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Of Maps, Manuscripts, and Memory

The staff of the Geography and Map Division, and the members of the Philip Lee Phillips Map Society, dedicate this important acquisition and blog post to our former colleague, Ed Redmond, who passed away last month and whose life was lived surrounded by maps and manuscripts just like it.

In his memoir History Continues, the great medieval historian Georges Duby, writes about the emotional mysteries and joys of historical research in a library,

I was alone. I had managed to have a carton [of ancient medieval documents] brought to my table [by the librarian]. I opened it. What was this box going to turn up? I withdrew the first packet of documents. I untied it and slipped my hand between the sheets of parchment. Taking one of them, I unfolded it, and already I felt a peculiar pleasure: these old skins are often exquisite to touch. Along with the palpable delight goes the sense of entering a secret preserve.  One can almost feel the presence of the man who, eight hundred years earlier, took up his goose quill, dipped it in ink and began to form his letters at unhurried pace, as if engraving an inscription for eternity—and the text is there, before one’s eyes, as fresh as the day it was written. In all the intervening years, who else has set eyes on these words?

Duby was however, not alone. There was someone else present, who had set their eyes on these parchments. Behind those pieces of folded history are the hands of another, someone else besides the scribe who wrote them centuries ago, someone who took note of the intellectual and the material aspects of those documents, and thought them important enough to save, to preserve, and to catalog.

It is in the acquiring, in the making available, and in the act of preserving for the world, that the passions of the librarian and archivist are to be found. We are people who understand the fragility of the books, maps and manuscripts that are entrusted to our care, and in doing so, sit next to scholars, like Duby, as they explore lost worlds and begin to create new ones. We have front row seats and are witnesses to the ephemeral nature of the historical record and of life itself. It is in this witnessing and enabling of the scholarly process, that we find the life of Ed Redmond, a long-time reference librarian and expert in the early cartography of the United States, who passed away a month ago.

Ed was taken early in his career by the cartography of the early colonists, and later came to think that almost everything cartographic was of interest. For more than thirty years he was that other person in the room, helping countless scholars, students and library patrons, find their way through the world’s largest collection of maps. It is in his memory that the Library of Congress’ Geography and Map Division, along with its friends group, the Philip Lee Phillips Map Society, has purchased an early survey record book and journal of the colonial merchant James Hunter.

Title Inscription to James Hunter’s Book of Land Draughts. Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress.

The manuscript, which bears the title, James Hunter his Book of Draughts of his Lands, is composed of more than sixty entries, many of which are hand drawn survey maps, with ownership and price information relating to Hunter’s investments, between 1767 and 1789.  Most of the notebook and its drawings are not by Hunter himself.  At the back of the manuscript however, there are a few pages which may have been jotted by him when he started to keep records of his real estate transactions. One page gives a spreadsheet account of a few real estate transactions in 1767 and 1769, including one which took place in the important London Coffee House on March 29, 1769, where Hunter purchased 275 acres.

Record of Hunter’s Purchase of 275 acres at the London Coffee House.

Hunter, a George Washington confident, was a fascinating figure whose career spanned the American Revolution, and who, as a Pennsylvania native, Ed would have loved researching.  Like many early merchants he invested much of his money in land speculation and was surrounded by plats, surveys and maps. He owned several farms, many homes, and was much taken with woodlots. He was born in Coleraine, County Antrim, in Northern Ireland in 1729, and came to Pennsylvania in his youth, setting up an Irish goods shop in Philadelphia, along Strawberry Alley.

Typical Map from James Hunter’s Notebook. Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress.

Just before independence in 1774, he was one of the twenty-eight colonists who formed the Philadelphia Troop of Light Horse, which remains one of the oldest military units in the United States still in active service. Hunter served in the Continental Army and participated in the battles of Trenton and Princeton and by 1778, had retired to his Radnor Pennsylvania home.

Documents like the notebook of James Hunter, which in their time were created and used by individuals, not as records for posterity, but rather in the everyday pursuit of their lives, are memorials to their passing. Looking through Hunter’s notebook, we can see him looking at surveys and conducting business over a cup of coffee. The manuscript, in all its simplicity, gives us a unique, emotional and deeply personal view of history, not by describing great events, but rather by letting us know that here a life was lived.

The staff of the Geography and Map Division, and the members of the Philip Lee Phillips Map Society, dedicate this important acquisition to our former colleague, Ed Redmond, whose life, like James Hunter’s, was lived surrounded by maps, manuscripts and coffee. He will be missed.

 

Verba Incognita: A Guide to Deciphering Latin on Maps

This is a guest post by Kelly Bilz, Librarian-in-Residence in the Geography and Map Division. Even though Latin had fallen out of vernacular use after the fall of Rome (and began to evolve into the modern Romance languages), it lived on in its written form, becoming the lingua franca, so to speak, of scholarship. In […]

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 […]

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 »

Surveying: The Art of Measuring Land, Part One

This is the first of two posts outlining traditional 18th and 19th surveying methods. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, surveying is the art and science of measuring land. More precisely, it is “a means of making relatively large-scale, accurate measurements of the Earth’s surface.”  The authoritative 18th century treatise on surveying, entitled “The Compleat Surveyor or […]

Mappy Thanksgiving!

According to lore, the very first Thanksgiving was celebrated in what is today Plymouth, Massachusetts. The location owes its name to the English port of Plymouth where the settlers, also referred to as Pilgrims, began their transatlantic voyage. The Mayflower set sail in September 1620 and arrived near Cape Cod, Massachusetts in December 1620. After […]

Mapping the Way to Nirvana: a Burmese Theravada Buddhist Carving

In the sky, there is no distinction of east and west; people create distinctions out of their own minds and then believe them to be true.  –Guatama Buddha Recently, the Library of Congress’ Geography and Map Division, acquired a rare eighteenth century carving of a Theravada Buddhist cosmography that originally came from Myanmar (formerly known […]