One of the earliest obtainable maps to depict the Louisiana Purchase and certainly one of the most interesting. Engraved by Henry Schenk Tanner, the map is one of Tanner's earliest works and a forerunner to many of the most important maps of the Transmissisippi West. The map is the offspring of Antoine Soulard's map of the west, which was created at the request of the Spanish Governor of Louisiana, then based in St. Louis, who had requested an up to date map of the Missouri and Mississippi River Basins. An English copy of the Soulard map was one of the most important maps taken by Lewis & Clark on their overland trek to the Pacific. The cartography of the region west of the Mississippi is described by Wheat in his Mapping the Transmississippi West over 5 pages, noting all of the firsts and important features. Certainly this was the best widely circulated map of the region prior to the explorations of Lewis & Clark. Lewis and Soulard incorporate the maps of John Evans, James Mackay, Jacques d'Eglise and Jean Baptiste Truteau, each of which existed only in manuscript form. As Wheat states, until Lewis and Clark's own map appeared in print in 1814, the Soulard map, in the version offered to the public by Arrowsmith & Lewis in 18094, constituted the most ambitious, and --despite its many obvious infirmities--the most informative published attempt to portray the West and Northwest of what is now the United States. An essential map of the American West. Wheat 259.
The Arrowsmiths were a cartographic dynasty which operated from the late-eighteenth century to the mid-nineteenth. The family business was founded by Aaron Arrowsmith (1750-1823), who was renowned for carefully prepared and meticulously updated maps, globes, and charts. He created many maps that covered multiple sheets and which were massive in total size. His spare yet exacting style was recognized around the world and mapmakers from other countries, especially the young country of the United States, sought his maps and charts as exemplars for their own work.
Aaron Arrowsmith was born in County Durham in 1750. He came to London for work around 1770, where he found employment as a surveyor for the city’s mapmakers. By 1790, he had set up his own shop which specialized in general charts. Arrowsmith had five premises in his career, most of which were located on or near Soho Square, a neighborhood the led him to rub shoulders with the likes of Joseph Banks, the naturalist, and Matthew Flinders, the hydrographer.
Through his business ties and employment at the Hydrographic Office, Arrowsmith made other important relationships with Alexander Dalrymple, the Hudson’s Bay Company, and others entities. In 1810 he became Hydrographer to the Prince of Wales and, in 1820, Hydrographer to the King.
Aaron Arrowsmith died in 1823, whereby the business and title of Hydrographer to the King passed to his sons, Aaron and Samuel, and, later, his nephew, John. Aaron Jr. (1802-1854) was a founder member of the Royal Geographical Society (RGS) and left the family business in 1832; instead, he enrolled at Oxford to study to become a minister. Samuel (1805-1839) joined Aaron as a partner in the business and they traded together until Aaron left for the ministry. Samuel died at age 34 in 1839; his brother presided over his funeral. The remaining stock and copper plates were bought at auction by John Arrowsmith, their cousin.
John (1790-1873) operated his own independent business after his uncle, Aaron Arrowsmith Sr., died. After 1839, John moved into the Soho premises of his uncle and cousins. John enjoyed considerable recognition in the geography and exploration community. Like Aaron Jr., John was a founder member of the RGS and would serve as its unofficial cartographer for 43 years. Several geographical features in Australia and Canada are named after him. He carried the title Hydrographer to Queen Victoria. He died in 1873 and the majority of his stock was eventually bought by Edward Stanford, who co-founded Stanford’s map shop, which is still open in Covent Garden, London today.