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One of the Great Maps of the American West in an Exceedingly Rare State. A Foundational Adams-Onís Map and An Important Remapping of the Northwest Passage.

Arrowsmith's The Interior Parts of North America stands out as one of the aspirational maps for all collectors of American cartography. The 1802 edition of The Interior Parts was one of the few maps taken on the Lewis and Clark expeditions, and the 1814 edition was the first published wall map to show their findings. This very rare 1819 edition of the map is critical for three reasons: 1) it is the first to show the delimitation of the Adams-Onís treaty of 1819 and shows shared British and American claims to the Pacific Northwest; 2) it shows the extension of the US-Canadian border to the Rocky Mountains; and 3) it remaps Baffin's Bay showing no outlet, following the results of John Ross's contentious 1818 expedition.

Aaron Arrowsmith's undisputed position as London's (and thus the world's) leading cartographer at the start of the 19th century gave him access to more information than any of his contemporaries for his map of North America. In the Pacific Northwest, Arrowsmith's access to David Thompson's manuscript maps of the Columbia River allowed for him to provide a far more accurate delineation of the Columbia River than any other mapmaker. Arrowsmith's connections with the Hudson Bay Company allowed him to define the Canadian interior and the Rocky Mountains before other cartographers. The extensive records of his interactions with important arctic explorers show how his maps defined the search for a Northwest Passage. On top of all this, Arrowsmith kept up to date with published and unpublished material from his contemporaries including John Melish, Zebulon Pike, William Darby, and Alexander von Humboldt.

Outside of Greenland, three colors are shown on the map. Green represents the Spanish claims to North America, including Alta California, which is here labeled New Albion. Yellow shows the extent of the United States, while red shows the British Empire. The careful observer will note ambiguity in the Pacific Northwest, this is discussed further below. The borders shown are important for understanding the geopolitics of the day.

The map shows topography, rivers, lakes, and other geographical features in the region. Detail in California has not been filled in, with "Fort St. Francisco" just appearing on an inlet in the coast. Northwards, in present-day Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia, rivers branch across the map, topography is shown, and Mt. Rainier, Mt. Hood, and Mt. St. Helens are already named. Alaska has a "Russian Factory," and Mckenzie's tracks to the sea along his eponymous river are shown. The plains and the Rocky Mountains have fantastic detail. Tracks of explorers, including Lewis and Clark, are shown across the continent and at sea. The detail allows any curious observer to lose themselves in the map for hours.

This map was published by Aaron Arrowsmith, royal hydrographer, in 1819 at his Soho Square address. A remarkable piece.

The Depiction of the Adams-Onís Treaty and the Treaty of 1818

This edition of the map is the first to show the effect of the Adams-Onís Treaty and the Treaty of 1818. The Adams-Onís Treaty allocated Florida to the United States, thus removing the border between the two visible in earlier maps. Just as importantly, in the West, the northern Spanish boundary is demarcated for the first time. It traces northwards through Texas and the Arkansas River, before hitting the 42nd parallel near the mouth of the Colorado River.

Here, the map is consciously ambiguous in its depiction of claims. The American border (yellow) tracks to the coast, where it meets the British border (red), coming down from Canada. This reflects the Treaty of 1818, which allowed for joint occupation and joint settling of the Oregon Territory. The partitioning of territory allowed for both nations to profit from the fur trading in the region, but as settlement pushed westwards, it would become evident that this treaty had only postponed the need to demarcate clear boundaries.

The previous edition of this map, the 1818 edition, showed the representation of British territory extending to San Francisco and American territory stopping near Wisconsin. The extent of the boundary is shown in the John Melish 1818 Map of the United States of America, but this was published before the signing of the treaty and does not show the joint claim to the Pacific Northwest. As such, this appears to be the first correct after the fact depiction of the Adams-Onís treaty published on a wall map.

The Extension of the Canadian Borderlands

Also as part of the 1818 treaty, the border between the US and Canada is extended from the Lake of the Woods to the Rocky Mountains. This is the first map to show the correct treatment of the Northwest Angle in Lake of the Woods, as it is excluded from the earlier Melish map. This map then traces the boundary along the 49th parallel.

In this map, the Canadian borderlands abound with notable details. The many branches of the Missouri River are shown. Native American tribes are named alongside population estimates and topography is shown. An explanation of portage routes across the continent is given.

The issue of the "Northwest Angle" in the Lake of the Woods harkens back to another foundational map of the United States, the Mitchell map, which was used to decide the boundary between the United States and British Dominions when the nation was first founded. Based on a miss-mapping of the Lake, it was decided that the boundary of the United States would extend up until the northwesternmost point of the lake.

A Revolutionary Baffin's Bay

The depiction of Baffin's Bay appears to be the first published after news of John Ross's infamous voyage to try and find a Northwest Passage. Previous maps of Baffin's Bay left the Davis Strait open to the pole, and any land borders were faintly filled in.

The Ross Expedition of 1818 was the first in the 19th century that searched for a Northwest Passage through Arctic Canada. The expedition would reach the Davis Strait by mid-June, and as shown on the present map, they would circumnavigate the sound in a clockwise manner. Ross reported seeing no way out of the bay. Most notably, what is now known to be the Parry Strait, Ross claimed to see a mountain chain at the far end of the bay, which he named Croker's Mountains.

Of course, Ross was wrong in this reports. One year later, Admiral Parry would sail past the imaginary Croker's mountains, redrawing the map of the region yet again. In post-1819 editions of this map, Arrowsmith would respond by doubting the results of Ross's reports and would "open" various straits, including Sir Thomas Smith's Sound, Alderman Jones' Sound, and the River Clyde, as well as eliminating the long chain of mountains that Ross claimed characterized the western shore of the Davis Strait and Baffins Bay. Ross's emphatic mountains are present in this state.


Arrowsmith and his heirs issued his map between 1795 and 1850, with all editions of the map being rare. Each successive edition pushed the detail on the map further west, with early editions barely showing features past the Mississippi. The 1802 map was considered the most accurate map of its time of the trans-Mississippi West, and thus was chosen as one of the very few maps to be taken on the Lewis and Clark expedition. The 1814 edition was the first to show their results, and represented a huge leap in American cartography. Later editions continued this tradition. After 1830, the map appears to have been published for the sole use of the Hudson Bay Company and these editions were produced in very limited runs and commonly show with manuscript annotations from sea captains.

This 1819 edition was preceded by an 1818 edition that lacks definition of the US border and information in Baffin's Bay. It appears that this edition was succeeded by one in 1820, as later states record "Additions to 1811. 18. 19. 20" in the cartouche. However, no source appears to have successfully traced an example of the 1820 map. The next known edition appeared in 1821 and updated the Davis Strait with information from the Parry Expedition.


The 1819 edition of the map is particularly rare. We have been able to trace one example having appeared on the market, in the 1966 Streeter sale.

It is unclear if any institutional holdings of this map actually exist. The map is not recorded in institutional collections through OCLC or other means. However, the map was sometimes included in a collection termed Thompson's Alcedo. Interestingly, the 1819 edition is not included in the 1819 Thompson's Alcedo held at Stanford University in the David Rumsey Collection. Rather, that collection includes the 1818 edition. Two further examples of the 1819 Thompson's Alcedo are recorded, at the BL and the Minnesota State Historical Archives, however, their contents are not listed. It is most likely that these also include the 1818 edition, making this map non-existent in any institutional collections.

Condition Description
Original hand-color in outline. Six sheets, joined as three. Pastedown sheet updating northern Greenland. Lower right sheet has left margin extended, probably at the time of publication. Minor offsetting and toning near folds. In all, a Very Good example.
Aaron Arrowsmith's Map of North America and the Lewis & Clark Expedition, The Map Collector, Spring 1987, pp 16-20; DeVoto, Westward the Course of Empire, p. 328 (1953).
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.