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Unrecorded Early State of one of the Great Early Wall Maps of the United States.

Fine full-color example of Aaron Arrowsmith's landmark map of the United States, one of the largest and most important maps of the United States published in the first two decades of American independence. 

The map contains fabulous detail regarding the eastern seaboard, inland to the Mississippi. The map is particularly remarkable for its detail in the Trans-Appalachian region, which draws on detail from various American sources. Further west, detail becomes sparser and the Mississippi River and its tributaries provide the only detail in the region.

The map shows representations of the Mississippi Basin region that are little changed from the French sources of the mid-18th century. White Bear Lake still feeds the great river, and the Portage of the "Ooisconsin River" is given primary importance. The Illinois Company, which had, in reality, merged into the Illinois-Wabash Company, is shown in control of the land at the merger between the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers, despite the federal government's denial of their claims. The Red River, once hoped to be a potential water route across the continent, swings off the map in the north.

Arrowsmith displays his mastery of cartography in the Tennessee and Kentucky regions, where detail is updated well past what Mitchell's and Pownall's maps showed. This relied on early American reports of exploration in the region, which commenced as soon as the Revolutionary War ceased. Arrowsmith likely relied on an early state of Bradley's Map of the United States for some of the updated information.

This map appeared alongside another Arrowsmith map of the interior parts of the continents, which was based on Indian sources supplied through the Hudson Bay Company, which was the most accurate map of the western United States at the time.

In addition to ground-breaking cartography, the map is embellished with a large engraved vignette of Niagara Falls with descriptive text describing the falls. Two blocks of text describe this waterfall.

States of the Map

The map is known in the following states:

  1. 1796:  Arrowsmith address on Charles Street.  Tennassee Government shown.
  2. 1796 circa: "Tennassee" added as a state, but the address is unchanged. (Note that this is not what is noted by Stevens & Tree.)
  3. 1799 circa:  Address now 24 Rathbone Place. 
  4. 1802:  Imprint line on lower left sheet reads "London Jan. 1st 1796. Additions to 1802":
  5. 1804 circa: Block of text "Boundaries Communicated by Geo.Chalmers Esq.r" deleted.
  6. 1808 circa:  address changed to 10 Soho Square.
  7. 1810 circa: Arrowsmith given title 'Hydrographer to H.R.H. the Prince of Wales ...',
  8. 1810 circa:  Michigan and Ohio Territories added for the first time.
  9. 1815: imprint changed to "Additions to 1802-1815."
  10. 1818: imprint changed to "Additions to 1802-1816."
  11. 1818: Imprint Changed to "Additions to 1802-1818."
  12. 1819: Imprint Changed to "Additions to 1819"  Northwest Territory, Indiana, Louisiana, Illinois Territory, Missouri Territory and Misissippi Territory are added.
  13. 1819:  Wing flaps added to the map to cover additional area outside the neatlines of the 4 sheets.

This is the second state of the map, previously unrecorded. We note a number of fascinating changes between the first state and this state, which are not mentioned in Stevens & Tree. These are primarily located in the Trans-Appalachian frontier regions. Notably, a road system is developed that passes through Hawkins, Tennessee, before swinging north into Kentucky and eventually connecting to Nashville. In the Ohio region, the demarcation line provided by the Treaty of Greenville, signed at the end of hostilities with the Miami tribe, divides the region. Fort Recovery, built in 1791, near General Sinclair's defeat, is also new. Several other details also appear in this region.


Arrowsmith's map of the United States is scarce on the market. We were unable to trace any other examples of this state.

Condition Description
Four sheets, joined and mounted on linen, as issued. Very minor area of repaired loss in left margin, not approaching image. Original hand-color, recently refreshed.
Tooley: Maps Of America, 172; Stevens & Tree: Comparative Cartography
Aaron Arrowsmith Biography

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.