Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - October - 2004 Issue

American Cartography From<br>William Reese

234reese1

American Cartography from the William Reese Company.


By Michael Stillman

The William Reese Company
has issued their 234th catalogue, entitled "American Cartography." It is a collection of American maps and books containing maps, from as extensive as both continents, to as small as individual towns or counties. For those who wonder how we got around before Mapquest, William Reese has the answer.

What's New York without a Broadway to give your regards to, nor a Herald Square to be remembered? No Rockefeller Center, Madison Square, Times Square, or 42nd Street? Here is what it is: Map of New York City...as it is in 1835. This 1835 map by David Burr shows development only as far as 14th Street. It was much easier to take a trip to the countryside in those days. Item 15. Priced at $1,350.

Item 101 is John Marshall's The Life of George Washington... This is likely the best contemporary biography of the nation's first president, written by its most important Supreme Court Chief Justice. This set contains five volumes of text (including the history of the colonies omitted from later editions) plus the atlas. This is also likely an interesting association copy. It is signed "T. Biddle," who was probably Thomas Biddle, an officer in the War of 1812 who was later killed in a duel. Biddle was a paymaster in the army in 1831, but his brother, Nicholas, was president of the U.S. Bank. Congressman Spencer Pettis was an opponent of the Bank, and evidently said some unkind words about its president. Reportedly, Thomas Biddle went to Pettis' hotel room, where he lay ill, and whipped him. On recovering, Pettis challenged Biddle to a duel. Being the challengee, Biddle got to the pick the distance, and being poor of eyesight, picked the ridiculously short distance of five paces. The result was inevitable. Both were shot dead. My guess is if anyone dared speak such ill of Alan Greenspan today, he too would probably be shot. Now here's a connection for Lewis and Clark collectors. As we all know, the famed western travel book simply called "Lewis and Clark" does not show Lewis' or Clark's name as author, but Paul Allen as editor. Well, Tom's brother Nick was originally commissioned to produce that famous book, but bowed out when elected to the Pennsylvania legislature. $4,500.

The earliest map showing the American (Pacific) Northwest is in Polyhistor, Rerum Toto Orbe Memorabilium Thesaurus Locupletissimus from Julius Solinus. Item 160 is the 1543 second edition, following the 1538 first, of this work. The map was likely drawn by famed mapmaker Sebastian Munster. The map is actually of Asia major, but in the upper right corner, across the Pacific, is a landmass referred to simply as "Terra incognita." The land would remain "incognita" for many years to come. The map shows a small bay, some hills and some trees, though one suspects the coastline was made up rather than depicting someone's actual knowledge of the area. $15,000.

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