ARROWSMITH, Aaron Sr. (1750-1823). A Map of the United States of North America. London: A. Arrowsmith, 1796.

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Fine folding engraved map, float-mounted and framed (framed size: 58 x 50 4/8 inches), laid down on cartographic linen in 32 sections, with EXCEPTIONALLY FINE AND DELICATE ORIGINAL HAND-COLOUR IN FULL, and decorated with a large and fine vignette of Niagara Falls lower right.

AN EXCEPTIONALLY FINE FIRST EDITION, FIRST ISSUE EXAMPLE OF ARROWSMITH'S IMPORTANT MAP of America, With "Tennassee Government" appearing as a territory below Kentucky. The Great Lakes and the upper Mississippi are inaccurately and sketchily drawn, "very few roads are shown throughout, there is a long note in the lower left corner about the boundaries of Georgia, parts of Maine and Canada are blank or inaccurately drawn, and Georgia and Tennessee have much less detail. Only the title sheet that shows the Carolinas and Virginia is about the same, except for fewer roads. As geographical knowledge increased about the parts north and west, Arrowsmith filled in this map" (David Rumsey 3385.000). 

Both the 1796 and 1802 versions of Arrowsmith's map served as resources that Nicholas King consulted as he prepared his map for the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Thomas Jefferson owned the 1802 map, purchased at the time of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803.

From 1795 to 1857 at least nineteen editions or revisions of Arrowsmith's map of "North America" were published by him or his successors. On the subsequent third edition of 1815 this map, the Missouri River system is based on Lewis and Clark's published map.

Arrowsmith's 'Map of the United States of North America' is the most desirable from his well noted career. An acclaimed British cartographer, Aaron Arrowsmith drafted accurate, detailed charts that earned him the titles of Hydrographer to the King of England and Geographer to the Prince of Wales, extremely important distinctions during an era when Britain ruled the waves. One of the first great British cartographers of North America, Arrowsmith introduced a new standard of excellence in mapmaking in the late 18th century and almost single-handedly made London the center for the cartographic trade. Arrowsmith built his great success on this ability to attract both commercial and general viewers through his combination of visual and scientific appeal. The most influential and respected map publisher of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, Arrowsmith issued maps that were the result of careful synthesis rather than systematic, scientific inquiry. His role in cartographic production was to gather the best available information from a wide variety of sources, weigh the relative merits of conflicting data, and compile the most accurate depiction possible of an area. Arrowsmith accomplished this synthesis better than any other commercial mapmaker of his day and, as a result, his maps were the most sought after and highly prized on three continents. Catalogued by Kate Hunter