The Sotzmann map of Connecticut

D[aniel] F[riedrich] Sotzmann (mapmaker) / Carl Ernst Bohn (publisher) / P. Schmidt (engraver), CONNECTICUT entworfen von D.F. Sotzmann. Hamburg, 1796 .
Engraving, 14"h x 17.25"w plus margins, original color

A very fine and scarce 18th-century map of Connecticut, produced by a mapmaker who never visited America.

This carefully engraved map packs an immense amount of information into a relatively small area. The state’s natural geography is shown in surprising detail, including not only lakes and rivers, but relatively minor streams and even waterfalls. Political boundaries are shown, with county and town boundaries differentiated by varying widths of dotted line. There are also much information on the human geography, including roads; industrial establishments such as mills and iron works; and public edifices such as court and meeting houses.

As pointed out by Thompson this map is “modelled very closely” on William Blodget’s unobtainably rare New and Correct Map of the State of Connecticut (1791). For example, the newest town identified by both Blodget and Sotzmann is Brookfield in Fairfield County, established in 1788, though several towns were established in the intervening period prior to the publication of Sotzmann’s map. There are however a number of modest additions; for example, within the bounds of Norwalk Sotzmann names a village of “New Canaan,” and he identifies a number of hills, ridges and streams that are shown but not named on the Blodget map. Where this new information comes from is a mystery.

This map is from an atlas issued 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 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. Few institutions possess full sets, while Antique Map Price Record lists a total of perhaps 11 examples of any of the maps offered in the past 25 years (The real total may be fewer, as AMPR on occasion records the same map twice as it makes its way through the trade.)

Phillips, p.247; Rumsey, #2746; Thompson, Maps of Connecticut, #39. Background from Ristow, American Maps and Mapmakers, pp.169-178.


Mild toning, original color faded and oxidized, margins trimmed but more than ample