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The First Large Format Plan of Baltimore

Second state of Charles Varle's exceptionally rare map of Baltimore, engraved by Francis Shallus, the earliest large format printed plan of the city.

The map includes a detailed street plan of Baltimore, along with, wharfs, roads, rivers and the location of a number of early land owners, major buildings.  The color scheme of the map is drawn from the note at the right, "the red colour designates the built part of the City, & the yellow the part unbuilt. "

The first state of this map appeared in 1799. While the mapmaker is not identified, it is generally thought that Charles Varle was the maker. In his Chronicles of Baltimore, J. Thomas Scharf writes: "[in 1797] Mr. George Keating published a small plan of the city, and two years after another was published by Mr. Charles Varle, which included some of the environs, with views of the buildings" (Scharf, p. 283).

Also, a comparison between this map and a 1796 plan of Philadelphia by Varle shows certain similarities in style, e.g., the manner in which houses, trees and relief are depicted, the lettering and the use of insets to illustrate the appearance of some of the major buildings. The plan itself and a comparison with Folie's map (no. 17) shows that Baltimore continued to expand toward the east, south and west, but still not to the north. Harrison's Marsh is completely developed and the wharves extended even further into the Basin. However, Pratt Street is not yet a through street and Charles Street is still facing the water. As noted by Olson (p. 30), the wealthy, for health reasons, erected summer residences on the hilltops; many of these retreats can be seen on this map, especially north and west of the city.

States of The Map

The map is known in two states.  The first state, dated 1799, lacks the name Warner & Hanna in the title. While the publishers announced in the May 4, 1801 Federal Gazette that "considerable amendments have been made to the same," there are few changes between the two states of the map. 

Observable changes include:

  • Addition of the J. Allbright and G. Warner names and houses below Pratt St. at the far left.
  • Addition of the name Federal Hill and Leonard Street at bottom center and a dashed line suggesting future land reclamation.
  • Lloyd L[ane] and Milk L[ane] added south of Pitt Street below the McElderly property.
  • The Smith and Stewart properties below Frederic Turnpike were removed because of the title banner


An exceptional example of this impossibly rarity. This is the first example of the second state of this map to appear on the market in the past 35 years.

We offered an example of the first state for sale in 2011.

We note the following examples in institutional collections:

  • 1799:  Library of Congress
  • 1801:  Peabody Library (Johns Hopkins University), Maryland State Archives, Winterthur Museum, University of Michigan (Clements), Yale.