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Rare map of North America, showing the Transmississippi West on the eve of the Lewis & Clark expedition.

The map has two significant features.  The large partially defined area shown as Louisiana is a representation of Spanish Louisiana on the eve of the Louisiana Purchase.  Curiously, the map is shaded as being Spanish, along with Mexico (then New Spain).  This is likely because the British were unaware of the secretive Third Treaty of San Ildefonso, wherein Napoleon secretly acquired the territory, but Spain continued to administer it, until the Louisiana purchase in 1803.  Similarly, British ambitions to Upper California and the the Northwest are illustrated by the pink shading.

Focusing on the river systems above the Pawnee Villages on the Missouri River, a very defined set of rivers is shown flowing east from the Rocky Mountains. This is the cartographic detail found in Arrowsmith's map of North America, which was instrumental in Lewis & Clark's search for a portage across the Rocky Mountains and on to the Pacific. The northern Rocky Mountains tease several option further north in the region then the domain of the Hudson's Bay Company.

A rare and interesting map, which was likely printed sometime in the first decade of the 19th Century, based upon its cartographic content.


This is the first example of the map we have seen.

John Cary Biography

John Cary (1755-1835) was a British cartographer and publisher best known for his clean engraving and distinct style which influenced the entire map industry. Born in Wiltshire, John was apprenticed to an engraver in London. He started his own business by 1782 and moved to several premises before settling at 86 St James’s Street in 1820.

Cary had several significant collaborations during his career. John Wallis and Cary diversified Cary’s business to include broader publishing projects. Brother William and John made globes together, while brother Francis participated in the company’s engraving work. Finally, geologist William Smith and Cary developed and sold geological maps, some of the first of their kind. The pair also produced a notable series of county maps starting in 1819. Cary’s atlases, of English counties and the world, were the standard texts of the early nineteenth century. He was appointed surveyor of roads to the General Post Office in 1794, which led to the New Itinerary, first published in 1798.  

John trained his son, George, in engraving and George and his other son, John Jr., took over the business in 1821. It was then known as G. and J. Cary and continued in trade until 1850. The firm’s materials were then acquired by George Frederick Cruchley and then Gall and Inglis. By the time John died in 1835, Cary was the authoritative name in private map publishing and his business was a leader in the field throughout the first half of the nineteenth century.