Rare map of Essex County, Mass.

Henry Wilder, Map of the County of Essex, Massachusetts. Compiled from the Surveys made by order of the Legislature in 1831-1832. [No place, ca. 1832].
Lithograph map on thin paper, 17"h x 16.5"w, outline color. Originally folded into pocket, no longer present.

Printed maps of New England counties were uncommon prior to 1850, yet Essex County, Mass. had the distinction of being depicted by two early maps issued in close succession.

Offered here is the second map, published by Henry Wilder in or around 1832. It depicts town boundaries, roads and turnpikes, and topographical detail, and meeting houses and even some dwellings are also indicated. There is a small inset plan of Salem at lower right and a statistical table at lower left.

According to the title, the map is “compiled from the surveys made by order of the Legislature in 1831_2.” This is a reference to a project to produce a new official map of Massachusetts to replace that issued by Osgood Carleton in 1801. The project was initiated by a legislative Resolve in 1830, which required each township to submit a survey of its territory to the Secretary of State. These local surveys were then integrated with a “trigonometric” survey of the entire State, overseen by Simeon Borden, yielding A Topographical Map of Massachusetts (1844).

It is certainly plausible to think that Wilder would have had access to the surveys of Essex County towns, either in manuscript or in print. To test his claim, this writer compared Wilder`s work with John Mason’s Map of Gloucester, Cape Ann (1831) and James Gales’ Map of Haverhill (1832). Surprisingly, there is little but the most general resemblance. This leads us to wonder whether Wilder was a hack, a liar, or both. Beyond these speculations, we have been unable to learn anything about him; neither the 4-volume Story of Essex County (1935) nor Google yield any information.

OCLC #57072236, giving only the Harvard example (though others known at Boston Public Library, the Library of Congress and an American private collection). Not in Antique Map Price Record or Phillips, A List of Maps of America.


Folds as issued, with a couple of close breaks, otherwise excellent.