Friday, April 20, 2012

Map variations

One of the interesting aspects of map and print scholarship is a comparison of variations between different examples of the “same” map or print. I thought this would be a good topic for this blog, in part because I think it is fun to study the subject, but also because I get tons of questions on this topic via this blog. A lot of times people search the web for information on an old image they have and find one similar, but different, and they want to know why this is and what it means relative to the value or importance of what they have.

I have written a couple of times about what I call “recycled prints”, a type of variation that can make a big difference in historic import and value, but most print variations (at least for commercial prints) are more innocuous and do not affect value of the print that much. For maps, however, variations can make a big difference, especially in value, so that is the topic we’ll look at today.

In a general sense, one can think of a particular map (that is, the “same” map) as all those impressions that are based on the same cartographic drawing and that have essentially the same appearance. This allows for a fair bit of variation, but it is an inexact definition, for it leaves open the question of at what stage do these variations create a new, different map. This vague definition, or something like it, is often used casually by people, but it really is not that useful a concept, as there are a large number of variations between different examples of maps that would fit this definition. Map dealers, scholars and collectors need more precise distinctions between these different examples of maps which are similar, but not the same.

To be exact and careful, we can say that a specific map is the set of all impressions made at the same time from the same matrix. (The matrix is the plate, block or stone used to print the map). If no changes have been made to the matrix, then it is clear that the different impressions are but different examples of the same map.

But what if there is a significant delay in time between the publication of the impressions or the matrix has been modified slightly, to update some information, to correct an error, or even by accident? In many of these cases, the altered instances are not different maps, but are rather different versions of the same map. Still, we need to be able to make distinctions between these variations, and this is done by a number of different concepts.

The first distinction is between different editions of a map. An edition of a map includes all the impressions of a particular geographic rendering printed by a publisher at the same time or as part of the same publishing event. A first edition map is one of the first group of impressions published. After completing the first edition, the publisher may decide to issue a new batch of impressions which will comprise the second edition. Subsequent batches of maps may be published, creating third, fourth, fifth,... edition maps.

For maps issued in atlases or books, the edition of the map usually corresponds to the edition of the volume in which it appears, but not necessarily, as the map can also be issued separately as well as in that volume. While a first edition map generally does have somewhat more value than later editions, the particular edition of a map often does not in itself affect its desirability to a significant degree. Maps from editions which have some particular historic import or from editions printed in a specific language may be more desirable, but in many instances the particular edition of a map, in and of itself, is not that important a factor in its value to collectors.

The second distinction in map variations is between different states of a map. A state of a map includes all impressions pulled without any changes being made in the design on the matrix. Sometimes a matrix was deliberately modified to incorporate new information or correct an error. Sometimes a matrix was accidentally modified, as by a crack in a woodblock or a scratch on a plate. In either case, such modifications changed the matrix and so created a new state of the map. Some maps have only one state, with no changes ever having been made in the design, and some maps have many states.

States of a map must be distinguished from editions of a map; there can be several editions of a map which are comprised of examples of the same state, but there can also be several states of a map in a single edition. As with editions, the first state of a map will tend to be the most valuable, but the desirability of different states of a map usually will be similar unless the differences have some historic significance, for instance if a newly discovered geographical feature appears on one state. For instance, in the two maps above, issued in 1718, New Orleans--which was founded that year--appears in the bottom state but not the top state. Ironically, however, it is the state without the city which is more valuable, because it is significantly rarer than the other.

It is an interesting question when a variation becomes a new map, as opposed to simply a later state of the earlier map. For instance, there is a wonderful series of maps of the southern part of the American west, from the eastern Rocky Mountains to the Pacific, issued by the Johnson map publishing firm from New York. The first example, issued in 1860, was entitled “Johnson’s California, Territories of New Mexico and Utah,” and variations were issued into the 1880s. This was a period when this part of the United States changed radically, so many of these new “variations” show different borders, railroads, towns, and much else.

Sometimes the changes are minor, just being a modification in the decorative border or page number, but other times they are quite significant, with new states or territories, reflected in new titles. These very different geographic renderings can be considered different maps, but in a sense they are really just different states of the same map. Not only do they have essentially the same size, overall appearance, and cover the same geographic area, but for many of these variations, they appear to have been printed from essentially the same matrix. The matrix has been modified, but the base is the same.

This is a moot point, really just a matter of how one wants to use the term “same map,” but this Johnson western series is just a typical example of the different states of many of the mid-nineteenth century maps of the American west. Each year the maps showed new discoveries, settlements, roads, railroads, and so forth, and most mapmakers made regular modifications of their matrixes in order to keep their maps up-to-date. It is one of the most fun things about studying western maps to try to compare different states of the same map each year it was issued.

This brings up a wonderful web site that has recently been created by Ira Lourie, who is the expert on the maps of the Johnson firm. It is entitled the “Johnson U.S. Map Project” and it allows you to take any example of a Johnson map of part of the United States and figure out what year it was published. A cool and most useful resource.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Shaping the Trans-Mississippi West: 1840-1849. Part 2, Texas and the Southwest

In the previous blog in this series, we looked at how between 1840 and 1849 the United States came to acquire what is today its continental northwestern corner, what at the end of the decade became the Oregon Territory. While this was a huge addition to the country, an even larger territory was added to the United States in the same decade. That is the vast region making up the current southwestern corner of the country, encompassing California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Nevada, Utah, and parts of Colorado and Wyoming.

This is the region bordered today by Mexico on the south, the Pacific Ocean on the west, the continental divide on the east, and the 42nd parallel in the north. The continental divide was the original border between the Louisiana Purchase and New Spain back in 1803. The northern and southern ends of this border, however, were not firmly established until the Adams-Onis Treaty of 1819. This set up a zig-zag border following rivers and lines of longitude in the south and limiting Spanish claims in the north to those lands below the 42nd degree of latitude. This large area of land was in 1840 part of Mexico, but in less than ten years it would be United States territory.

Mexico had achieved independence from Spain in 1821. At that time the northern part of the country was quite sparsely populated. There were a series of settlements in the Mexican province of New Mexico, up the Rio Grande and including Albuquerque and Santa Fe. There were also a number of settlements built up around a chain of missions running along the California coast from near today’s San Diego to just north of the San Francisco Bay area.

There was even less settlement in the Mexican province of Texas. The Mexican government did not have the resources nor inclination to wield much influence there, especially in keeping the Comanches under control, so the local settlers were given considerable autonomy. The Mexicans began to allow Americans to settle in Texas, hoping they would help provide a buffer between Mexico and the expansionist United States. Beginning in the 1820s, the Mexican government set up twenty-four “empresarios” of new settlers in Texas, most from the United States and including Stephen F. Austin’s settlement along the Brazos River.

As should have been obvious, this was letting the wolf in to guard the hen house, and by the 1830s, tensions began to escalate significantly between the Mexican government and the Americans. The political situation in Mexico was turbulent throughout this period and in 1835, General Santa Anna overthrew the Mexican constitution and set up a dictatorship. This was all the Texans needed to go into open revolt, declaring and then winning their independence the following year, forming the Republic of Texas (1836-45).

Texas was able to govern itself in this period, even though Mexico never recognized its independence. Still, there was considerable pressure for Texas to become part of the United States. This was because of the strong ties between the Anglo-Texans and the United States, and because of the desire of Southerners to add more slave states to the country (which at the time were limited by the 1820 Missouri Compromise to lands below 36°30’ parallel). At the end of 1845, Texas was officially annexed into the United States as the 28th state.

The border between Texas and Mexico had never been agreed to, with the Texans claiming as far as the Rio Grande and the Mexicans claiming lands about 150 miles further north, up to the Nueces River. The United States took up the Texan claim and President Polk decided to push the issue by sending troops into the disputed land between the two rivers. Not surprisingly, Mexico attacked these troops and war was declared.

In less than a year and a half, the Americans had captured Mexico City, as well as many other Mexican cities and much territory, forcing the Mexicans to sue for peace. The war was ended with the February 2, 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. In exchange for just over $18 million, the United States received from Mexico acknowledgement of its undisputed control of Texas, and all of what had been Mexican Upper California and New Mexico.

With this treaty, the United States increased its size by about 20% over what it had been in 1840. At the end of this decade, by the settlements of the Oregon question and the Mexican-American War, the United States achieved essentially the overall shape of today’s lower 48 states, all except for slightly over 29,000 square-miles in what is now southern Arizona and New Mexico. That final piece of the puzzle wasn’t added until the second half of the century, but the country had grown to reach close to its final continental shape in the first half-century, with a doubling in size in 1803 and the additional of about the same amount again just before mid-century.

Click here to read about the final changes to the trans-Mississippi West during this decade.