Arrowsmith’s Cornerstone Map of Mexico, Texas & the Transmississippi West

Grandiose Case Map, Sectioned & Mounted, “As Issued” Condition

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238. [MAP]. ARROWSMITH, Aaron. A New Map of Mexico and Adjacent Provinces Compiled from Original Documents by A. Arrowsmith 1810. London, Published 5th. October 1810, by A. Arrowsmith, 10 Soho Sque. Hydrographer to H.R.H. the Prince of Wales. Engraved by E[dward] Jones; [3 insets] [inset map, lower left sheet, below title] Valley of Mexico, from Mr. Humboldt’s Map [neat line to neat line: 37.4 x 44.2 cm]; [inset map, at left on lower right sheet] Acapulco [neat line to neat line: 14.5 x 16.5 cm, scale]; [inset map, at middle right on lower right sheet] Veracruz [neat line to neat line: 27.4 x 16.9 cm, scale and extensive soundings]; [key with symbols for capitals, towns, ranchos, presidios, etc., at lower left on lower left sheet] Explication des Signes; [bottom center below neat line on lower right sheet] London. Published 5th. Oct. 1810 by A. Arrowsmith 10 Soho Square. London, 1810. Copper-engraved map, original vivid outline color, each Mexican state with full color tint, seas with pale teal wash, 4 separate sheets, each sectioned into 9 pieces (36 total sections), mounted on original cartographic linen, each sheet measures overall approximately: 65.6 x 80.7 cm, neat line to neat line for the 4 sheets together: 129.6 x 159.4 cm, overall sheet size for entire map: 131.2 x 169.4 cm, each sheet with original cloth label engraved with 1, 2, 3, or 4, sheet 1 with engraved label No. 1 contains N.E. Sheet..., sheets 1 and 4 with original green marbled backing on outer folds, preserved in original or contemporary green marbled boards and black leather slip case (27.8 x 23 cm), with gilt lettering on spine: Arrowsmith’s Map of Mexico 1810 I.L.S. Contemporary ink stamps on verso of each sheet (Incorporated Law Society of the United Kingdom). Uniform light foxing (mainly at folds), some light staining (from original adhesive), a few minor losses and splits at folds, some chipping to marbled panels, case rubbed, generally very good, in “as issued” condition, with excellent color retention.

     First edition, first issue, the “Hydrographer to H.R.H.  The Prince of Wales.”  Streeter 1046, apparently in error, dates his copy as 1810 although it likely could not have been printed before 1820, because Arrowsmith is designated as “Hydrographer to His Majesty.” As Tooley points out: “[Arrowsmith] became Hydrographer to the Prince of Wales ca. 1810, and to the King in 1820.” Rumsey (2032.000) maintains that Streeter is incorrect in calling his entry 1046 the earliest issue; although it is dated 1810, it must be 1820 or after because Arrowsmith is designated as “Hydrographer to His Majesty.” The issues of Arrowsmith’s map can be differentiated by the placement of the hand-colored boundaries in Texas, as well as later additions to the engraving itself.

     As regards the outline coloring of the boundaries of Texas, in the present map the eastern boundary of Texas follows Humboldt and begins about a hundred miles east of the mouth of the Salinas, i.e. Sabine, at the mouth of what is called the Mermento River, i.e. Mermentau (well into Louisiana), and runs northeast along that river, then turns northwest to only a little above the 32nd parallel. There the boundary turns and follows a dotted line running slightly south of west to another dotted line heading northwest and placing San Saba within the boundary of Texas. (Streeter says that San Saba is well outside the boundary of Texas in his description of entry 1046A.) Here, just past San Saba, the dotted line and outline coloring turn abruptly to the southwest and continue to the Rio del Norte and Salado. The present map follows the boundary of Texas shown on Arrowsmith’s original manuscript map, which is reproduced in Jack Jackson’s Shooting the Sun, Plate 82 (see discussion pp. 368-376 & p. 518, 67A & 67B).

     In Rumsey’s “Hydrographer to his Majesty” edition (Streeter 1046, which is dated 1810 on the map but designated by Rumsey as the “5th edition”), the boundary coloring follows the Adams-Onis treaty line and the Red River before turning southwest to join and follow the dotted line from San Saba to Salado. Rumsey also remarks on the dating of this later map, “the mystery is why Arrowsmith did not add ‘additions to 1820’ on the title, and in fact erased the ‘additions to 1817’ that must have appeared on the plate before the most recent changes before the 1820 changes.”

     Regarding actual changes to the engraving through the various editions and issues, a few examples of such changes in later editions not present on our copy are: Two groups of islands off the coast of California that were added later are not present on our copy (Lobos, northeast of Alijos Rocks off the Coast of Baja California between the 25th and 26th parallel; and Otter, west of Santa Catalina island); our edition also does not have the road running northeast from Queretaro to Panuco; other roads and new towns are added around Mexico City (e.g., road from Tulancingo through Piedras Negras to Ft. Perote to Xalapa; also Ft. Perote was renamed from Perote; etc.).

     This was the first large-scale map to depict the important discoveries of Pike and Humboldt in the Southwest, and it became the most influential and widely copied map of the region in the era. As an early nineteenth-century publication based on information gathered by Spanish exploring parties in the eighteenth century, Arrowsmith’s map belongs to the beginning of a new cartographic sequence. Amon Carter Museum Exhibit, Crossroads of Empire (June 12-July 26, 1981): “For his improved rendering of the Brazos River, if for no other reason, Arrowsmith’s depiction of the Texas area merits inclusion as a landmark in the cartography of the region.” Mapoteca colombiana (Méjico), p. 40 #48. Phillips, America, p. 408. Rumsey 2035.001. Streeter 1046A: “The note to the Carte Générale discusses Humboldt’s charges that Arrowsmith in this map copied, without credit, from it and points out that these charges applied to the Mexican portion of the Carte Générale and that in its representation of Texas the Arrowsmith map, published as it was six years after the Carte Générale had been substantially completed, was a considerable improvement on the Humboldt map.” Taliaferro, Cartographic Sources in the Rosenberg Library 202. Torres Lanzas, Relación descriptiva de los mapas, planos, & de México y Floridas 500. Wheat, Mapping the Transmississippi West 295 & pp. 27-28. See also Warren Heckrotte, “Aaron Arrowsmith’s Map of North America and the Lewis and Clark Expedition” in The Map Collector 39, Summer 1987, pp. 16-20. Bill Warren, “Have You Heard Tell of Young Zebulon Pike” in Mercator’s World 2(2), March-April 1997, pp. 58-63.

     Martin & Martin, pp. 112-113 (Plate 25, illustrating the 1816 edition):

Aaron Arrowsmith [1750-1823], Hydrographer to the King of England and Geographer to the Prince of Wales, was the most influential and respected map publisher of the first quarter of the nineteenth century. His maps were the result of careful synthesis rather than the systematic, scientific inquiry of Humboldt or military reconnaissance such as Pike. His role in cartographic production was to gather the best information available from a wide variety of sources, weigh the relative merits of conflicting data, and compile from this the most accurate depiction possible of an area. Arrowsmith accomplished this synthesis better than any other commercial map maker of his day and, as a result, his maps were the most sought after and highly prized on three continents.... Arrowsmith’s map of Mexico was no mere copy [of Humboldt]. Relying on information provided to him by the Hudson’s Bay Company, he added significant details in the Northwest and his depiction of the California coast was probably taken from the British explorer Vancouver’s own charts. In the Texas area he undoubtedly used Pike’s rendition of the rivers, particularly of the Brazos and Guadalupe, while he followed Humboldt in tracing the coast from the Spanish Hydrographic Office chart. Consequently, true to his form, by combining the best parts of Humboldt’s and Pike’s maps and avoiding their errors and by adding his own new information, Arrowsmith contributed a significantly improved depiction of the region, thereby adding to a well-deserved reputation for excellence.

     Arrowsmith’s forte was large multi-sheet maps such as the present one. Generally these were separately issued rather than appearing in atlases, and are now highly prized and sought after in “as issued” case maps, sectioned and mounted on cartographic linen. His five great wall maps of the Americas were particularly well-received, and became “foundation or prototype maps of the area and were extensively copied by other publishers” (Tooley’s Dictionary of Mapmakers (revised edition), Vol. I, pp. 46-48). These five wall maps were of North America (first published 1795), the United States (1796), the West Indies (1803), South America (1810), and the present map. They were generally republished many times, as new information became available. Thomas Jefferson considered the 1803 edition of North America the best map of the continent in print at the time and it was used extensively in planning the Lewis and Clark’s expedition. For more on Arrowsmith and his great contributions beyond our provincial concerns, see DNB: “His elephantine maps...will always remain monuments of his untiring industry and unshaken faith in honest work.”

     Regarding the Humboldt-Pike-Arrowsmith controversy, Jack Jackson (Shooting the Sun, p. 380) presented the most rational conclusion: “Simply stated then, the maps of Humboldt, Pike, and Arrowsmith vary considerably in their Texas portions, but taken together represent an understanding of the province not seen on maps published before their time. Between the three of them, they influenced most maps of Texas and northern New Spain for the next two decades.”


Sold. Hammer: $15,000.00; Price Realized: $18,375.00.

Auction 23 Abstracts

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