Rare 1802 Arrowsmith Map of North America Donated to The Seattle Public Library by Fox Rothschild Law Firm
release date: 11/20/2017
Meriwether Lewis and William Clark relied on a copy for their famous expedition west, Thomas Jefferson used a copy to plan the Louisiana Purchase, and now, The Seattle Public Library is able to provide public access to a rare copy of famous cartographer Aaron Arrowsmith's 1802 map of North America, donated to the Library by the Fox Rothschild law firm of Seattle.
"We are thrilled to welcome this new piece into our collection," said Executive Director and Chief Librarian Marcellus Turner at a special donor recognition event hosted by The Seattle Public Library Foundation. "Preserving Seattle's culture and history is a priority of the Library, and this map tells a very unique part of our story."
Arrowsmith (1750-1833) was a cartographer for the British government who had access to the fur-trading Hudson's Bay Company archives in London which contained many early accounts of the North American continent. He used these accounts and those of early explorers of the region to produce his first map of North American in 1795.
For his 1802 second issue of the map - the version acquired by the Library - Arrowsmith added information received from a Blackfoot Native American, Ac Ko Mo Ki, who helped locate prominent geographic reference points for the western portion of the continent from a hand-drawn map of his own. The western half of the continent and its massive mountain ranges were mostly unknown to white settlers of the time. Any newly available geographic detail was extremely valuable information for explorers, which made Arrowsmith's 1802 map a must-have item for explorers and governments looking to learn more.
Fox Rothschild partner Douglass Raff stumbled onto a lucky find when he went shopping with his wife in Victoria B.C. 55 years ago. The couple was browsing a silver shop when Raff, a map fan, noticed the Arrowsmith map hung on the wall of the shop. He purchased it for around $200.
"It is very gratifying to me personally, and a great credit to the Fox Rothschild law firm, that we were able to make this donation to the Library," said Raff. "This Arrowsmith map is an important historical document, and it has long been my hope that I would be able to find an institution that would preserve it and provide access to the public for educational and research purposes. This is a wonderful result and we are proud to have made this gift."
Special Collections librarian Jodee Fenton is excited to include the 1802 map in the Library's Seattle Room collection of local history.
"This is a truly special piece," said Fenton. "From the unique geographic details to the careful hand-coloring, this is a historical snapshot not just of our nation's and region's development, but also of the meticulously hand-crafted work of cartographers of the time. It was personally important for Doug to keep this map in the Northwest and I'm so glad he found a home for it here at the Library."
The map will be displayed during special events of relevance, such as a gallery exhibit series planned for 2018 that will explore the work of photographer Edward S. Curtis. Members of the public - including groups, classes, researchers and visitors - can view the map by appointment at the Central Library, 1000 Fourth Ave., Level 10 Seattle Room. For more information, or to schedule a visit to see the Arrowsmith map, call Quick Information at 206-386-4636 or Ask a Librarian.
The map was originally printed in multiple sheets designed to be used separately by explorers at the time. Today, the map is securely displayed in a glass frame and the sheets have been connected to form a complete map measuring 57 inches wide by 49 inches tall.