Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Extraordinary Wall Map of the Americas

Aaron Arrowsmith’s “Map of America” (1804) is one of the rarest and most significant maps he ever produced. An acclaimed British cartographer, Aaron Arrowsmith drafted accurate, detailed charts that earned him the titles of Hydrographer to the King of England and Geographer to the Prince of Wales, extremely important distinctions during an era when Britain ruled the seas. One of the first great British cartographers of North America, Arrowsmith introduced a new standard of excellence in mapmaking in the late eighteenth century and almost single-handedly made London the center for the cartographic trade. Arrowsmith built his great success on his ability to attract both commercial and general viewers through his combination of visual and scientific appeal.

This extraordinary wall map, engraved onto 4 sheets, depicts North and South America. It also shows the oceans that stretch between the Sandwich (Hawaii) and Cape Verdes Islands. Responding to the public’s demand for up-to-date maps of the newly acquired Louisiana Purchase, Arrowsmith drew on a number of sources in order to create his much heralded “Map of America.” Building on his earlier map of North America, “A Map Exhibiting all the New Discoveries in the Interior Parts of North America” (1795), Arrowsmith made use of the accounts of Cook, Vancouver, Mears, and La Perouse in order to create his updated 1804 wall chart. Though Meriwether Lewis and William Clark and Alexander von Humboldt had not yet concluded their own expeditions of the continent, Arrowsmith was, nevertheless, able to incorporate the recent findings of Alexander Mackenzie. In 1789, Mackenzie had been commissioned by the North-West Fur Company of Canada (a rival of the Hudson Bay Company) to explore the Rocky Mountains and the Canadian Arctic. Mackenzie’s tour of some 2,990 miles was achieved in the astonishing period of 120 days, from Slave Lake to the Arctic shore and back. Mackenzie’s atlas, which was published with the account of Vancouver’s Pacific voyages in 1798, provided much of the coastal detail for Arrowsmith’s highly accurate depictions of British-controlled western Canada and Russian Alaska.

Please contact Arader Galleries San Francisco (tel: 415.788.5115) with any additional questions about this amazing map.

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