A rare 18th-century American world map, with a Ben Franklin connection

Capt[ai]n Tho[ma]s Truxtun [1755-1822], A GENERAL CHART of the GLOBE, Shewing the Course of the GULPH STREAM, AND Various Tracks to and from the East Indies, China, Europe &c. [Philadelphia, 1794].
Engraved map on two unjoined sheets, if assembled 18"h x 35.25"w plus margins, uncolored

A very large American world map published in the 18th century, bearing an interesting connection to Ben Franklin and his Gulf Stream research.

The map was drawn by Captain Thomas Truxtun (1755-1822), who had an illustrious naval career as a privateer during the Revolution, a well-traveled merchant captain during the post-war years, and finally a commander of the U.S. frigate Constellation during the undeclared “Quasi War” with France from 1798-90. In the Constellation he became an American hero by capturing the French frigate Insurgente in 1799 and in 1800 defeating the heavier-armed La Vengeance.

Just prior to being commissioned in the U.S. Navy in 1794, Truxton published Remarks, instructions, and examples relating to the latitude & longitude; also, the variation of the compass, &c. &c. &c. This was one of the earliest indigenous navigational texts published in the United States.

The Remarks included as a frontispiece this very large two-sheet map on the Mercator projection, with eight lettered tracks delineating the tracks of voyages made by Truxtun between the United States, Europe, Africa and south Asia. It is also one of the earliest maps to depict the Gulf Stream, which had had not been well documented until the work of Benjamin Franklin and Gerard De Brahm in the mid-18th century. Truxtun in fact had a personal connection with Franklin, as he was captain of the London Packet when it carried Franklin on his final trans-Atlantic voyage. During this voyage Franklin repeated thermometric observations of the Gulf Stream that he had made during earlier voyages in 1775 and 1776. It seems to have been this acquaintance with Franklin that inspired Truxtun to conduct repeated observations of the current on his later voyages, the results of which are incorporated on this map.

Printed on two sheets, this is by far the largest world map published in 18th-century America. Though intended to illustrate Truxtun’s Remarks, the present example has not been joined and shows no signs of binding. There is no evidence, however, that the map was ever offered for sale as a separate publication.

Wheat and Brun, Maps and Charts Published in America before 1800, #22. The Remarks are referenced in Evans, Early American Imprints, #27823 and OCLC #62838056. Background on early American Gulf Stream research may be found in Louis de Vorsey, “Pioneer Charting of the Gulf Stream,” Imago Mundi no. 28 (1976), pp. 105-120 (referencing Truxtun on p. 111).


Some mild printer's creases; a few small, faint areas of discoloration; and chipping in left margin