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First State of Brué's Important Map of North America

Fine example of Brué's impressive four-sheet map of North America.

Wheat notes that Brué's map of North America (first published in 1815), along with Arrowsmith's contemporary map, were the first large-format maps to adopt in great detail the geographical findings shared in the official account of the expedition of Lewis and Clark up the Missouri, across the Rocky Mountains, and down the Columbia River to the Pacific Ocean.

The map is a remarkable amalgam of the latest cartographic information, reflecting the detailed effort of its publisher to compile information from the recent expeditions of not only Lewis and Clark, but also Zebulon Pike, Wilson Price Hunt, Robert Stuart, and others for inclusion in this remarkable cartographic object.

The four sheets of the map featured in Brué’s most well-known project, Atlas universal de géographie physique, politique, ancienne et moderne.

The map simultaneously shows areas of intense settlement, marked by the density of text and features, and those that were still being explored, namely the North American West, northern Texas, and the far north, including Labrador, Greenland, and Russian America. The Arctic has unfinished lines between land and sea—Greenland and Baffin Bay are not clearly differentiated, nor is Northern Canada separate from the Arctic Sea—and this area would be the main focus of European and American exploration in the nineteenth century, along with the interior of Africa.

On the upper left and lower right sheets, there are additional inset maps. The upper left sheet shows a close-up of several of the Aleutians Islands, in the North Pacific. The lower right sheet has two small insets of Martinique and Guadeloupe, French Caribbean possessions, and a large inset of Saint Domingue. Interestingly, Saint Domingue is still called by its old name, even though the Haitian Revolution had resulted in the independence of the French part of the island, as well as the change of name to Haiti. France would only officially recognize Haiti as a sovereign nation in 1824.

The lower left sheet carries the title cartouche and additional information in the Pacific Ocean. These include a color key to denote imperial possessions and a series of six scale bars. The title is accompanied by a jaunty stamp proclaiming this edition to be updated by the author to April 1819.

A text box on the upper left sheet lists the sources with which Brué compiled the map. They included maps and charts from the Krusenstern expedition (first Russian circumnavigation, 1803-1806) for Russian America, from the official account of the Vancouver expeditions for the Pacific Northwest, from the accounts of Zebulon Pike and Alexander von Humboldt for the Spanish possessions, the Spanish Hydrographic Office and Thomas Jefferys for the Antilles; by Samuel Holland, the Arrowsmiths, and many others for the United States; from the English edition of the Lewis and Clark expedition for the Louisiana Territory; by Alexander Dalrymple, Samuel Hearn, Alexander Mackenzie, and others for British Canada; and by the Depót de la Marine, Etienne de Herbin de Halle, and Médéric Louis Élie Moreau de Saint-Méry for Saint Domingue.  

Lewis and Clark

As Brué writes in his text box about sources, the account of the Lewis and Clark expedition provided important information for the creation of this map, especially in Oregon Territory and the American West. After President Thomas Jefferson completed the Louisiana Purchase, he wanted an expedition to explore and survey the vast lands that had come under the control of the United States. He chose Meriwether Lewis, an Army captain and Jefferson’s personal secretary, to lead the expedition. Lewis chose William Clark to lead with him. Clark was a land owner in Kentucky and an Army officer, where he had served with Lewis.

Both men studied extensively before setting out, reading up on medicine, botany, astronomy, and zoology. They read every available map and journal detailing the area, from Spanish, French, and British sources. Lewis gathered munitions at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia, and then boarded a custom-made keelboat, which he sailed down the Ohio River to Clarksville, Indiana, where he joined Clark. There, Clark boarded the boat, taking it up the Mississippi, while Lewis took to horseback to gather more supplies, including maps and surveying equipment.

Meanwhile, Clark recruited the men who would travel with them, members of the Corps of Volunteers for Northwest Discovery, at Fort DuBois, Missouri. The final group consisted of Lewis, Clark, Clark’s enslaved man, York, 27 soldiers, a French-Indian interpreter, and a boat crew. They set out on May 14, 1804, picking up Lewis in St. Charles, Missouri and continuing up the Missouri River. On August 20, Sergeant Charles Floyd died of stomach infection; miraculously, he was the only Corps member to die on the entire journey.

The Corps traveled through Iowa and into South Dakota. In November, they arrived near what is today Washburn, North Dakota, where they set up their winter camp. They built a structure they called Fort Mandan. Nearby were the Mandan and Minitari Indians, just some of the over fifty tribes who encountered Lewis and Clark on their journey. Some groups, like the Teton Sioux, were suspicious of the soldiers, but there was relatively little violence during encounters as compared to other similar expeditions.

At Fort Mandan, Sacagawea, a Shoshone woman, met Lewis and Clark. She was pregnant and with her husband, a French-Canadian fur trapper, Toussaint Charbonneau. Although the expedition hired Charbonneasu as interpreter, it would be Sacagawea who would prove integral to the success of the venture. Sacagawea gave birth in February 1805; the Corps set out, with baby Jean Baptiste in tow, in early April.

The Corps traveled across Montana, crossing the Continental Divide. They purchased horses from the Shoshone, thanks to Sacagawea. There, she also reunited with her brother, Cameahwait, whom she had not seen since she had been kidnapped by the Hidatsa people when she was 12; she was later sold to Charbonneau.

The horses proved useful as the Corps crawled over the Lolo Trail through the Bitterroot Mountains with Shoshone guides. Cold and exhausted, the men were revived by the Nez Perce Indians, who they met near the Clearwater River, in what is today Idaho. The final leg of their journey west was on the water; they rafted down the Clearwater to the Snake River, and then to the mighty Columbia, which is shown prominently here, surrounded by indigenous tribe and place names.

They reached the Pacific Ocean in November of 1805. It was time for another winter camp, which they set up near what is today Astoria, Oregon. They called their shelter Fort Clatsop, as seen on this map, moving in on Christmas Day. It was a damp and dismal winter, and practically the entire Corps had stomach sicknesses.

On March 23, 1806, the Lewis and Clark expedition headed east. They returned to the Nez Perce, where they had left their horses, then crossed the mountains. At the Lolo Pass, the leaders split their troops. Lewis headed to the Great Falls of the Missouri River; Clark and Sacagawea to the Yellowstone River. Clark named a large rock formation near the river Pompey’s Pillar; Pompey was the nickname for Sacagawea’s son.

Lewis had a less monumental time; they got into an altercation with Blackfeet warriors, killing two of them. This was the only episode that resulted in indigenous death during the expedition.  Lewis’ woes continued, as he was shot in the buttocks soon thereafter.

The men and their groups reunited on August 12, 1806. They bid farewell to Sacagawea and her family at the Mandan villages. Then, they sailed down the Missouri River to St. Louis, where they arrived on September 23.

From Missouri, the leaders traveled to Washington D. C. to report on their findings. They had traversed over 8,000 miles, made a library of maps and accounts (nearly 5,000 pages of journals), returned 120 animal specimens and 200 botanical specimens, and did so with comparatively little violence.

Lewis became the Governor of the Louisiana Territory, while Clark was named Brigadier General of Militia for the Louisiana Territory and a federal Indian Agent. Unfortunately, Lewis became an alcoholic and died of gunshot wounds in 1809. Sacagawea died a few years later; Clark became the guardian of her children. Clark himself lived a successful life and died in 1838.

The publications of the Lewis and Clark expedition

The expedition was a huge success, widely reported upon in the papers of the time of Lewis and Clark’s return. Accounts of the journey were published even before they returned, however. Lewis’ and Clark’s letters were published in periodicals from Boston to Louisville. Matthew Carey included a paragraph about the expedition in the 1806 edition of John Newbery’s Compendious History of the World (first published in London in 1763). Having received a cache of documents, Jefferson wrote a report to Congress in February 1806; portions of this were printed as broadsides and newspaper articles and then reprinted in whole by Hopkins and Seymour of New York, as well as in London and Natchez, Mississippi.

The first complete account of the expedition came out of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Zadok Cramer saw an opportunity; he purchased the journal of Patrick Gass, a Corps member, and flew the journal through printing. Cramer and his partner, David M’Keehan, released the book less than a year after the return of the Corps; they sold their publication rights to J. Budd (London) and Matthew Carey (Philadelphia); the latter published three illustrated editions of the journal.

In 1809, the pseudonymous Hubbard Lester penned a fictitious account that borrowed liberally from other sources. His work included a bogus map riddled with errors. Over the next fifty years, at least eight fictitious or counterfeit Lewis and Clark accounts were offered to readers. The last one appeared in 1846, showing that even these fraudulent accounts found an audience.

More discerning readers had to wait until 1814 for the authorized expedition account. Nicholas Biddle and Paul Allen compiled an abridged version of Lewis and Clark’s journals into a two-volume narrative. Lewis was supposed to have written the account, but his decline and death in 1809 made this impossible. The account also included a detailed map of the American West by Clark, which would remain the gold standard for the northwestern United States until the 1830s. This is the source used here by Brué.

However, many critics found the lack of a volume dedicated to the botanical and naturalist findings a major detraction of the work. It seems that many Americans already knew the story of the expedition; they wanted more figures, images, and data. This is supported by the fact that most surviving examples of the Biddle/Allen account lack the map; there is some evidence that travelers used it for trans-Mississippi journeys. The Biddle/Allen narrative was printed in many languages worldwide, but it was only reprinted in the US once, in 1842.

Zebulon Pike

Another important source for Brué was Zebulon Pike. Pike was an American Army officer, as was his father. He grew up on Army outposts in Ohio and Illinois, then the western edge of the growing United States. In 1799, he was commissioned a second lieutenant, being promoted to first lieutenant in the same year.

Pike’s entire career, like his childhood, was focused on the American frontier. In 1805, he was asked to find the source of the Mississippi River, in the north of the Louisiana Territory that was now the possession of the United States. He was also supposed to encourage any French or Canadian traders and trappers on US land to follow US law.

Pike and his men travelled upstream, reaching the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers on September 21. There he negotiated a purchase of land from local Dakota bands; the site would become Fort Snelling. They wintered at the mouth of the Swan River, near present-day Little Falls, waiting for the river to freeze. They continued on the ice in early December, visiting British North West Company fur posts, finishing at Leech Lake outpost. After raising the American flag over that station, they retraced their steps, returning to St. Louis on April 20, 1806.

After this successful venture into the US’ new land, Pike was almost immediately told to set out again. Having followed the Mississippi, he was now to seek out the headwaters of the Arkansas and Red Rivers, as well as to assess natural resources and establish friendly relations with local tribes. He left on July 15, 1806. They made their way across what is now Texas and the southern Great Plains to the Rockies. By November, he and his men were trying to summit Pike’s Peak, the over 14,000-foot mountain named for Pike.

As they moved south, the Spanish captured Pike’s party, as they had crossed into Spanish territory. The Americans were taken to Santa Fe and then to Chihuahua. While there, Pike stayed with Juan Pedro Walker, who confiscated his maps and journal to translate them. However, Pike also had access to Spanish maps while there. When released, he left with a better cartographic understanding of the Southwest. Pike and most of his men were deposited on the Louisiana border on July 1, 1807.

Pike might have been released by the Spanish, but his journals were not. They were not returned to the United States until the twentieth century. Instead, Pike wrote an account from memory, which was published in 1810. It was a popular read and was translated into Dutch, French, and German. In the book, Pike reflected on Mexican discontent with Spain and trade between New Mexico and Chihuahua (the Santa Fe Trail).

After these expeditions, Pike was quickly promoted during the War of 1812. He was made brigadier general in March 1813. A little over a month later, he was killed during an attack on York (Toronto).

Robert Stuart

The Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) began in 1670 to trade furs in the North American Northeast. While they controlled a massive area—the drainage basin of Hudson’s Bay, called Rupert’s Land—they wished to the be the sole fur traders in the North. They faced stiff competition, however. The magnate John Jacob Astor hoped to make his Pacific Fur Company a profitable competitor.

Robert Stuart was an employee of the Pacific Fur Company. He sailed on the Tonquin, the Company’s ship, around Cape Horn to the Pacific Northwest. The crew established Fort Astoria in May 1811. The Tonquin continued to trade up the coast, but its crew was killed, and the boat destroyed, in an altercation with the Tla-o-qui-aht nation. Stuart was part of the overland expedition that was to deliver news of this setback.

Stuart and his party traveled up the Columbia, then along the Snake River to American Falls and Soda Springs. This would become a crucial part of the Oregon Trail. They explored Wyoming then followed the North Platte River, arriving in St. Louis in late April 1813. His adventures were popularized in Washington Irving’s Astoria.

Wilson Price Hunt

To gain an edge in geographic knowledge, Astor, of the Pacific Fur Company, financed an expedition overland and chose Wilson Price Hunt to command it, as well as to be his St. Louis agent. Hunt left St. Louis with a party of sixty men in October 1810. They first canoed 450 miles on the Missouri River, then headed overland on foot and horseback. Hunt had few outdoors experiences, but he did prove skilled at negotiating encounters with indigenous groups. By the summer of 1811, Hunt had reached the Snake River, where valuable supplies were lost while attempting to canoe the rapids.

Hunt split his group into two, with each attempting to reach the Columbia on their own. Both parties eventually arrived in Astoria, at the mouth of the Columbia, by early 1812. Once there, Hunt continued by ship to Russian Alaska and Hawai’i. He returned to Astoria in August 1813, only to find that the partners wished to abandon the settlement. The post was to be sold to the Northwest Company, another rival of the HBC.

After the Pemmican War of 1816, the two companies were forcibly merged by the British government.  This merger resulted in a major reorganization and created the Columbia Department of the HBC to cover the Pacific Northwest. The regional headquarters were at Fort George (here still marked as Fort Astoria), which was then moved to Fort Vancouver on the Columbia.

Map Sources

The observations at the top left gives a remarkable overview of the map's construction and source.  The text translates as follows:

The great number of maps and various works that have been published in recent years on the different parts of North America have enabled us to give this map a perfection and an extent of detail which had not yet been combined. Arrowsmith's map published in 1795 and corrected in 1814, although the most complete in terms of modern discoveries, does not contain all that its title promises. The lower frame of his map being limited to the parallel of 30 degrees, all the countries south of this parallel up to degrees of latitude, over a development of 575 leagues from north to south, are omitted; thus one would search in vain for the greater part of New Mexico, all of New Spain, the two Floridas, as well as the Greater and Lesser Antilles.

It is by reading the statement of the main materials we have used that one can better judge the degree of superiority of our map over those that have preceded it.


Russian America (Northwest Extremity): The coasts of the Bering Strait; those of the North of the Great Ocean, including the Aleutian Islands; the Alaska Peninsula, going east to the 145th degree of western longitude are drawn from a map in 4 sheets of the North of the Great Ocean published in St. Petersburg in 1802. The names of the tribes found towards this extremity of America are placed according to the reports of Al Dawidoff Kaschateff, Rosanoff &c, from the expedition of Krusenstern.

West Coasts: New Norfolk, New Cornwall, New Hanover, New Georgia, New Albion, and New California. All these coasts are drawn from the charts of Vancouver's Voyage.

Spanish Possessions: The part comprised between 95 and 120 degrees of west longitude is drawn from the large maps published by Mr. de Humboldt, that which is between 2 and 95 degrees of west longitude is reduced from the Charts of the West Indies published by Arrowsmith and from that in 6 sheets of the West Indies Islands by Jefferys for the northern part of New Mexico and especially for placing the Sources of the Rio Grande del Norte, we have consulted the maps and the voyage of Pike.

The Antilles, except Dominica: all the coasts of the Antilles Islands have been drawn for the Lesser Antilles, from a sea chart published in two by the Spanish Admiralty Depot of Madrid; the Greater Antilles, the Cayman Islands, and the Coasts of Florida, after three maps of the same depot, two of which were corrected in 1806 and the third in 1809. For the interior of these islands, we have made use of the maps of Jefferys, of that in 4 sheets published by Arrowsmith and of the map in one sheet of the Caribbean Islands by the same author.

United States: A large part of these States are reduced from particular maps including the State of New Hampshire, by Samuel Holland; the State of Rhode Island, by Harris in 1795; Vermont by Whitelaw in 1809; Ohio by Mansfield; Maryland, by Denis Griffith in 1794; Kentucky by Barker; Pennsylvania by Reading Howell; the Territory of Orleans, West Florida and the Mississippi Territory, according to the map drawn by Lafond in 1806. We have drawn the other States from the map of the United States published by Arrowsmith. For the Western part up to and including the course of the Mississippi from 33 degrees of latitude to the source of this river, we have used the precious information provided by the voyage and maps of Pike.

Louisiana: We owe to the voyage of Lewis and Clarke (English Edition) and to that of Pike the greatest part of the interior details of Louisiana. The map of Lafond has served us to trace the lower course of the Red River and its surroundings.

English Possessions. (Coasts.) The coasts of Newfoundland, the southern ones of Labrador are taken from Lane's map and from the one-sheet map by Arrowsmith. The coasts of Hudson Bay and those near Baffin Bay from a map published by Dalrymple and from the three-sheet map of the coasts of North America by Arrowsmith. The coasts located at the northernmost extremity of the continent are: 1. the one seen in 1789 by Mackenzie: we have placed and reduced it according to his particular map. At 20 degrees East of this is another coast seen by Hearne in 1771. This traveler places the Coppermine River at 123 degrees; but Mackenzie having found that the position of Slave Lake is 10 degrees further East than indicated by Hearne, we have deemed it appropriate to also place the discoveries of the latter, 10 degrees further East than he had indicated them. (Interiors.) For Upper Canada, we have made use of the one-sheet map by Smith, and the general map of Canada by Arrowsmith. For New Wales and the interior parts of the English Possessions between Canada, the Peace River, and the Mackenzie River to the Northwest, on which so many observations remain to be made, we have resorted to the travels and maps of Hearne, Mackenzie, and the general map by Arrowsmith.

The area covered by the Columbia River and all its tributaries has been taken from the map of the journey of Lewis and Clark for the southern part, and from Arrowsmith's map for the eastern and northern portions. This latter map by Arrowsmith has also provided us with the extent of the country between the 50th and 55th degrees of north latitude, and the 110th and 130th degrees of west longitude.

Saint Domingue. This island, added as a supplement on a large scale, has been drawn according to the map published by the Marine depot, the Works and Maps of Moreau de Saint-Méry, and finally the map given in the Statistics of France by Herbin.

Editions of the Map and Rarity

The map was first issued in 1815, following the publication of the official account of Lewis and Clark's expedition.  It was periodically updated thereafter, with editions dated 1815, 1816, 1818, 1819, and 1825. 

Wheat, 321; KAP
Adrien-Hubert Brué Biography

Andre Hubert Brué was a French geographer and cartographer. Born in Paris, he served in the French Navy, joining the Baudin expedition to the Pacific (1800-1804). After his sea service, Brué applied his navigation and charting skills to creating finely-crafted maps, which were renowned for their crisp engraving and accuracy. He drew directly on the copper of the plate, creating what he called encyprotypes. He is best known for the Atlas universal de géographie physique, politique, ancienne et moderne.