Dorothy Sloan -- Books

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October 26, 2007

Rarest Form
Mitchell’s New Map of Texas Oregon & California

111. [MAP]. MITCHELL, S[amuel] Augustus. A New Map of Texas Oregon and California with the Regions Adjoining. Compiled from the Most Recent Authorities. Philadelphia Published by S. Augustus Mitchell N. E. Corner of Market & Seventh Streets. 1846 [lower left above border] Entered According to Act of Congress in the Year 1845 by H. N. Burroughs in the Clerks Office of the District Court of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. [text at lower left] Explanation [and] Emigrant Route From Missouri to Oregon. Lithograph map within ornamental frame border (border measures 2.8 cm wide with square corner pieces 3.6 x 3.6 cm), printed on heavy paper, original full hand color, ornamental border in pink, varnished , new wooden rollers supplied. Overall sheet size: 68.8 x 61.5 cm; map with frame border: 60.8 x 56.5 cm; map proper, neat line to neat line: 53.5 x 49 cm. Light overall darkened patina from old varnish, several small cracks (no losses), upper and lower blank margins lightly chipped, left and right margins trimmed (not affecting image), light water staining at top, overall a good copy of a map exceptionally rare in this format. Given the intended usage of wall maps and the varnishing of same, the condition found here is much better than usual and reflects the map as originally issued.

            First edition of a landmark map of the American West, the separate wall map issue with the variant border. The map was available in four forms: (1) as here, a separate wall map printed on heavy paper; (2) the more common pocket map printed on banknote paper and with printed guide (collation of guide book text varies); (3) inset at lower right on Mitchell’s huge wall map, Reference and Distance Map of the United States... (Philadelphia, 1846)-Rumsey gives priority to this version: “Mitchell first issued this map as an inset to his Reference and Distance Map of the United States in the 1846 edition”; (4) as an occasional added feature to S. Augustus Mitchell’s pamphlet, A General View of the United States... (Philadelphia, 1846, 128 pp.). In the present variant, the border is unlike that of (2) and (4) above. The borders on (2) and (4) are thinner and much simpler, consisting merely of stylized flowers and without the large square corner pieces. No border is present on (3) above. In the present version the frame border is wider and consists of a running vine with flowers and large square corner pieces. In (3) above and the present version, Canada is usually colored in dark olive wash above the 49th parallel, which area is uncolored in (2) and (4) in the copies we have seen. The present map reflects the ongoing controversy about the Canadian-U.S. border, and the Explanation at lower left explains the coloring thus: “The boundary of Oregon as proposed by the United States is coloured blue, and that proposed by Great Britain is coloured red.”

            This separate wall map is not well distinguished in the cartobibliographical record. References to the pocket map are as follows:  Baughman, Kansas in Maps, p. 35. Braislin Sale 1268. California 49: Forty-Nine Maps of California from the Sixteenth Century to the Present #25. Cohen, Mapping the West, pp. 134-135. Cowan II, p. 433. Day, 387. Graff 2841. Holliday Sale 787. Howes M685. Littell Sale 742. Martin & Martin, pp. 134-135, Color Plate XI (p. 56). Phillips, America, p. 844. Plains & Rockies IV:122b. Rumsey 534. Sabin 49714. Schwartz & Ehrenberg, The Mapping of America, p. 276. Smith 6886. Streeter Sale 2511. Taliaferro 280: “Mitchell synthesizes the key explorations and maps of the preceding years-those by Nicollet, Frémont, Wilkes, etc.-and gives one of the best portraits available of western North America on the eve of the Mexican War. Texas appears with the extravagant, claimed boundaries reaching as far west as Santa Fe.” Wheat, Mapping the Transmississippi West #520, Vol. III, p. 35. Wheat, Maps of the Gold Region #29, pp. xv-xvi.

            For those contemplating the journey west, the Oregon Road and the Santa Fe trails from Independence, Missouri are shown and a table of distances between Westport and Oregon City is printed. While portraying these advances, however, the map also makes clear the vast stretches of Old Mexico and the West that remain unknown and unexplored.  Much of California and the rest of the West are shown as basically featureless; “California” occupies the entire area of modern-day California, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado. The map also shows an early depiction of Texas as a state of the Union, complete with all its extravagant territorial claims, including a Panhandle that stretches aggressively north to the 42nd parallel and a border on the Rio Grande rather than the Nueces River. This map has been updated, however, to show Texas divided into counties instead of empresario grants.

            Brigham Young used a version of this map as he planned his escape to the Far West. Cohen, Mapping the West, p. 134 comments:

Brigham the winter of 1846...did what every practical traveler would do-he assembled the latest maps of the area about to be traversed. “I want you to bring me one half dozen of Mitchell’s new map of Texas, Oregon, and California and the regions adjoining, or his accompaniment to the same for 1846.... If there is anything later or better than Mitchell’s, I want the best....” Samuel Augustus Mitchell’s “New Map of Texas, Oregon and California” was the most popular of the West published up to that time, and in many ways it defined the American public’s view of the country’s changing geography. It was no wonder that Young would need several copies as he began his famous westward trek.... Apparently, the distance chart was consulted regularly by overland travelers, including the Mormons, who were known to have carried copies along the Mormon Trail in 1847....

During the middle of the nineteenth century, Mitchell (1792-1808) was the dominant commercial publisher of geographical materials. His career began as a teacher of geography but discouragement set in when he found inadequate the maps and atlases available to his students. He abandoned teaching with a plan to remedy the problem-he would turn his attention to publishing. In this endeavor he found his calling and after some forty years he had published many of the most popular and influential works disseminating the expanding knowledge about America and introducing many Americans to the subject of geography.


Sold. Hammer: $6,000.00; Price Realized: $7,050.00

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