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Unrecorded 1833 edition of Philippe Vandermaelen's extremely rare 4-sheet map of North America.

Vandermaelen 4-sheet map of North America was first issued in 1831, to compete with the large format maps of by Arrowsmith, Tanner, Wyld and Brue. The 1831 map provided a detailed look at North America, most notably, the hydrographical features of the Tranmississippi West and the location of the many Indian Tribes west of the Mississippi River. The 1831 map is extremely rare, with examples in the Library of Congress (2006-627635) (acquired only in the past few years), Osher Library USM, and the Canadian National Archives. An example was also offered by High Ridge Books in 1988 (which is likely the example in the Osher Library at the University of Southern Maine), with no examples at auction in the past 50 years. Vandermaelen's map was apparently unknown to Wheat or Streeter and is not in the Rumsey Collection.

The present example is the previously unrecorded 1833 edition, which has been substantially revised and updated, especially in the Transmississippi West. The river system in Alta California and Oregon Territory have been significantly revised, with the mythical rivers flowing into the Pacific shown very prominently, a number of lakes added and the names of Indian Tribes in the region increased. It is possible that in preparing this map, Vandermaelen attempted to incorporate some of the information from the letters of Jedidiah Smith, which was first published in the Nouvelle Annales du Voyages in 1828 and first incorporated into a printed map by A.H. Brue in 1833, in Brue's monumental Nouvelle Carte De L'Amerique Septentrionale du Groenland et des Isles Qui En Dependent . . . 1833. The 1833 Vandermaelen map shows comparable (if not greater) detail in Upper California, and as noted by Wheat, the Brue was an attempt to incorporate Smith's written descriptions, without the benefit of his manuscript maps, and therefore was certainly subject to varying interpretation. Given the significant changes between 1831 and 1833, it is reasonable to surmise that Vandermaelen had access to information which caused him significantly redraw the west.

The contours of the West Coast have also been significantly updated. The region between the Mississippi River and the Rocky Mountains has also been significantly re-cast, with the addition of numerous Indian Tribes and Territories and a more advanced depiction of the river system feeding the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers.

Vandermaelen is best known for his monumental 6 volume atlas of the World, published in 1827. The Atlas was in fact a massive set of globe gores, intended to create a globe which would have been about 18 feet in diameter.

Condition Description
4 sheet map, dissected and laid on linen, with original red slip case with title on spine. Minor offsetting, else a nice example.
Philippe Marie Vandermaelen Biography

Philippe Marie Vandermaelen (1795-1869) was a Belgian cartographer and geographer known for his pioneering use of technology and his leadership in establishing the important Establissement geographique de Bruxelles. Born in Brussels, Philippe was obsessed with maps from a young age. He taught himself mathematics, astronomy, and mapmaking and plotted the battles of the Napoleonic wars avidly. He took over his father’s soapmaking business briefly in 1816, but then turned it over to his brother in favor of cartography.

From 1825 to 1827, he released his first atlas, the Atlas universal, which was well received. It was sold in forty installments of ten maps each, with 810 subscribers listed. The atlas contained 387 maps in six volumes at a uniform scale of 1:1.6 million. The maps were intended to be joined and together would create a globe 7.755 meters wide. It was the first atlas to show the entire world on a large uniform scale and was the first atlas produced using lithography. This project served as Vandermaelen’s gateway into intellectual life, gaining him membership in the Royal Academy of Sciences and Belles-Lettres of Brussels (1829).

In 1830, Vandermaelen inherited a laundry from his parents which he converted into the Establissement geographique de Bruxelles, or the Brussels Geographical Establishment. His brother, Jean-Francois, also established a botanical garden on the site. The Establishment had its own lithographic press, one of the first to use the technology for cartography and the first in Belgium. They produced textbooks, surveys, and especially maps of Brussels to be used for urban planning. The complex also housed schools, an ethnographic museum, and a library open to the public. Vandermaelen was passionate about geographic education and saw the Establishment as an open place where people could learn about the world.

In 1836, he was knighted for his services to geography and the intellectual community of Belgium. He died at age 73 in Molenbeek-Saint-Jean, near the Geographical Establishment that he founded. After Vandermaelen’s death, the Geographical Establishment declined, closing its doors in 1880. The extraordinary collection they had amassed passed to several institutions, most importantly the Royal Library of Belgium.