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October 26, 2007

The Preferred Large-format, Colored Issue of Wilkes’ Oregon Map

8. [ATLAS]. [WILKES EXPEDITION]. UNITED STATES EXPLORING EXPEDITION (1838-1842). WILKES, Charles. Atlas. Narrative of the United States Exploring Expedition. During the Years 1838, 1839, 1840, 1841, 1842. By Charles Wilkes, U.S.N., Commander of the Expedition, Member of the American Philosophical Society, etc. In Five Volumes, and an Atlas. [title verso]: Entered...1844, By Charles Wilkes...District of Columbia. Philadelphia: Lea & Blanchard, 1845. [6] pp., 5 copper-engraved maps on bank note paper (see list following). Folio, original black ribbed cloth, covers blind-embossed, lettered in gilt on upper cover (Atlas U.S. Exploring Expedition), gilt eagle and sailing ship on lower cover, spine gilt lettered (U.S. Exploring Expedition. Vol. 6). Spine extremities chipped, spine frayed, cloth slightly faded with moderate shelf wear (including two corners). Endpapers with cancelled ink stamp reading “Property of the Staff Pontiac City Hospital” and with contemporary engraved book plate of D. E. Evans on front pastedown. Atlas only. Tweney, Washington 89 #83: “The Atlas is much sought by collectors.”

Map List

[1] Chart of the World Shewing the Tracks of the U.S. Exploring Expedition in 1838, 39, 40, 41 & 42. Charles Wilkes Esq. Commander [below neat line at lower right] Eng. by Sherman & Smith N.Y. Copper-engraved. Original full hand coloring. 59.5 x 84.5 cm. On a Mercator’s projection. Winds and currents shown. Tracks of the ships Vincennes, Peacock, Porpoise, Flying Fish, Oregon, and Relief. Map professionally strengthened on verso along some folds; some closed tears (no losses). Slight offsetting from title.

[2] Chart of the Antarctic Continent Shewing the Icy Barrier Attached to it. Discovered by the U.S. Ex. Ex. Charles Wilkes. Esq, Commander 1840. Eng. by Sherman & Smith, N.Y. Copper engraved, uncolored. 60 x 86.6. Tracks of Vincennes, Peacock, Porpoise, and Flying Fish. Five profile views of the Antarctic continent. Light offsetting. Clean tear (10 cm) at one fold (no loss).

[3] Chart of the Viti Group or Feejee Islands by the U.S. Ex. Ex. Charles Wilkes Esq. Commander 1840. Eng. by Sherman & Smith, N.Y. Copper-engraved, uncolored. 60 x 86.5 cm. Detailed chart with elevation shown by hachures. Light offsetting. Clean tear (10 cm) at one fold (no loss).

[4] Map of the Oregon Territory by the U.S. Ex. Ex. Charles Wilkes Esqr. Commander. 1841 [lower right below neat line]:J. H. Young & Sherman & Smith, N.Y. [inset left side] Columbia River Reduced from a Survey Made by the U.S. Ex. Ex. 1841. Copper-engraved, original outline hand color. 58.2 x 86.2 cm. Except for light offsetting and one slightly clumsy fold, very fine. Shows the area of Oregon Territory as claimed by the United States, extending well north of Vancouver, west from the Black Hills, north to just above the fifty-third parallel, and south to Cape Mendocino. Boundaries of Native American tribes are outlined in color. The Oregon map appears here in color, whereas in the later 8vo editions, it was uncolored and reduced in size to approximately 22 x 33 cm.

            Cohen, Mapping the West, pp. 120-122: “The first official [U.S.] chart of any portion of the West Coast and covers the coast from Cape Mendocino to Queen Charlotte Islands.... The inset of the Columbia River includes geography extending as far as Walla Walla. It is a handsome map printed on imported paper from copperplates purchased in France from the Dépôt de la Marine. The engravers themselves were European craftsmen who not only executed the work, but also trained the American apprentices, including the artist James McNeill Whistler, who served as an engraver on the Coast Survey and learned his craft from those who engraved the Wilkes charts.” Streeter Sale 3862. Wheat, Mapping the Transmississippi West #457 & Vol. II, pp. 177-178: “This map was in many respects the most detailed of this extensive area yet published, and for the main Oregon region and the Hudson’s Bay Company territories to the north it was an accurate, really quite extraordinary, map.... The areas now embraced by Oregon, Washington, and Idaho are very well mapped.... This map had much influence on the later maps of the area.”

[5] Map of Part of the Island of Hawaii Sandwich Islands Shewing the Craters and Eruption of May and June 1840. By the U.S. Ex. Ex. 1841 Sherman & Smith, Sc. N.Y. Copper-engraved, uncolored. Neat line to neat line: 39 x 60.3 cm. Shows the area from Hilo to the top of Mauna Loa. Slightly wrinkled at lower right blank corner, light offsetting, otherwise fine. This is an exceptionally skillful and beautiful map.

            Second edition, first issue of the atlas to accompany Lea & Blanchard unofficial edition of Charles Wilkes’ 1845 Narrative; the atlas was printed in an edition of 150 copies supplied to Wilkes for presentation and sale. Haskell 17A. This edition was preceded by the official edition of 1844, which was printed in 100 copies, of which 25 were destroyed by fire (Haskell #1, p. 34), and replaced by the 1845 edition, which this atlas accompanied. For the entire work, see: Cowan I, pp. 248-249n. Cowan II, p. 683. Ferguson, Australia 4209. Forbes, Hawaiian National Bibliography 1573. Hill (II) #1866. Howes W414. Rosove, Antarctica 353. Streeter Sale 3324.

            An early American exploring expedition conducted almost exclusively at sea, this voyage had numerous accomplishments to its credit, including mapping nearly three hundred islands, totally exploring the American Northwest Coast, and establishing the true nature of Antarctica as a continent. Other scientific works arising from the voyage followed in later years. Despite being marred by Wilkes’s fractious temper, which later caused trouble in his career, this voyage was a highly successful circumnavigation in practically every respect. “The United States equivalent to the voyages of James Cook, Jean François Galaup de Lapérouse, Alejandro Malaspina, and Ivan Fedorovich Kruzenshtern for England, France, Spain, and Russia, and the maritime equivalent of Lewis and Clark” (W. Michael Mathes).

            After being dismissed from West Point in 1854 for deficiencies in conduct and chemistry, artist James Abbott McNeill Whistler (1834-1903) realized he would never be able to follow his family’s tradition of engineering and military service. He worked for the U.S. Coastal Survey in Washington, D.C., making drawings and engraving maps of the American coastline. Exposure to mapmaking was the impetus that reinforced Whistler’s decision to devote himself to art. He sailed to Paris in 1855 and never returned to America.  ($2,000-$4,000)

Sold. Hammer: $3,400.00; Price Realized: $3,995.00

Auction 21 Abstracts

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