A superb, monumental and decorative map of Rhode Island by the preeminent New England mapmaker of the 19th century. Offered here in a rare and unusual variant with added text panels.
At one mile to the inch, Walling’s is by far the largest map of the state produced for its time. The scale allows for enormous detail, including topographical features, roads and railroads, and even individual schools, businesses, and individual residences. The map’s visual appeal and informational value are greatly enhanced by inset plans of Providence, Newport, Block Island and seven other towns. The bright wash color by county gives the map superb decorative impact. This example includes a “Business Directory of Subscribers” in the form of text panels pasted along the left and right margins.
Henry Frances Walling(1825-1888) was born and educated in Rhode Island, and took a position with surveyor Samuel B. Cushing some time in the mid 1840s. With Cushing he produced in 1846 his first published map, a new edition of James Stevens’ 1831 Topographical Map of the State of Rhode Island. Stevens’ map may have been Walling’s first introduction to what at the time was known as “trigonometric” surveying. This involved the use of extremely careful astronomical observations to establish geodetic “control points,” from which a network of triangulated reference points was run across the state. This highly accurate framework was then filled out with less-rigorous but more detailed data obtained form surveys with compass, chain and odometer.
Walling likely reused Stevens’ “trigonometric” data as the basis for this 1855 map of Rhode Island, but filled out the details with new surveys conducted by himself and others under his supervision. Per a note on the map he derived the state’s boundaries and much of the shoreline from sophisticated surveys conducted by others:
“The Northern and Eastern boundaries of the State are laid down from the Trigonometrical Survey of Massachusetts by Simeon Borden; the Southern Shore with the Topography near it and a portion of Narragansett Bay from the U.S. Coast Survey; and the West Line of the State from the survey made in 1839 and 1840 by the Joint Commission appointed for that purpose by the Legislatures of Rhode Island and Connecticut.”
Walling was the one of the first American commercial mapmakers to employ this blended approach and also one of the most prolific: During his long and almost incredibly productive career he produced perhaps 150 large-scale, separately-issued maps of American towns and counties; seminal maps of Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island; numerous state and county atlases. His 1855 map of Rhode Island is therefore a monument to a transitional period in American mapmaking, when commercial cartographers began to combine scientific rigor with far greater detail of the natural and human landscape.
Chapin, Maps of Rhode Island, 77.ii (noting the business directory). Phillips, A List of Maps of America, p. 746. Walter Ristow’s American Maps and Mapmakers devotes chapter 20 to a discussion of Walling’s career. Also of use, but rather more focused, is Michael Buehler, “Henry F. Walling and the Mapping of New England’s Towns, 1849-1857,” The Portolan, no. 71 ?(Spring 2008), pp. 22-33.
Sides slightly trimmed and new selvage applied, but otherwise superb original condition.