Charting New Territory: Rare Early American Atlas Held In A Private Collection Since 1880
On Thursday, September 28, Freeman’s will host its Fall 2017 Books, Maps & Manuscripts auction. Though encompassing notable material from a range of collecting genres, the sale is highlighted by a fresh-to-the-market example of what is generally considered to have been the first American atlas: Charts of the Coast of America from Cape Breton to the Entrance of the Gulph of Mexico, published and sold by Matthew Clark and Osgood Carleton in Boston between 1789 and 1790. Tradition holds that this particular copy, which is comprised of sixteen of the original eighteen charts available for subscription, has been kept in the same private collection since 1880. It is one of but few extant bound sets of Clark’s charts: individual sheets are rare in themselves, seldom appearing at auction, and most complete copies of the atlas are only to be found in university archives or private libraries. This sale, therefore, represents a rare opportunity for collectors to acquire an important piece of early Americana and a key document in the country's cartographic history.
The largest printed survey of the East Coast of North America at the time of its production, the atlas’s engraved, nautical charts depict territory from Cape Breton to the Gulf of Mexico. The maps were intended to be a set of working charts and consequently, rarely survived their use at sea, making this compilation exceedingly rare. Dedicated to the renowned Bostonian John Hancock, this volume is especially interesting because each chart bears cartographer Osgood Carleton's signature. The presence of multiple signatures indicates that this volume consists of charts that were individually sold, serially issued and later bound, thereby pre-dating the single-volume general atlases that that Clark and Carleton later sold and authenticated with just one signed notice.
The atlas's subscriber-owner appears to be a certain "Elihu Morris," who floridly inscribed his name in brown ink under the word "Massachusetts" at the preface. He may be identified with many others known by this name in earlier periods, but a provisional identification might be made with the E. Morris specified in the will of William Morris of Shrewsbury, Monmouth County, NJ, dated 7 April, 1777.
Alongside this important atlas, Freeman's will present other noteworthy Americana, including: a first edition engraved and hand-colored "Accurate Map of North and South Carolina, with their Indian Frontiers," by R. Sayer & J. Bennett, London, circa 1775 (Lot 126); a document dated December 22, 1834 and signed by William Barret Travis (1806-1836), an Alabama-born lawyer, who was a leader in the Texas Revolution and Joint Commander at the Alamo (Lot 102); and an autograph letter written on October 12, 1857 and signed by Confederate General Robert E. Lee (Lot 101).
Freeman's Books, Maps, and Manuscripts Auction will take place at 10am on September 28, 2017 at 1808 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA. The exhibition will be open Sunday, September 24 at 12pm-5pm, and Monday, September 25 through Wednesday, September 27: 10am-5pm.