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The Exotic Animals of the Americas

European colonists were fascinated with the wildlife of the Western Hemisphere. They described fauna native to the Americas in memoirs, travel journals and poetry. Pictures of the unfamiliar animals were often printed on maps. In this post I will discuss four colonial era maps that were decorated with illustrations of animals.

The two maps of Virginia, featured below, were published during the 17th century. Both of the maps were partially based on John Smith’s famous map, which may be viewed here.

Detail from Virginia. Ralph Hall. 1636. Geography and Map Division.

Detail from Virginia. Ralph Hall. 1636. Geography and Map Division.

The first map, shown below, was issued with an atlas titled Historia mundi, or, Mercator’s atlas, containing his cosmologicall descriptions of the fabricke and figure of the world. The map was created in 1636 by a British engraver named Ralph Hall. European colonists are shown hunting near the James River while Native Americans are hunting near the north shore of the Potomac. Images of wild boars, deer, rabbits, birds and a sea monster are shown on the map. To the right is an enlarged detail from the map. A hunter is aiming at an animal that resembles a spotted cougar. The large spotted cat is shown with water flowing across its back as it crosses a river.

Virginia. Ralph Hall. 1636. Geography and Map Division.

Virginia. Ralph Hall. 1636. Geography and Map Division.

Cartographers sometimes placed pictures of animals in the wrong geographical locations. The second map of Virginia, shown below, was published in 1673. The map was created by the Dutch historian, author and clergyman Arnoldus Montanus. The entire region is illustrated with a mountainous terrain. In the upper right corner two Native Americans are shown with animals that were not indigenous to Virginia: two goats, a llama and a unicorn. It was commonly believed that unicorns existed in the Americas as well as other parts of the world. Montanus wrote a book about North and South America titled  De nieuwe en onbekende weereld (The New and Unknown World). He provided a detailed description of the American unicorn in the book.

Nova Virginiae Tabula. Arnoldus Montanus. 1673. Geography and Map Division.

Nova Virginiae Tabula. Arnoldus Montanus. 1673. Geography and Map Division.

We will now focus on two maps that were published during the 18th century.

Featured above, is an inset from a map of Colonial America. The inset shows beavers occupied with building a dam in Niagara Falls. The illustration is symbolic of the work ethic that was necessary to become successful in the colonies. The fur trade was a profitable source of income and illustrations such as this were used to promote immigration to British America. The map was created by Herman Moll in 1731. An image of the entire map is shown below.

Note the porcupine, moths and beetle that are pictured on the following map of Chebucto Harbour and Halifax, Nova Scotia. The map was issued in the Gentleman’s Magazine in 1750. The Gentleman’s Magazine was published in London and distributed monthly. Maps were often used in the journal to inform readers about areas of British trade. The creator of the map is unknown. Many think the British cartographer Thomas Jefferys made the map; others believe the map was drawn by Moses Harris. Mr Harris was a British engraver and entomologist who surveyed Halifax during the mid-18th century.

A plan of the harbour of Chebucto and town of Halifax. Published by Gentleman's Magazine. 1750. Geography and Map Division.

A plan of the harbour of Chebucto and town of Halifax. Published by Gentleman’s Magazine. 1750. Geography and Map Division.

Pictures of animals were commonly placed on maps throughout cartographic history. Cartographers sometimes placed the animals in the wrong zoogeographic regions. Europeans were intrigued by the strange opossums, beavers, turkeys, white tailed deer, jaguars, cougars, llamas and other wildlife that were native to the Western Hemisphere. In this post I have  provided a few examples of maps of Colonial North America that were embellished with pictures of animals.

Learn more:

Read a detailed history of how illustrations of animals were used on maps in Animals and maps by Wilma George.

 

Go East, Young Jew, Go East

(The title of this post is a satirical  improvisation on a quote attributed to Horace Greeley, editor of the New York Tribune,  when expressing his views towards the westward expansion of the United States.) Somewhere between China’s Heilongjiang Province (Manchuria) and the Russian Far East, nestled in a southern crook of Siberia’s Amur River, lies […]

Mapping A World Of Cities

Sponsored by the Leventhal Map Center of the Boston Public Library and the MacLean Collection Map Library in Chicago, IL, the Library of Congress is pleased to announce its participation entitled Mapping A World of Cities in a joint project with the American Geographical Society (Milwaukee, Wisconsin), the David Rumsey Map Center (Stanford Libraries, California), […]

William Hacke: A Pirate’s Cartographer

William Hacke was one of the most prolific manuscript chart makers for his time. According to the Oxford  Dictionary of National Biography Hacke produced over 300 navigational charts from 1682 to 1702. In this post I will briefly discuss his career and his role in the pardon of the notorious pirate Bartholomew Sharp. William Hacke was […]

The Atlantic Neptune: An Unparalleled Collection of British Nautical Charts

In the years following the epic struggle for control of North America between the French and British empires, it became apparent to the Royal Navy that there was a considerable lack of adequate charting along the eastern coasts of North America. Thus was born one of the largest charting undertakings to date: The Atlantic Neptune. […]

Fan Maps of the Geography and Map Division

This post focuses on three decorative 19th century fans from the collections of the Geography and Map Division. The art of Asian fan making dates to ancient times. According to Gonglin Qian, author of Chinese Fans: Artistry and Aesthetics the earliest Chinese fan that has been found dates from 475 to 221 BC. It was […]

18th Century Maps of North America: Perception vs. Reality

Between 1755 and 1775, over the course of just twenty years, three seminal maps of North America were published in London, even though those responsible for the maps never left England! These three maps, discussed in more detail below, were prepared for a British audience in an attempt to reinforce opinions regarding British control of North America. A fourth map, also published in London, depicts the extent of the United States in 1802.

Mitchell, John, Thomas Kitchin, and Andrew Millar. A map of the British and French dominions in North America, with the roads, distances, limits, and extent of the settlements, humbly inscribed to the Right Honourable the Earl of Halifax, and the other Right Honourable the Lords Commissioners for Trade & Plantations. [London; Sold by And: Millar, 1755] Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division.

Mitchell, John, Thomas Kitchin, and Andrew Millar. A map of the British and French dominions in North America, with the roads, distances, limits, and extent of the settlements, humbly inscribed to the Right Honourable the Earl of Halifax, and the other Right Honourable the Lords Commissioners for Trade & Plantations. [London; Sold by And: Millar, 1755] Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division.

Arguably the most important of the first three pre-1800 maps addressed in this blog is John Mitchell’s iconic 1755 Map of the British and French Dominions in North America pictured above. At the request of the English Board of Trade and Plantations, the equivalent of the State Department, Mitchell was tasked with preparing a large map of North America based upon maps provided by each of the thirteen colonial governors. The intriguing story behind the map lies with its illustrated claim of English sovereignty extending from the Atlantic Ocean westward past the Mississippi and, eventually, to the Pacific Ocean. These claims are evidenced by the horizontal colonial boundaries extending into French territory.

Our second map, pictured below, was originally published in London by Emanuel Bowen in 1763. Unlike Mitchell’s map, which incorporated the territorial aspirations of the British colonies, the 1763 map by Bowen illustrated the political realities dictated by the 1763 Treaty of Paris ending the Seven Year’s War in North America.

Bowen, Emanuel, -1767, J Gibson, and Robert Sayer. An accurate map of North America. Describing and distinguishing the British and Spanish dominions on this great continent; according to the definitive treaty concluded at Paris 10th Feby. Also all the West India Islands belonging to, and possessed by the several European princes and states. London, Printed for Robert Sayer, 1763. Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division.

Bowen, Emanuel, -1767, J Gibson, and Robert Sayer. An accurate map of North America. Describing and distinguishing the British and Spanish dominions on this great continent; according to the definitive treaty concluded at Paris 10th Feby. Also all the West India Islands belonging to, and possessed by the several European princes and states. London, Printed for Robert Sayer, 1763. Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division.

The third revolutionary map in our saga was published in London by Carington Bowles in 1771. Like the Bowen map illustrated above, it, too, includes colonial territory lost in 1763, but also emphasizes unsettled colonial boundaries.  Of those, the most notable are the western boundary of Pennsylvania, the northeastern boundary of Virginia, and the western boundary of New York, as establishment of each defined those colonies’ access to Lake Erie.

Bowles, Carington. North America, and the West Indies; a new map, wherein the British Empire and its limits, according to the definitive treaty of peace, in , are accurately described, and the dominions possessed by the Spaniards, the French, & other European States. The whole compiled from all the new surveys, and authentic memoirs that have hitherto appeared. [London, 1774 ?, 1774]

Bowles, Carington. North America, and the West Indies; a new map, wherein the British Empire and its limits, according to the definitive treaty of peace, in , are accurately described, and the dominions possessed by the Spaniards, the French, & other European States. The whole compiled from all the new surveys, and authentic memoirs that have hitherto appeared. [London, 177?, 1771]. Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division.

The final map of North America in our brief exploration of revolutionary maps was published in London in 1802. Aaron Arrowsmith (1750-1823) produced the most current and accurate cartographic representation of the American West up to that date. Captains Meriwether Lewis and William Clark carefully studied the map in 1803 and even carried a copy on the first leg of their landmark expedition. Arrowsmith’s map immediately pre-dates the 1803 Louisiana Purchase and subsequent 1804-06 expedition by Lewis & Clark.  Rather than fill in the American West with conjectural or inaccurate data, he has deliberately left large areas blank, allowing viewers to envision for themselves the nature of the vast territory recently acquired before the landscape could be recorded by scientific surveys.

Arrowsmith, Aaron, and J Puke. A map exhibiting all the new discoveries in the interior parts of North America. [London: A. Arrowsmith, 1802]. Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division. 

So why are these maps significant? And how do they illustrate cartographic perception and geographic reality?  First, British control of North America is implied in Mitchell’s 1755 map which depicts British colonies extending from “sea to sea”.  Secondly, the geographic reality of British control of North America are all shown on the commercially produced 1763 Bowen map, the 1774 Bowles’ map, and Arrowsmith’s 1802 map which all relied on factual data. It all comes down to the intentions of each cartographer and those who employed the cartographers!

Learn more:

Creating the United States. A Library of Congress exhibit drawing heavily on items related to American Revolution from various parts of the Library. (April 2008 – May 2012).

Rivers, Edens, and Empires: Lewis and Clark and the Revealing of America. A Library of Congress exhibit showcasing items from various collections the related to Lewis and Clark expedition. (July 2003 – November 2003).

Read more »

Hy-Brasil: The Supernatural Island

Hy-Brasil never existed, however, it was often shown on maps as a very small island west of Ireland. The name Hy-Brasil originated from Celtic mythology. According to Irish folklore an island named Hy-Brasil was visible from the west coast of Ireland for only one day every seven years, the rest of the time it was […]