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Europe. By the Leading English Cartographer of his Time.

Full original hand-color example of Aaron Arrowsmith's huge, separately-issued map of Europe, one of the best maps of Europe during the Napoleonic Wars.

This map shows Europe with its political boundaries of the day. The map extends from Iceland to Turkey and inland to the Ural Mountains. The detail is impressive, with roads, mountains, rivers, and cities shown throughout the continent. Political distinctions are delimited, with Austria-Hungary occupying most of Central Europe, Napoleonic France extending past its borders, Prussia consuming parts of the German confederation from the inside, and Turkey maintaining control over the Balkans. 

The edges of the map are denoted with various annotations. George Ellis is cited as the source for the eastern and southeastern portions of the map. The average number of boats passing through the Canal of Vetni Volotchok is given at 2,550, and the wonders of Russian inland navigation expounded. The number of foundries in the Urals is given as 105, 56 for iron and 37 for copper (the rest are for both metals).

The cartouche in the lower right features an image of "The Iron Bridge" above the River Severn, which was opened in 1781 and was the first major bridge in the world to be made of cast iron. Behind it is an image of a bridge-borne canal crossing a river. These allusions to innovations in transportation technology presaged the coming Industrial Revolution in Europe.

Arrowsmith is considered to be one of the greatest cartographers ever to produce maps. Based in London during a period of British expansion and exploration, he was privy to important, new information regarding the geography of faraway places. His work would be relied on by the leading explorers and scientists of his time, and his maps were the gold standard for early 19th-century cartography. Most notably, his chart of the Interior Parts of North America was one of the few maps used by Lewis and Clark on their voyage.

The map is dedicated:

To The Right Honble Sir Joseph Banks Bart K.B. One of his Majesty's most Honorable Privy Council and President of the Royal Society This Map is Respectfully Dedicated by HIs much obliged Humble Servt A. Arrowsmith


The map is known in two states.

  • First state: Charles Street imprint.
  • Second state: Rathbone Place imprint. Arrowsmith moved here in 1799.
Condition Description
Original hand-color. Dissected in 24 parts and mounted on original publisher's linen. Toned and linen disjointed at intersecting folds and along some folds. Small area of loss in Russia. Fair to Good.
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.