Mount Vernon’s library is the recipient of a major donation of 18th-century maps, images and other documents pertaining to the American Revolution that is valued at around $12 million. The Richard H. Brown Revolutionary War Map Collection, named for the private collector who donated them, features more than 1,000 items dating from between 1740 and 1799. Of those items, 292 have been digitized so far. Mount Vernon’s Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington took possession of most of the donation last month. [WMS]
Gentleman, Soldier, Scholar and Spy: The Napoleonic-Era Maps of Robert Clifford, an exhibition running at the McMaster Museum of Art in Hamilton, Ontario through 1 September 2018, showcases an unusual collection of maps held by the McMaster University Library: a cache of maps smuggled out of France in the early 1800s by British spy and cartographer Robert Clifford.
Clifford’s maps reveal a world on the cusp of an evolutionary shift in cartography brought about by the Napoleonic wars. Hand-coloured, manuscript maps depicting the precise and exacting geometry of Vauban-designed fortified cities give way to maps printed from engraved plates, incorporating new techniques and symbology to satisfy the shifting focus onto the surrounding landscape of unordered nature. Maps used primarily for the siege of cities in previous generations are re-placed by maps of vast expanses of territory for a new style of open warfare.
A 1776 map of New York City sold at auction in New York last April for $150,000, the Daily Mail reported at the time. The map is the second edition of the more famous, and rare, 1770 map showing the work of surveyor Bernard Ratzer. It was published in England, and was apparently put to use by British officers during the American Revolution. The New York Public Library’s copy has been digitized and is available online. [WMS]
Previously: Map of Colonial New Jersey Rediscovered.
Another one in French. Last month, Radio-Canada had the story of a manuscript map of the St. Lawrence River that was recently acquired by the Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec. The 18th-century map takes three sheets to trace the course of the St. Lawrence from the Ottawa River to Anticosti Island, and the BANQ’s map librarians have concluded that it’s the work of French philosophe and cartographer Jean-Nicolas Bellin. The map can be viewed on the BANQ’s website, which those who can’t read French should be able to manage. [WMS]
On 5 December Christie’s will auction, as part of a lot of printed books and manuscripts, a map described as “an important manuscript map of New York City prepared by cartographers attached to Rochambeau’s forces during the Yorktown Campaign.” The 63×40-cm ink-and-watercolour map dates from 1781-1782 and is expected to fetch between $150,000 and $200,000. Christie’s item description is quite detailed.
In the 1770s British surveyor George Gauld mapped the Florida Keys, taking careful note of the location and depth of Florida reefs. A study published last month in Science Advances compares Gauld’s maps with modern-day satellite imagery and concludes that half of the area occupied by coral in the eighteenth century has disappeared. As the Washington Post reports, the cause of the coral’s disappearance is unclear, though several potential human and natural factors are put forward. [WMS]
Mapping in the Enlightenment: Science, Innovation, and the Public Sphere, an exhibition at the University of Michigan’s William L. Clements Library, “uses examples from the Clements Library collection to tell the story of creating, distributing, and using maps during the long 18th century. Enlightenment thinking stimulated the effort to make more accurate maps, encouraged the growth of map collecting and map use by men and women in all social classes, and expanded the role of maps in administration and decision-making throughout Europe and her overseas colonies.” Fridays from 10 to 4 through October. [History of Cartography Project]
Three academic books out this month deal with the subject of mapping, surveying, and empire-building:
The New Map of Empire: How Britain Imagined America before Independence by S. Max Edelson (Harvard University Press) covers the period between the Seven Years’ War and the American Revolution. From the publisher:
Under orders from King George III to reform the colonies, the Board of Trade dispatched surveyors to map far-flung frontiers, chart coastlines in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, sound Florida’s rivers, parcel tropical islands into plantation tracts, and mark boundaries with indigenous nations across the continental interior. Scaled to military standards of resolution, the maps they produced sought to capture the essential attributes of colonial spaces—their natural capacities for agriculture, navigation, and commerce—and give British officials the knowledge they needed to take command over colonization from across the Atlantic.
Britain’s vision of imperial control threatened to displace colonists as meaningful agents of empire and diminished what they viewed as their greatest historical accomplishment: settling the New World. As London’s mapmakers published these images of order in breathtaking American atlases, Continental and British forces were already engaged in a violent contest over who would control the real spaces they represented.
The First Mapping of America: The General Survey of British North America by Alex Johnson (I. B. Tauris) seems to cover similar territory, if you’ll pardon the pun, though I have very little information about it. [Amazon]
Finally, Daniel Foliard’s Dislocating the Orient: British Maps and the Making of the Middle East, 1854-1921 (University of Chicago Press) “vividly illustrates how the British first defined the Middle East as a geopolitical and cartographic region in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries through their imperial maps. Until then, the region had never been clearly distinguished from ‘the East’ or ‘the Orient.’ In the course of their colonial activities, however, the British began to conceive of the Middle East as a separate and distinct part of the world, with consequences that continue to be felt today.” [Amazon, iBooks]
Related: Map Books of 2017.
Out this month from the University of New Mexico Press: John L. Kessell’s Whither the Waters: Mapping the Great Basin from Bernardo de Miera to John C. Frémont, a relatively short book that places 18th-century colonial New Mexican artist and cartographer Bernardo de Miera in his historical context and explores how later cartographers made use of his work. The Santa Fe New Mexican covers the launch of the book with a look at both author and subject. Amazon. [WMS]
This digitisation process combines high resolution scanning, up to 1200 dpi, with precise lighting technique and incredibly accurate colour rendition. This process is ideal for scanning really large, long items like this map, panoramas and items with high levels of fine detail. The files captured at these resolutions allow up to 50× enlargement, making them excellent sources for detailed investigation into aspects of the physical substrate of the item and for innovative multimedia exhibition and display.
The map was scanned in 15cm sections and will be stitched together to create an exceptionally accurate and detailed high resolution file.
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 Mail, Fine Books Magazine. [WMS]
Previously: China at the Center.
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.
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]
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.
Previously: Google, Palestine, and the Unbiased Map.
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]