A Massachusetts rarity by Daniel Friedrich Sotzmann

D[aniel] F[riedrich] Sotzmann (mapmaker) / Carl Ernst Bohn (publisher) / P. Schmidt (engraver), MASSACHUSETTS entworfen von D.F. Sotzmann , Hamburg, ca. 1797-98.
Engraving, 17 1/4"h x 25 ¼" w plus margins, original wash and outline color

A very fine and quite rare 18th–century map of the state… by a mapmaker who never visited America.

Sotzmann’s map depicts Massachusetts in its entirety as well as portions of adjacent states. The geographic detail is fairly strong for a map of this size, though mountain ranges are shown in the archaic “caterpillar” style. Throughout Sotzmann uses a variety of standardized line forms to differentiate state boundaries, county lines, township boundaries, and stage- and post roads. Most striking, though, are the many symbols used to identify civic and economic features, including churches, court houses and schools; six types of mill; a variety of factories; and even fortifications.

The overall result is intensely informative but rather crowded, strongly reminiscent of Osgood Carleton’s Accurate Map of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, which appeared in late 1797 or 1798. The two maps are hardly identical-though at a smaller scale, Sotzmann’s is in fact more thorough in its use of symbols to indicate economic resources, while the Carleton gives much more detail of local roads. Indeed the similarities are sufficiently strong that Sotzmann almost certainly based his work on a draft of Carleton’s map, presumably supplied by Carleton to Sotzmann’s collaborator Christoph Ebeling (more on whom below). Further support for this inference is the fact that in the mid 1790s Carleton was the only one involved in mapping the natural and human geography of the state at this level of detail.

Sotzmann’s map is undated but may have appeared as early as 1796, so it is possible that it should be considered the first appearance in print of Carleton’s seminal map of Massachusetts. At a minimum, it is an interesting and important variant.

This map is extremely rare on the market, with no examples listed in Antique Map Price Record or Americana Exchange. This writer knows of only one having changed hands in the past ten years, an example bound into a Sotzmann atlas that changed hands at the Miami Map Fair several years ago. This writer walked right by that volume, which was innocuously bound in green paper over boards, a “miss” that remains one of his greatest regrets as a dealer.

Ebeling, Sotzmann and the Erdbeschreibung
This map was intended for a planned atlas to accompany Christoph Daniel Ebeling’s Erdbeschreibung und Geschichte von Amerika, a magisterial study of the geography and history of the new United States. Ebeling (1741-1817) was a Hamburg academic with a general interest in free states, which interest lead him to a decades-long fascination with America and ultimately to conceive the Erdbeschreibung project. To this end he carried on a voluminous correspondence with leading Americans, who supplied him among other things with the most up-to-date American maps available. His map library eventually made its way back to America, where it was purchased by a Boston collector and eventually became the nucleus of the Harvard Map Collection.

To produce the maps Ebeling commissioned Daniel Friedrich Sotzmann, Geographer of the Berlin Academy. The atlas was to contain 18 plates, including 16 of the individual states. Unfortunately neither the narrative nor the atlas were fully realized, perhaps because of Ebeling’s advancing years and (in his view) a lack of sufficiently accurate source material. In all, seven volumes of the Erdbeschreibung were issued between 1793 and 1816, while ten maps were completed: Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delware and Maryland. With the odd exception of the Rhode Island map, all of these are scarce, while some (such as Maryland) are extremely rare, and few institutions possess full sets.

McCorkle, New England in Early Printed Maps, #M796.3. Phillips, p. 400. Not in Rumsey. Background from Ristow, American Maps and Mapmakers, pp.169-178.


Excellent, with just a bit of waviness and light creasing, and a minor edge tear in the upper-left margin