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The First American Map of Louisiana Territory

Nice example of Arrowsmith & Lewis's map of Louisiana Territory, first published shortly after the completion of the Louisiana Purchase and about the time Lewis & Clark set out to explore the Upper Missouri River in search of a navigable route to the Pacific Ocean.

As noted by Wheat, the map

was unquestionably the offspring of the notable map originating a decade earlier when the Spanish Governor of Louisiana enlisted Antoine Soulard, to make for him an up-to-date map of the Upper Missisisippi and Missouri Basins. . . . the resulting effort, in its original Spanish version, was apparently sent by Governor Carondolet to Spain, where it has seemingly disappeared; that a French version drawn by Soulard is today preserved in Paris; that this was followed by an English version which Lewis and Clark apparently carried with them on their journey, and that another Spanish version now in Madrid . . . How, where or when Samuel Lewis of Philadelphia came by Soulard's map is not explained, nor is its original author, Antoine Soulard, given credit for what was a remarkable map, considering the time and the locale of its production.

Engraved by Henry Schenk Tanner, the map is one of Tanner's earliest works and a forerunner to many of the most important maps of the Transmissisippi West.

The cartography of the region west of the Mississippi depicted on this map is described by Wheat in his Mapping the Transmississippi West, for over 5 pages, noting all of the first and important features. Certainly, this was the best widely circulated map of the region prior to the explorations of Lewis & Clark. Lewis and Soulard incorporate the maps of John Evans, James Mackay, Jacques d'Eglise and Jean Baptiste Truteau, each of which existed only in manuscript form.

As Wheat states, until Lewis and Clark's own map appeared in print in 1814, the Soulard map, in the version offered to the public by Arrowsmith & Lewis in 1804, constituted the most ambitious, and --despite its many obvious infirmities--the most informative published attempt to portray the West and Northwest of what is now the United States.

An essential map of the American West.

Wheat, C.I. (TM) 259, 1804 edition; Paullin & Wright pl.28; Luebke, F.C. p.42; Reinhartz & Colley p.62; Cohen, P. (West) p.80.
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.