A New and Authentic Map of the World Embracing all the Recent Discoveries, and exhibiting particularly the Nautical researches of the most Distinguished Circumnavigators, From the Latest & Best Authorities; With Numerous Corrections & Additions. Henry Schenk Tanner, engraver Edward B. Dawson.

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A New and Authentic Map of the World Embracing all the Recent Discoveries, and exhibiting particularly the Nautical researches of the most Distinguished Circumnavigators, From the Latest & Best Authorities; With Numerous Corrections & Additions.

Philadelphia: H. S. Tanner, 1831. Engraved by E. B. Dawson. Hand-colored engraving on six joined sheets, 35.5” x 66.25” plus margins, mounted on original linen and affixed to original wooden rods. CONDITION: Very good, untouched condition, color faded, small losses at edges, cracks and tears to margins occasionally extending into printed border; on the whole a very well-preserved example.

An exceptionally rare and important world map by a leading figure during America’s “golden age of cartography,” replete with information on important voyages and discoveries, and arguably the crowning achievement of Henry Tanner’s illustrious mapmaking career.

Tanner’s world map was the subject of various newspaper advertisements and notices, one reviewer observing, “The object of Mr. Tanner was not to make a reprint of any former map, but to incorporate into one splendid effort, the correct delineations of existing publications with the late discoveries of Ross, Franklin, Parry, Kotzebu, Humboldt, Pike, Long, Rutland, &c. on the western hemisphere” (United States Gazette, March 29, 1831). For this large and very handsome wall map Tanner opted for a stereographic projection, about which he noted:

[it] obviates that distortion of countries situated in the eastern and western extremities of each hemisphere, which is presented by the globular, and most other developments of the sphere. This projection is the only one which preserves a just configuration of those parts … exhibiting the countries, seas, lakes, mountains, &c in their true proportions … (Philadelphia National Gazette, December 1, 1829).

Similar in overall design to David Vance’s world map of 1826, Tanner’s map consists of two hemispherical forms, set within a handsome ornamental border. Occupying the four corners are a chart of the comparative lengths of the principal canals in the world (upper left); vertical sections of North America, with various profiles (upper right); and tables of statistics in the lower left and lower right corners for North America, South America, the West Indies, Europe, Asia, Oceana, and Africa. Criss-crossing the seas are the tracks of various explorers, including M. de la Perouse, Cook, Vancouver, Ross, “Capt. Butler in 1794,” “Capt. Phipps going out 1773,” and so on. While most of these simply identify the explorer, the year, and whether “going out” or returning, a few are accompanied by additional details, particularly those relating to Captain Cook’s attempts to discover the Antarctic continent. One of these reads “Captain Cook going south in search of a Continent in 1773” and along the same route where it approaches the Antarctic Circle another note reads “Many islands & fields of broken ice.” Yet another note, marking Cook’s furthest incursion within the Antarctic Circle (1774), reads “Firm Fields and Vast Mountains of Ice 71.°10” Highest South Lat. of Cook.”

Appearing at the bottom of the western hemisphere is a table of British possessions in Africa, America, Asia and Oceana, which includes a color-coded key and a note reading “All the islands or parts of islands of Oceana coloured thus [yellow] are governed by native chiefs who are independent of foreign control, altho some are nominally claimed by the government under whose auspices they were discovered.” A similar table listing the “Possessions of European Powers” appears at the bottom of the eastern hemisphere. Situated between the lower portions of the two hemispheres is a profile illustration accompanied by a table showing the heights of various mountains throughout the world.

The incorporation of the foregoing and many other details is consistent with Tanner’s announcement that he intended to publish a map “embracing all the recent Discoveries, &c.” Emphasizing the need for an improved world map, he observed:

The great mass of fresh materials which has accumulated within a few years, and the highly important and extensive discoveries lately made, render a new Map of the World not only desirable, but absolutely necessary to a clear understanding of the subject of general geography as it now exists…During the execution of the American Atlas and the New Map of the United States, just published by the author of the proposed Map, all the recent additions to the stock of geographical information on the known world, have been collected: these, together with the abundant and valuable materials previously on hand, will form the proposed map, to which the recent discoveries and surveys, viewed in connexion with the parts known and fixed, will impart an entirely new aspect and an increased importance. (Philadelphia National Gazette, Dec. 1, 1829)

A close comparison with Vance’s map reveals the extent to which Tanner realized his ambition. A great multitude of place names and other details have been added to Africa, for instance, and much new information on the North American Arctic, Greenland, and western Russia has been added as well, including place names, mountains, etc. On the whole, the map is an extraordinary compendium of the most current geographical knowledge and a marked improvement on its predecessors.

Born in New York City, Henry S. Tanner (1786–1858) joined his brother Benjamin in Philadelphia circa 1810, from whom he learned the art of engraving. The brothers established two engraving firms together, Tanner, Kearney & Tiebout, banknote engravers operating from 1817 to 1824, and Tanner, Vallance, Kearney & Co., general engravers from 1818 to 1820. Henry Tanner found his calling as an engraver of maps early on, forging an important relationship with John Melish. Tanner engraved maps for Melish’s Travels in the United States (1812), A Military and Topographical Atlas of the United States (1813 and 1815), and A New Juvenile Atlas (published by Melish, John Vallance, and Tanner in 1814). Tanner also engraved Melish’s Map of the Seat of War in North America (1813) and, along with Vallance, the large and important Map of the United States (1816). In 1819 Tanner, Vallance, Kearny & Co. published the first parts of The New American Atlas, the balance of which Tanner published on his own through 1823 and in later editions. With the death of Melish in 1822, Tanner assumed the mantle of America’s leading mapmaker. His later works include The Traveller’s Guide. A Map of the Roads, Canals and Steamboat Routes of the United States (1825), A New General Atlas (1828), A New Pocket Atlas of the United States (1828), A New and Elegant Universal Atlas (1833–36), and A Geographical, etc. View of the United States (1841). Operating in Philadelphia for forty years, Tanner was easily one of the most dominant figures in American cartography during the first half of the nineteenth century.

Exceptionally rare. We have been able to locate just four examples of this map. These include the copy offered here, as well as copies at the Library of Congress, the American Philosophical Society (presented by Tanner in the year of publication), and Stanford (in the Rumsey Collection). According to Ristow, “A second edition of the world map was registered for copyright on 1 January 1834.” However, we have been unable to locate any copies of an 1834 edition.

An attractive example of this rare and important world map.

REFERENCES: Ristow, Walter. American Maps and Mapmakers, pp. 191-200; Tooley’s Dictionary of Mapmakers (Riverside, CT, 2004), Q-Z vol., p. 246; Groce, George C. and David H. Wallace. The New York Historical Society’s Dictionary of Art and Artists in America 1564-1860, pp. 618-619.

Item #7106

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