MAP OF THE UNITED STATES WITH THE CONTIGUOUS BRITISH AND SPANISH POSSESSIONS COMPILED FROM THE LATEST AND BEST AUTHORITIES
by Melish, John
[Phiadelphia, 1816. Engraved map, engraved by J. Vallance & H. S. Tanner, period hand-coloring in outline, dissected into 40 sections and linen-backed, as issued. Sheet size: 34 x 56 3/4 inches. Very good. In a blue morocco box. First edition, fourth state, of a map of inestimable importance - one which synthesized the best data available at the crucial moment of the opening of American West, and one which, in a sense, envisioned and enabled the 'Manifest Destiny' of the United States. "The cartographic publication that best publicized for the American people the data derived from the Lewis and Clark Expedition and Zebulon Pike's exploration of the southwest in 1806 and 1807 was John Melish's 1816 MAP OF THE UNITED STATES" - Ristow, p.446. Also, much like the Mitchell map of the previous century, the Melish map became the map of record in many important treaties between the United States and Spain, Mexico, and both the Republic and State of Texas. Specifically, the United States-Mexico boundary was laid out on a copy of the map according to the Adams-Onis Treaty signed in Feb. 22, 1819. Martin & Martin write: "Recognizing that the demand for geographical information on the American west was limitless in the foreseeable future, Melish undertook to accumulate a vast amount of descriptions, statistics and maps and in 1816 produced in six sheets his famous map....For the Texas area, Melish relied heavily on the surveys conducted by William Darby, who had personally surveyed much of the Sabine River area...Melish's map significantly improved the descriptions and depictions of the Texas interior, but perhaps its most lasting value to history was its official association with the Adams-Onis Treaty, because Melish's 90th meridian, today the eastern boundary of the Texas Panhandle, was off by approximately ninety miles, controversy and court litigation concerning the correct boundary lasted well beyond Texas's annexation....Of lasting value, too, was the widespread dissemination of new information concerning Texas geography only five years before Stephen F. Austin decided to honor his father's contract with the Mexican government to bring Anglo-American settlers to inhabit this rich new land." The map also played a key role in the development of American mapmaking. "An exquisite map, it distinguished Melish as the leading American map publisher of the second decade and placed American maps on equal footing with those produced by the prestigious firms in London and Paris" - Schwartz. In fact, Melish founded the first company in the United States to deal specifically in maps and geographical works. The map was engraved by arguably the two finest map engravers in the United States at the time, John Vallance and Henry S. Tanner. It set a new standard for clarity and precision in map production. The present copy is the fourth state of the first edition of 1816, as identified by Ristow in A LA CARTE (pp.162-182, the most complete account of the map): a rare early issue of the first edition, prior to Mississippi Territory being divided into the State of Mississippi and Alabama Territory. There are two primary reasons for the great rarity of this map: firstly, Melish only printed 100 copies of each issue to allow him to constantly update the map with the latest geographical information, the second reason is its large size which has ensured a high attrition rate over the past two centuries. It would not be exaggerating to say that Melish's map, the first on a large scale to show the area of the present United States from coast to coast, provided most Americans with their first clear-sighted view of the continental landmass of which the United States was a part. Although the term Manifest Destiny, referring to the inevitability of the growth of the United States across the entire continent, was not current until the 1840s, there can be little doubt that this powerful cartographic image was suggestive of the concept. Such can be gleaned from Thomas Jefferson, who said of the map that it provides a "luminous view of the comparative possessions of different powers in our America." RISTOW, AMERICAN MAPS AND MAPMAKERS, p.446. Ristow in A LA CARTE, pp.162-82. SCHWARTZ & EHRENBERG, pp.238-39, pl. 233. WHEAT TRANSMISSISSIPPI WEST II:322, pp.62-64. MARTIN & MARTIN, p.115 (plate 26). (Inventory #: WRCAM51308)
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