In 1842 Library of Congress accepts a gift of two maps of North America

John S[ilva] Meehan, Librarian of Congress / Leverett Saltonstall, Congressman, [Small archive including two ALS’s and an engraved certificate, all related to a donation to the Library of Congress of two maps of North America.] Washington, D.C., April 4 and 12, 1842.
2 ALS’s, each 1p. plus integral blank leaf, both dated March 12, 1842 and accompanied by original addressed envelope. Engraved certificate accomplished in blue ink, 1p. plus integral blank leaf, dated April 4, 1842.

A small archive of material related to the 1842 donation to the Library of Congress of two interesting French and Indian War-era maps of North America. 

In 1842 Doctor Andrew Nichols (1785-1853), a distinguished citizen of Danvers, Massachusetts, enquired of his Congressman, Leverett Saltonstall (1783-1845), whether the Library of Congress would welcome a gift from him of two significant French and Indian War-era maps. The first was Thomas Jefferys’ North America from the French of Mr D’Anville, improved with the Back Settlements of Virginia and Course of Ohio (1755), while the latter was Henry Overton’s Map of the British Plantations on the Continent of North America (1755-1760).  Both maps are interesting statements of British claims in North America, and the Overton is today quite rare.

This interesting archive includes three items documenting that gift. The first is an April 12, 1842 ALS from John S. Meehan (1790-1863), fourth Librarian of Congress, to Congressman Leverett Saltonstall of Massachusetts.

“My assistant has made a careful examination, and reports that neither of the very interesting Maps mentioned in Mr. Nichols letter to you is in the Library of Congress. Mr. N. will confer a favor, therefore, by presenting them to the Library, as they will doubtless be valuable references in all cases touching the early boundaries of the present United States.”

Also present is an engraved certificate bearing a grateful acknowledgement of Nichols’ gift by the Committee on the Library of Congress, accomplished and signed by Meehan. This is accompanied by Saltonstall’s April 12, 1842 ALS to Nichols indicating that the Library would welcome the gift and providing instructions for shipping the maps.

On December 24, 1851 a fire destroyed about two thirds of the Library of Congress’ collection of some 55,000 books, including a similar proportion of Thomas Jefferson’s personal library and many of the geographical items in the collection. Whether these maps gifted by Dr. Nichols were destroyed, and later replaced, I do not know—though in 1901 Phillips included both on p. 576 of his List of Maps of America.)


Letters about excellent, envelopes soiled and a bit torn, certificate toned with minor soiling.