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Toward a National Cartography – Online Exhibition of Antique American Maps at AmericanMapmaking.com

Toward a National Cartography – Online Exhibition of Antique American Maps at AmericanMapmaking.com

John Fitch, “A Map of the North West Parts of the United States of America”, 1785

(PRWEB) October 12, 2011

Boston Rare Maps, one of the country’s premier specialist dealers in rare and unusual antique maps, presents AmericanMapmaking.com, a virtual online exhibition of antique American maps from the late 18th Century. Originally hosted at the Harvard Map Collection, “Toward a National Cartography: American Mapmaking, 1782-1800” traces the evolution of mapmaking during the formative years after the American Revolution, revealing the ways in which Americans sought to transform the landscape to suit their newly established economic and political goals. Included in the exhibition are works by renowned mapmakers such as Osgood Carleton, Andrew Ellicott, John Fitch and many others. For additional information or to view the virtual exhibition online, please visit http://www.AmericanMapmaking.com.

Exhibition curator Michael Buehler of Boston Rare Maps originally assembled this lineup of rare and unusual maps for display at the Harvard Map Collection, and now offers the digital collection to viewers around the world. Buehler is a long-time collector of rare maps and historical ephemera, is a regular public speaker on the subject and has published numerous articles on “The Portolan”, the journal of the Washington Map Society. For additional information on Michael Buehler or Boston Rare Maps, please visit http://www.BostonRareMaps.com.

Highlighting this unique exhibition is a 1792 plan for “The city of Washington in the Territory of Columbia”, now Washington D.C., by surveyor Andrew Ellicott. The plan depicts a grand capital on the European model, with broad avenues, large public squares and dramatic sightlines. Its unstated intent was to convey the grandeur and permanence of the national government – which at the time was only three years old, boasted a bureaucracy of fewer than 200 employees and rested on a Constitution that was feared as much as it was venerated.

The exhibition also tracks urban development in the Northeast with Osgood Carleton’s “Accurate Plan of the Town of Boston”, published in May of 1797. Carleton’s plan of Boston was the largest and most accurate map of the town published to date. It was based primarily on a survey he conducted “by order of the General Court,” as part of a state mapping project begun in 1794. This was one of the last significant maps of Boston before the great land-making projects of the 19th century, which created the Back Bay. Noteworthy landmarks include the new State House on Beacon Hill (on land that once belonged to John Hancock), as well as the Charles River and West Boston Bridges.

American expansion is also chronicled and can be seen in John Fitch’s “Map of the North West Parts of the United States of America,” published in 1785. Fitch, a mapmaker and surveyor who went on to invent the steamboat, compiled this map primarily from William McMurray’s map of the United States, along with information from his own surveys. Fitch engraved the map himself and printed it on a press of his own construction. Like McMurray’s map, which is also included in the exhibition, Fitch depicted the Old Northwest carved into ten proto-states as specified by the Land Ordinance of 1784.

Additional featured works include maps of New England, Massachusetts, New York, Baltimore, North Carolina and beyond by prominent mapmakers like Dennis Griffith, Jonathan Price, Phinehas Merrill, Matthew Clark, John Norman and many others. In addition to city plans and maps, the exhibition also includes antique postal and road maps, navigational charts, and numerous additional cartographical specimens from post-Revolution America.

About Boston Rare Maps

Boston Rare Maps specializes in rare and unusual antique and vintage maps depicting all periods of American history. They offer American historical prints, city views and a growing selection of illustrated broadsides. They also serve a wide variety of clients, including private collectors and institutional map collections, as well as those seeking just a few special pieces for themselves or as gifts to clients, friends or family.

Editor’s Note:

Background and additional digital color images available.
Support for feature development on rare maps available.
Interviews with gallery owner Michael Buehler are encouraged.



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