuries.

So far about 270 maps have been digitized; they’re available hereMedia release (from last December), Chronicle Herald. [WMS]

Map Auction News: Early American History

barker-ky
Elihu Barker, “A Map of Kentucky from Actual Survey,” 1793. Map, 44 × 99 cm. Library of Congress.
  1. The Courier-Journal of Louisville, Kentucky: “A rare 18th-century wall map depicting frontier Kentucky that was put up for auction Thursday in New York has sold for $37,500—more than twice its high estimated value.” (See the Library of Congress’s copy of the map above.) [WMS]
  2. “Two large maps and six sketches of military defenses hand drawn by French military engineers in 1781 and used during the American War of Independence, the last such documents in private hands, will be auctioned off at a chateau in France next month,” Bloomberg reports. “Salvaged in 2007, the maps—that only barely escaped becoming mouse food—show British defenses along the East Coast, including fortifications near New York. They are being sold by the eighth-generation descendants of Marshall de Rochambeau, the commander of the French expeditionary force sent by King Louis XVI to aid the American rebels.” [WMS]

La Carte de Cassini

carte-cassini

There are several online versions of the Carte générale de France, the first comprehensive map of France produced by the Cassini family in the 18th century. Some, like those hosted by the EHESS and the David Rumsey Map Collection, georectify and stitch together the individual maps together to make a more-or-less seamless whole. On Gallica, the Bibliothèque nationale de France’s digital library, it’s presented as individual sheetsthe Library of Congress does the same with its copy—the better to appreciate the originals, I suppose. [via]

The Social Life of Maps

The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Elizabeth Mosier reports on a talk last Saturday by University of Delaware English professor Martin Brückner. “Using images from the exhibit he curated at Winterthur Museum (viewable online at http://commondestinations.winterthur.org), Brückner traced maps from production to purchase to public display and personal use, as they became fashionable objects in the period before and after the Revolutionary War,” Mosier writes.

In the 18th century, maps were everywhere: advertised with luxury goods in catalogs and with necessities in the newspaper, displayed in taverns and town halls and high-traffic areas in private homes, printed on parlor screens and ceramics and neckties—“cartifacts” serving no cartographic purpose. If political conflict built the market for maps, the cartouche—or decorative map title—refined it, adding beauty to the criteria for determining a map’s value. The brisk business in maps for navigating and decorating redefined what constituted their usefulness, in material and social terms. Owning a map meant economic status, educational achievement, and national identity; showing a map showed you belonged.

This is the “performative function” of maps, to create reality by plotting it.

geographic-revolution

Brückner is the author or editor of several books on the subject of the social history of maps in early America, including The Geographic Revolution in Early America: Early Maps, Literacy, and National Identity (UNC Press, 2006). I should really check his work (and Susan Schulten’s) out; my own graduate work was going to be on the social function of music, so the social function of maps is relevant to my interests for more than one reason. [via]

George Washington, Mapmaker

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George Washington, A plan of Alexandria, now Belhaven, 1749. Pen and ink, 36×44 cm. Library of Congress.

Last week, Slate’s Rebecca Onion looked at the surveying and mapmaking career of George Washington. Her main source is this page by the Library of Congress’s Edward Redmond. “Beginning with his early career as a surveyor and throughout his life as a soldier, planter, businessman, land speculator, farmer, military officer, and president, Washington relied on and benefitted from his knowledge of maps. Between 1747 and 1799 Washington surveyed over two hundred tracts of land and held title to more than sixty-five thousand acres in thirty-seven different locations,” Redmond writes. Here’s a list of Washington’s maps—drawn by him, drawn by others according to his sketches, or of property owned by him—held by the Library of Congress. [via]

DC Public Library Adds Historic Maps to Online Portal

platte-grond-washington
Platte grond van de stad Washington, 1793. Printed map, 8¾″×11″. DC Public Library, Special Collections, Washingtoniana Map Collection.

Last week, DC Public Library announced “the release of a century of historic Washington, D.C. maps in Dig DC, the online portal to DCPL Special Collections. These maps cover the District of Columbia and the region from the 1760s to the Civil War. To see them, head on over to the Maps: City & Regional collection on Dig DC!” Of the 8,000 or so maps in the library’s Washingtoniana Map Collection, 250 have been digitized so far; they’re working on scanning the entire collection. [via]

‘We Are One’ in Colonial Williamsburg

We Are One: Mapping America’s Road from Revolution to Independence, an exhibition by the Boston Public Library’s Leventhal Map Center (it ran from May to November last year) is going on tour. First stop: Colonial Williamsburg. From March 2016 to January 2017 it will appear at the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum in Williamsburg, Virginia. From the press release: “More than 30 unique objects from Colonial Williamsburg’s collections will be included in the exhibition, which were not shown when it initially opened at the Boston Public Library in May 2015. […] Many of the objects from Colonial Williamsburg’s collection to be seen in We Are One are on view for the first time or are rarely exhibited.” [via]

Previously: Mapping the American Revolution.

 

Mapping the American Revolution

revolutionThe National Geographic website has an interview with Richard H. Brown and Paul E. Cohen, authors of Revolution: Mapping the Road to American Independence, 1755-1783 (W. W. Norton, October 2015). In the interview, Brown says that “some of the best collections of Revolutionary War maps have been among the least used. Historians tended to use the same maps over and over again to illustrate their narratives. What we did is to take the opposite view. We wanted the maps to tell the story, so we picked maps that we thought would tell the story of the battles best.” Buy at Amazon (Canada, U.K.)