“To say that this work fills a gap would be an understatement”—Archibald Hanna

Monumental Cartobibliographical Set Printed by Grabhorn, Superb Condition

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405. [MAP REFERENCE]. WHEAT, Carl I[rving]. Mapping the Transmississippi West by Carl I. Wheat. Volume One The Spanish Entrada to the Louisiana Purchase 1540-1804 [Volume Two From Lewis and Clark to Fremont 1804-1845; Volume Three From the Mexican War to the Boundary Surveys 1846-1854; Volume Four From the Pacific Railroad Surveys to the Onset of the Civil War 1855-1860; Volume Five From the Civil War to the Geological Survey [in 2 parts]. San Francisco: Grabhorn Press for the Institute of Historical Cartography, 1957; 1958; 1959; 1960; 1963; 1963. Colored frontispieces, title-pages in black and red, copious maps illustrated (some folding and/or in color). 5 vols. in 6, folio (37 x 26.5 cm), original green textured cloth over tan linen, gilt-lettered spines. Other than a few inconsequential spots to a couple of the bindings, an exceptionally fine, complete set, interior pristine. Laid in is original prospectus (The Institute of Historical Cartography Announces...) with small blue label of International Booksellers on first leaf, and their blue ink stamp at end. Original plain brown dust jackets present.

     First edition (1,000 sets printed). Grabhorn 590: “The five subsequent volumes were printed to the specifications of the first volume designed by the Grabhorns. Volumes II-IV were printed by Taylor & Taylor; Volume V by James Printing Co.” Hill II:1850. Howell, California 50:1655. Rittenhouse 640. Streeter Sale 4416. George Kish, Review in Imago Mundi, Vol. 18 (1964), p. 98: “Here, in six magnificent tomes, the story of the mapping of the West of the United States is told. It is a labor of love and of learning, the culmination of a lifetime of searching for and collecting maps of the old American West, of collating and checking new against known ones, of analysis and description. In over sixteen hundred pages of text, tables and indices, the author produced a work that will for many a year stand as a monument of historical cartography.... This reviewer is convinced that Carl Wheat’s six volumes will stand with those by Harrisse, Phillips, and Wagner among the great studies of American cartography.”

     We cannot resist presenting dearly departed Archibald Hanna’s review of Vol. I only, which appeared in The American Historical Review, Vol. 63, No. 4 (July, 1958), pp. 1000-1001:

“For as Geography without History seemeth a carkasse without motion; so History without Geography wandreth as a Vagrant without a certaine Habitation.” This quotation from Captain John Smith, which serves as an introduction to the first section of Mr. Wheat’s bibliography, is a truth that has all too often been neglected by historians. It is not only that those who have written on the history of the exploration of such areas as the trans-Mississippi West have far too frequently been content to assume an adequate geographical knowledge on the part of their audience. Their own researches, which have utilized every contemporary printed account and every diary, letter, or scrap of manuscript relating to their subject, have often ignored completely the value of maps as sources. But, as Wheat points out: “Only from the maps that reflect hard journeys and hazardous exploits over these many years may one adequately grasp the impressive story.... With all their faults....they better than any other documents illustrate the story of developing thought and understanding and vividly reflect the advance and unfoldment of knowledge in respect of this enormous and majestic region.”

Wheat’s aim is to trace the development and expansion of knowledge of the trans-Mississippi West from the earliest Spanish chart down to the time, in the early 1860s, when there were no major areas of this region left unmapped. His field is not only one of great importance to the student of American history but also one of great difficulty. The sheer size and geographical complexity of the area involved are tremendous, including as it does vast mountain ranges, deserts, and the watersheds of at least half a dozen major river systems. Moreover, in the more than three centuries covered by this study, explorers from four different nations were penetrating the area from different directions, often contemporaneously. The number of maps on which their findings appear runs into the thousands.

The present volume, the first of a projected series of five, covers the period from Coronado’s now vanished chart of his route to Tiguex down to the Louisiana Purchase. The work is divided into two parts—an extended narrative and a bibliocartography. The frequently overlapping efforts of Spanish, French, and English explorers make a strictly chronological treatment impossible. Wheat therefore deals first with the Spanish explorations from Coronado to Onate and the maps displaying the results of their first penetration of the region from the south. There follows a chapter on the European maps of the seventeenth century, more remarkable for such imaginary geography as the “island” of California and the Sea of the West than for any real contributions to knowledge. In turn, French exploration from the east, Spanish mapping from Kino to Humboldt, the curious aberrations of commercial mapmakers in the last half of the eighteenth century, and Spanish exploration of the Missouri are discussed. The last chapter treats of explorations by the fur traders of the Hudson’s Bay and Northwest companies.

In all, some 262 maps are discussed in the narrative, and these are listed chronologically, with full bibliographical detail, in the bibliocartography which makes up the second portion of the work. Although there is no census of copies, at least one location is given for each map listed. Facsimiles of fifty maps are included with the text.

To say that this work fills a gap would be an understatement. Save for the author’s preliminary study, Mapping the American West (Worcester, Mass., 1954), there is no other work in the field. There are to be sure catalogues of maps and atlases, and some maps are discussed in such bibliographies as the Wagner-Camp, The Plains and the Rockies. The only comparable work is Henry R. Wagner’s Cartography of the North-West Coast, which deals with only a small sector of the West. It is worthwhile to note that although his death last year brought to an end Wagner’s long and productive career, his influence happily continues to be felt, for T.W. Streeter’s monumental Texas bibliography and the present work both owe their inception to his encouragement. The fruit of twenty years of painstaking scholarship, Wheat’s work is one which no reference library can do without and which no historian of the West can afford to ignore. To add delight to solid worth, it has been handsomely printed by the Grabhorn Press.


Auction 23 Abstracts

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