American Collections blog

18 posts categorized "Maps"

14 September 2012

The Empire of Haiti: digitising some of the Nineteenth Century

 Coronation of Faustin I

Coronation of Faustin I, from Album Imperiale d'Haiti, New York 1852

A short but well-illustrated Team Americas post this week. We've all been a bit busy (especially Carole and Matthew who are currently refining the Kerouac exhibition labels like a pair of master sculptors). One of the things I'm currently working on is making a home for some Haiti materials we recently had digitised and so today seemed like a good time to share some highlights of the content with you.

The whole selection is quite broad, composed of various manuscripts, maps and a book of lithographic prints. Two of the book's prints and one of the maps are on show here. The book Album Imperiale d'Haiti commemorates the coronation of Faustin I (previously Faustin-Elie Soulouque). Above is the coronation scene and below the lavish frontispiece. The book also contains a further scene of Faustin leaving the ceremony and portraits of a number of dignitaries.

Frontispiece from Album Imperiale d'Haiti, New York 1852

Due to the impracticality of uploading .tiff files to the blog what you see here are very low resolution images. Once the full size versions are up you will be able to see them in all their zoom-able glory. While the maps were designed to be viewed in microscopic detail, I doubt that the engraver for the Album imagined that his work would ever be looked at so closely - and I suspect there are some interesting omissions in the landscape plates for keen-eyed viewers.

Carte de Saint Domingue
Carte de l'Isle de Saint Domingue, 1722 [BL Shelfmark: Maps.K.Top.123.35]

Team Americas is feeling very digital at the moment, with the American Civil War, War of 1812 and this project all going on at the same time. We'll keep you posted as to how all of them are coming together - look for any announcements interspersed amongst the On the Road quotes on our Twitter stream.


28 August 2012

A Bond formed with conviction: linking Australia and Canada

Hobart (1839 map)
Detail of Hobart from 1839 map of Van Diemen’s Land [BL Shelfmark: Maps 92405.(2.)] illustrating the town roughly as it would have been found by Canadian convicts

The rebellions of 1837-38 are perhaps a lesser known part of Canadian history in the wider world. Yet these rebellions and the resulting changes to Canadian governance were to have consequences across the British empire. In particular, the Canadians who participated in the rebellions were transported to Van Diemen’s Land and New South Wales.

So this is another one of my blogs which links the Americas and Australasian collections, and is also an opportunity to point out that the Library holds a number of sources on the Canadian rebellions - for example, The Life and Times of W. L. Mackenzie, with an account of the Canadian rebellion of 1837… [1862, BL Shelfmark: 010882.g.7] and The Canadian Rebellion of 1837 [1896, BL Shelfmark: 09555.c.3].

I was also struck by the materials held which give an insight into the situation awaiting these Canadian transportees upon their arrival in the settlements of the Great Southern Land.  Of particular note is Hobart, where 92 followers of Mackenzie arrived in 1840. The above map gives a sense of what Hobart was like (one year before their arrival) and publications are also held by the Governor of Van Diemen’s Land at the time. This was Sir John Franklin, whose name we associate with colder climes, but who spent some of his career considering and administering convict discipline. A record of these thoughts (from 1838) can be found in, Convict Discipline in Van Diemen’s Land [BL Shelfmark: 7002.d.10].


24 August 2012

The Battle of Bladensburg: some War of 1812 project notes

Battle of Bladensberg

Map of the Battle of Bladensburg showing Washington. British Library Manuscript [Add. Mss. 57715 (f.10)]

Today marks 198 years since the Battle of Bladensburg, during which a British force landed at Benedict, on the Patuxent River, and marched on Washington D.C. The resulting battle was a victory for the British and ended with the burning of public buildings in the city.

As part of the War of 1812 digitisation project that myself and Matthew are working on I’ve come across the above map of the battle, a black and white reproduction of which can be found in Lossing’s The Pictorial Fieldbook of the War of 1812 (held in a later edition at the Library, DSC 81/8962). The image above is just a low-res copy as we've as yet to start the digitisation in earnest.

Digitisation will start in September, with the first selections (all maps) heading off to Imaging Services. There’s some interesting material in there, including maps of the Battle of New Orleans and a map of the Battle of Moriaviantown. There are also some interesting general maps and atlases which show the landscape and settlements of early nineteenth century North America as well as the theatre of war.

When the first materials go up we’ll let you know.


27 July 2012

The Siege of Atlanta


Public Domain Mark 
This work (Map illustrating the Siege of Atlanta, by the U.S. Forces under command of Maj. Gen. W. T. Sherman) [Maps 72580.(4)], identified by British Library, is free of known copyright restrictions.

A slightly tenuous link for this week's Civil War map, which is a plan of the Siege of Atlanta in 1864.  It's a few days after the 148th anniversary of the start of the campaign, the eventual success of which proved to be a great morale boost for the north, and helped to seal Lincoln's 1864 electoral success.  We wouldn't like to suggest that London is under seige (indeed, your correspondent is doing his best to welcome the world to the UK during the opening ceremony this evening), but simply note that Atlanta, like London, is an Olympic city.

Maps 72580.(4) (detail).  Gone with the Wind comments welcome...

And on the Olympic theme, don't miss the British Library's official (and free) Olympex: Collecting the Olympic Games exhibition or the brilliant Writing Britain exhibition, which is part of the simultaneous Cultural Olympiad, if you are in town during the next few weeks.  And if you are in front of a TV this evening, keep an eye out for a curator rather out of his comfort zone after the Parade of the Athletes.


19 July 2012

Know Your (Union) Generals


Public Domain Mark 
This work (The Field of Battle and Prominent Union Generals, Creator: Ensign & Bridgman, New York; Producer: The British Library), identified by The British Library, is free of known copyright restrictions.

I promised some more maps from the U.S. Civil War project, so here's another one, The Field of Battle and Prominent Union Generals [1864?].  And Mr Sherman, it's time for your close-up:



11 July 2012

US Civil War Project: What time is this place?


Public Domain Mark 
This work (History of the Civil War in the United States, 1860-1865, Toronto, 1897 [Shelmark Maps.71492(39)], by Comparative Synoptical Chart Co., Limited), identified by The British Library, is free of known copyright restrictions.

I mentioned the maps in my last Civil War post.  Most of them are as one would expect: campaign maps or overviews of the territory produced for an eager public in Britain and the States.  Some, however, are a little different, such as Prang's bird's eye-view maps.  And some are very different, such as the one above.  You can see a little more of what is going on in this enlargement:

Maps 71492 (39) [detail]

In this large-scale map, the history of the war in the major states is charted, and mapped against contributing factors, such as the stength of the army, the relationship between gold and paper money, and national and international events, such as the Trent Affair. It was published by the Comparative Synoptical Chart Co., and is a particularly fine example of the nineteenth-century vogue for representing historical events visually: an early educational example of the infographic.  (The Co. also drummed up interest in its products through newspaper quizzes, offering Century bicycles as prizes).   There's more on this sort of thing in Daniel Rosenberg and Anthony Grafton, Cartographies of Time (New York, 2010) and also on Stephen Boyd Davis's blog,  Those flumuxed by the chart above could also resort to an Index with 'Introductory Notes'; today, you can also read it online.

A larger, downloadable version of the chart is currently available via the Library of Congress.


04 July 2012

Forging Indendence

It's July 4, a day to celebrate the birth of the USA (and my brother's birthday).  Sadly, Team Americas doesn't follow the custom shared by many Embassies of observing both home and away public holidays, so instead I popped out to lunch at a newish nearby cafe called Fork, where they not only had suitably American pastrami and rye bagels, but also a special on blueberry pancakes and maple syrup (from Vermont, Pres. Bartlet would be sad to observe).  And with this, we can serve up a post from this time last year, on the topic of declarations, maps and counterfeiters:

A new and correct map of the United States of North America: layd down from the latest observations and best authorities agreeable to the Peace of 1783...(Newhaven: publish'd according to act of Assembly, [1784])[Maps * 71490.(150)] 

Counterfeiting attracted some of the cruelest punishments in the past, in order to reflect the severity of undermining the coin of the realm.  But, in 1764, the prosecutor of Abel Buell, a 22-year-old engraver and silversmith, who had been knocking out dodgy thirty-shilling notes in Connecticut, excercised a little mercy. 

As punishment for his crime, 'the tip only of Buell's ear was cropped off: it was held on his tongue to keep it warm till it was put on his ear again, where it grew on. He was branded on the forehead as high as possible. This was usually done by a hot iron, in the form of a letter designating the crime' (John Warner Barber, Connecticut Historical Collections, 2nd ed., New Haven, 1836, pp.531-32, quoted in the catalogue for Christie's sale 2361). 

Buell moved to New Haven in 1770, where he became the colony's leading copper-plate engraver and, in 1784, producted the first map of the new United States to be published in that country.  It was also the first map published in the new nation to depict the Stars and Stripes.  Eagle-eyed readers may note the absence of New York City and spot the placing of the prime meridian at Philadelphia, the seat of the new government. 


A copy was sold in recent years, and is now on display in the Library of Congress (above).  The British Library's copy at shelfmark Maps * 71490.(150) is similarly hand-coloured, and also shows the small scroll celebrating 'INDEPENDENCE/ JULYIV/ MDCCLXXVI'. 

Happy Independence Day.


25 June 2012

Politics, Plantations and Camels: early publishing about Barbados

Barbados (Lingon Map)
'A Topographical Description and Measurement of the Island of Barbados', in Richard Ligon's (1657) 'A True and Exact History of the Island of Barbados' [Shelfmark: 455.a.18]

The British Library holds a significant collection of published material relating to the history of Barbados, some of it dating back to the mid-seventeenth century, and the above map inspired me to post about some of it here. Ligon's 'A True and Exact History' is one of the earliest publications the Library holds relating to Barbados (there are a couple of earlier works about English Civil War related strife in the 1650s) and it contains a number of interesting details about an island which was only settled by the English in 1627.

Ligon's account places a significant emphasis on the flora and fauna of Barbados as well as the fish and mammals encountered on his journey to the island. Of particular interest here is the long section given to the description of sharks and the animosity felt towards them by the ship's crew, who reserved gruesome fates for any of these predators that they caught (pp. 5-6). The other thing that jumps out to the reader from amongst the wealth of botanical and zoological information is a note on p. 58 about the presence and use of camels on the island. It would seem they were highly valued for their durability and use for carrying heavy loads, it also illustrates how quickly Barbados became part of a global exchange mechanism.

Barbados (Sloane Map)
Late 17th Century map of Barbados from a volume of ink wash on paper maps [Shelfmark: Sloane 2441]

Within these notes on the bounty of Barbados is the ever-present detail of the darker side of the island, its economy and politics. That slavery quickly became a brutal part of the island economy is illustrated by the two hunted runaways seen on the top map, as well as extensive notes found in the text. While Ligon makes little direct mention of the effects the English Civil War had on the island shortly before his work was published the tensions which existed are hinted at by the informal punishment allotted to the mention of the words 'Roundhead' or 'Cavalier' (p. 57).

While Ligon skirts around most details of the conflict in Barbados other writers see it as a significant incident related to wider problems with the island's administration. As such, one of the first books printed on the island, 'Some Memoirs of the First Settlement of Barbados' [published in 1741. Shelfmark: G.14967], notes the events that led to the Civil War playing out in Barbados and highlights key events in this conflict. It also concludes with a lengthy treatise on fairer government and the benefits this would bring to the island, a hot topic in the Americas at the time and one that would be debated in various forms during the history of the colonial Caribbean.


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