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Early Manifest Destiny Map

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333.     [MAP]. MELISH, John. United States of America Compiled from the Latest & Best Authorities by John Melish [below neat line] Philadelphia, Published by M. Carey, & Son. 1821 | Engraved by B. Tanner [number at top right blank margin partially trimmed] N. 68. Philadelphia, 1821. Copper-engraved map on bank note paper, original hand-coloring, ornately lettered title, neat line to neat line: 41.2 x 52.7 cm; overall sheet size: 42 x 53.3 cm. Creased where formerly folded. A few light corrosion stains and two small voids in the Atlantic Ocean, two small infilled voids in map area (no appreciable losses in either case), otherwise fine. Title of map written three times in pencil on verso of map. Matted, wooden frame, glazed.

     Rumsey 1642.071 (dated 1821, inserted in Mathew Carey & M. Lavoisne’s A Chronological, and Geographical Atlas... Enlarged by the Addition of Several New Maps…. Philadelphia: M. Carey & Sons, 1820). This map appeared in A Complete Genealogical, Historical, Chronological, and Geographical Atlas (Philadelphia: M. Carey & Sons, 1821; Phillips, Atlases 132), where it is listed as part of the contents. Day, Maps of Texas, p. 12. Wheat, Mapping of the Transmississippi West #344 & Vol. II, p. 76 (noting appearance in Joshua Shaw, United States Directory, Philadelphia, 1822).

     The present map is an early, reduced edition of a widely circulated and influential map of the United States by Melish published in 1816. Melish’s delineation presents one of the most forceful depictions of the U.S. Louisiana Purchase extending far beyond the Mississippi River. Matthew H. Edney in Mapping the Republic: Conflicting Concepts of the Territory and Character of the U.S.A., 1790–1900, comments: “Melish foreshadowed the idea of ‘Manifest Destiny.’” See also: Cohen, Mapping the West, pp. 102-104. Martin & Martin 26: “Of lasting value [because of the] widespread dissemination of new information concerning Texas geography.” Streeter 1057. Wheat 322. Melish’s map has further historical value for Texas, since Melish based his conformation of the Sabine River boundary on Darby’s actual survey made on the ground in Texas and Louisiana in 1812 and 1813 (see Streeter 1057). The configuration of Texas is improved over Humboldt.

     Because Melish’s map was the most authoritative available at the time, the Spanish and U.S. plenipotentiaries used it as the definitive depiction during their negotiations over the boundary between Spain and the U.S. in 1819. Melish’s map encouraged popular support for the U.S. bargaining position of a boundary at the Rio Grande. John Quincy Adams settled for less in the Adam-Onís Treaty, but the mood created continued in the popular mind, resurfacing in the 1840s with the movement for the “reannexation” of Texas.

     John Melish (1771-1822) was the country’s first publisher devoted solely to cartographical and geographical works and became the most prominent such publisher in the U.S. Engraver Benjamin Tanner was the brother of Henry S. Tanner, who engraved Stephen F. Austin’s map of Texas. The meticulous quality of the engraving in form and content is typical of the high standards maintained by the Tanner firm.


Sold. Hammer: $425.00; Price Realized: $510.00

Auction 22 Abstracts

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