Rare early English map of the Alaskan Panhandle, illustrating the discoveries and reconnaissance made by the Russian explorer Urey Lisiansky in 1804.
This attractive map depicts Southeastern Alaska in the initial years of Russian settlement of the region. It embraces most of the Alexander Archipelago from Yakutat Bay (at the foot of Mount St. Elias) down to the upper part of Prince of Wales Island in the South, along with the adjacent mainland. Several native villages are marked, as is the recently established capital of Russian America, 'New Archangel' (Sitka). The various islands, bays and fjords have a curious mixture of England and Russian names, owing to the various expeditions from Britain and Russia.
The present map is based on charts by the great Russian explorer and naturalist Urey Lisianksi (1773-1837). Lisianski was the captain of the sloop-of-war Neva, one of the vessels that took part in the first Russian circumnavigation of the World (1803-1806) under Admiral von Krusenstern, which was responsible for some of the era's most important geographical and scientific discoveries in Alaska and Hawaii. In 1804, Lisianski and the Neva played a critical role in securing the Russian victory over the Tlingit nation during the Battle of Sitka, which secured the area for the creation of New Archangel.
Aaron Arrowsmith, then Britain's leading cartographer, prepared the following map, which bears the imprint: ' London: Published by John Booth, Duke Street, Portland Place, March 1st. 1814'. The map was issued as part of the English edition of the Lisiansky's book on his voyage, entitled:
Lisiansky, Urey. A Voyage Round the World: In the Years 1803, 4, 5, & 6; Performed by Order of His Imperial Majesty Alexander the First, Emperor of Russia, in the Ship Neva, by Urey Lisiansky, Captain in the Russian Navy, and Knight of the Orders of St. George and St. Vladimer. (London: Printed for John Booth; and Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, & Brown, 1814).
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.