American Cartography From
American Cartography from the William Reese Company.
By Michael Stillman
The William Reese Company has issued their 234th catalogue, entitled "American Cartography." It is a collection of American maps and books containing maps, from as extensive as both continents, to as small as individual towns or counties. For those who wonder how we got around before Mapquest, William Reese has the answer.
What's New York without a Broadway to give your regards to, nor a Herald Square to be remembered? No Rockefeller Center, Madison Square, Times Square, or 42nd Street? Here is what it is: Map of New York City...as it is in 1835. This 1835 map by David Burr shows development only as far as 14th Street. It was much easier to take a trip to the countryside in those days. Item 15. Priced at $1,350.
Item 101 is John Marshall's The Life of George Washington... This is likely the best contemporary biography of the nation's first president, written by its most important Supreme Court Chief Justice. This set contains five volumes of text (including the history of the colonies omitted from later editions) plus the atlas. This is also likely an interesting association copy. It is signed "T. Biddle," who was probably Thomas Biddle, an officer in the War of 1812 who was later killed in a duel. Biddle was a paymaster in the army in 1831, but his brother, Nicholas, was president of the U.S. Bank. Congressman Spencer Pettis was an opponent of the Bank, and evidently said some unkind words about its president. Reportedly, Thomas Biddle went to Pettis' hotel room, where he lay ill, and whipped him. On recovering, Pettis challenged Biddle to a duel. Being the challengee, Biddle got to the pick the distance, and being poor of eyesight, picked the ridiculously short distance of five paces. The result was inevitable. Both were shot dead. My guess is if anyone dared speak such ill of Alan Greenspan today, he too would probably be shot. Now here's a connection for Lewis and Clark collectors. As we all know, the famed western travel book simply called "Lewis and Clark" does not show Lewis' or Clark's name as author, but Paul Allen as editor. Well, Tom's brother Nick was originally commissioned to produce that famous book, but bowed out when elected to the Pennsylvania legislature. $4,500.
The earliest map showing the American (Pacific) Northwest is in Polyhistor, Rerum Toto Orbe Memorabilium Thesaurus Locupletissimus from Julius Solinus. Item 160 is the 1543 second edition, following the 1538 first, of this work. The map was likely drawn by famed mapmaker Sebastian Munster. The map is actually of Asia major, but in the upper right corner, across the Pacific, is a landmass referred to simply as "Terra incognita." The land would remain "incognita" for many years to come. The map shows a small bay, some hills and some trees, though one suspects the coastline was made up rather than depicting someone's actual knowledge of the area. $15,000.
American Cartography From
Lake Erie practically borders Florida in the Hennepin Map
There is some early Texas history, and a foldout map, in Texas. Observations, Historical, Geographical and Descriptive, in a Series of Letters, Written during a Visit to Austin's Colony...in the Autumn of 1831. The writer was Mary Austin Holley, a cousin of Texas founder Stephen F. Austin. The book is dedicated to him, though her cousin was not yet the celebrity he would become. She describes Texas as "very like a dream or youthful vision realized." Very positive sentiments for someone who lived there before air conditioning. Item 68. $15,000.
As long as we're visiting the Lone Star State, here are a couple more. William Kennedy published Texas: The Rise, Progress, and Prospects of the Republic of Texas back when it still was the Republic of Texas (1841). It describes Texas' geography and natural features along with its history up to the early days of the Republic. This book was sufficiently appreciated by Texans that the Texas Congress passed a resolution of thanks. Kennedy would go on to serve as British consul in Galveston and would encourage European migration. Item 86. $20,000.
A less positive view of Texas comes from N. Doran Maillard in The History of the Republic of Texas, from the Discovery of the Country to the Present Time..., the "present time" being 1842. The book describes Texas as "a country filled with habitual liars, drunkards, blasphemers, and slanderers, sanguinary gamesters and cold-blooded assassins and more to the same effect..." As a Texan, I can tell you we haven't changed. Item 100. $8,500.
Item 66 is a rare 1689 German (Nuremberg) version of Father Louis Hennepin's map of the interior of the American continent. The Great Lakes were imagined much greater than they turned out to be, and the lower Mississippi (the upper is well-illustrated) is just a dotted line, as if it were yet to be constructed. Lake Erie extends so far south that it would have been just a day trip for Detroiters to go to Florida to escape the winter's cold. Still, it's not bad for someone who traveled in the days before you could pick up a road map at every stop. $35,000.
The first American atlas was published by Mathew Carey in 1795. One version contained just American maps, but item 20 is his General Atlas for Carey's Edition of Guthrie's Geography Improved..., which also covered the rest of the world. Twenty-three of the forty-five maps (one is missing from this copy) covered America. Included are individual maps of the states, such as there were in 1796, other areas not yet states, plus eighteen maps of Europe and scattered others of the remaining regions of the globe. $18,500.
"Lewis and Clark" (technically, Travels to the Source of the Missouri River and Across the American Continent...) includes a large folding map of the American Northwest created from that pioneering expedition. The book is the official and detailed description of the trip whose 200th anniversary we now celebrate. Item 94 is the first British edition, published the same year as the first American. $39,500.
American Cartography From
The first depiction of America's northwest coast
One of the rare books describing Indian life during the Civil War period is Among the Indians. Eight Years in the Far West: 1858-1866 by Henry Boller. Boller was a trader for the American Fur Company who spent these years in Montana and the Northwest. Toward the end of the period, he spent time with the Mormon community in Salt Lake, and he writes about this too. Recent reprints of his journey are readily available for those interested in reading about them, but this copy is an 1868 first printed in Philadelphia, and includes the folding map. Item 11. $6,000.
For those who collect particularly targeted geographic areas, Reese offers a group of early maps and other material pertaining to specific American counties. Those covered include Rockingham, New Hampshire; Middlesex, Massachusetts; Hartford and Litchfield, Connecticut; Lincoln, Maine; and Suffolk, Dutchess, and Saratoga, New York.
There are also extensive collections pertaining to Delaware County and the city of Utica, New York, from Martha Bradstreet. Mrs. Bradstreet was an English step-granddaughter of General John Bradstreet, a hero of the French and Indian War who had been granted a substantial amount of land in the area. She came to the United States in 1799 to claim what she felt was hers. By this time, much of this land had been settled by others who believed they had obtained good title. Mrs. Bradstreet would spend much of her life trying to regain this land, with limited success. She was at times represented by Aaron Burr, the duelist and almost President, who had long since been thoroughly discredited when he began representing Mrs. Bradstreet. However, she represented herself most of the time, as she evidently flooded the residents of this part of upstate New York with lawsuits for decades. Some see her as something of a pioneer in women's rights for taking initiatives virtually unheard of for women in her day, but her contemporaries must have thoroughly despised her for wreaking legal havoc on their lives. At one point she even petitioned Congress to impeach Federal Judge Alfred Conkling. Presumably he must not have been acting as she wished with her lawsuits, but the Judiciary Committee recommended that no action be taken. Item 124 covers Delaware County material ($25,000) while item 174 includes the Utica items ($20,000).
The William Reese Company is located on the internet at www.reeseco.com and they may be reached by phone at 203-789-8081.