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Universe of Maps - Opening the David Rumsey Map Center


A Map of the British Empire in America with the French and Spanish Settlements adjacent thereto. Popple, Henry. London: 1733
This is the first large scale map of America and the most accurate at the time. It shows the areas claimed by the British in red, the French in green, the Spanish in yellow, and the Dutch in blue. Inset maps and views appear on the right and top of the map.
A Map of Lewis and Clark's Track, Across the Western Portion of North America From the Mississippi to the Pacific Ocean, in History Of The Expedition Under The Command Of Captains Lewis And Clark, To The Sources Of The Missouri, Thence Across The Rocky Mountains And Down The River Columbia To The Pacific Ocean. Allen, Paul; Biddle, Nicholas; Clark, William; Lewis, Meriwether; Lewis, Samuel. Philadelphia: 1814
This map and the written account of the expedition changed American mapping of the northwest part of North America by giving the first accurate depiction of the relationship of the sources of the Missouri, the sources of the Columbia, and the Rocky Mountains. The map was copied by Samuel Lewis from William Clark's original drawing, and was engraved by Samuel Harrison.
A Map of the Middle British Colonies in North America. First Published by Mr. Lewis Evans, of Philadelphia, in 1755; and since corrected and improved, as also extended with the addition of New England, and bordering Parts of Canada; in A Topographical Description of Such Parts of North America as are Contained in the (Annexed) Map of the Middle British Colonies, in North America. Pownall, Thomas; Evans, Lewis; Almon, John; Turner, James; Gist, Christopher. London: 1776
This work contains an updated version of Lewis Evans' important 1755 "Map of the Middle British Colonies in North America. Pownall's "Topographical Description" text accompanying the map describes the areas contained in the updated map in great detail. In addition, there are six important appendices of writings by explorers in the region plus parts of Evans' original essay on his 1755 edition of the map. The writings and the map provide an unique look at the late 18th century American environment and settlements.
Carte Du Mexique et des Pays Limitrophes Situes Au Nord et a l'est, in Atlas Geographique Et Physique Du Royaume De La Nouvelle-Espagne. Humboldt, Alexander von. Paris: 1811
Humboldt was a scientist, cartographer, and environmentalist who made some of the best maps of Mexico and the American southwest, which this map portrays. The area between California and the Rocky Mountains was largely unexplored at the time. Later maps used this map as a primary source.

The three maps in these cases and the large wall map above them cover almost 100 years of the early mapping of America. From 1733 to 1814 they show the growth of cartographic knowledge based on surveys, explorations, and travel accounts. Pownall’s 1776 map shows the kind of detailed mapping that filled in the broad regions depicted in Popple’s 1733 wall map. Humboldt’s 1811 map details the American southwest and Mexico, areas only generally covered in early mapping. Finally, the Lewis and Clark map of 1814 provides on the ground discoveries from their own journey to the Pacific, all of which are shown in their map and were later used by the best cartographers in their maps of America. These four maps illustrate well the way maps improve over time and draw on each other to provide an increasingly accurate picture of the world.