Beautiful example of the first printed map of Amherst, Mass., with a view of the College

Alonzo Gray & Charles Adams / Pendleton's Lithography, Boston, A MAP OF AMHERST. WITH A VIEW OF THE COLLEGE AND MOUNT PLEASANT INSTITUTION. , Amherst College, May 1833 .
Lithograph, 28.5 x 22.25 inches, full original color. Backed with linen and mounted on early/original rollers.

A fine example of this lovely map of Amherst, most unusual for its splendid early color.

This wonderful map provides an immensely detailed view of this lovely college town in central Massachusetts. It depicts the town’s boundaries (with the length and bearing of each segment), the road network, and features of the natural topography (with symbols for woodlands, alluvial lands, and waterways, and shading to indicate areas of elevation). The large scale also enables it to identify residents by name; churches and schools; and factories, mills and hotels, with the relevant symbols for each explained by a legend below the map. The map also includes a large inset “View of Amherst College. From the President’s House,” closely based on a drawing by H. Corbin Kidder (Amherst Class of 1828) published by Pendleton’s in the late 1820s, as well as a smaller inset of the Mount Pleasant Institution, a classical school for boys.

The map is very scarce on the market, and this is only the third example I have encountered in the past 12 years.

The map was produced by Amherst College students Charles Adams (1814-1853) and Alonzo Gray (1808-60). After graduating in 1834 Adams became a professor of astronomy and zoology at Amherst, while Gray went on to an academic career elsewhere. In 1853 they co-authored Elements of Geology. One source suggests that

“they were certainly chosen for the task and guided by Edward Hitchcock, the eminent geologist who was then professor of chemistry and natural history at the College, as well as the Massachusetts state geologist. (Hitchcock’s own geological map of the state was printed by Pendleton’s in the same year.)” (John Lancaster, “The Earliest Printed Map of Amherst, 1833,” at

The map’s features and publication date strongly indicate that it was produced in response to the March 1, 1830 Resolve of the Massachusetts General Court (legislature) “that the inhabitants of the City of Boston, and the several towns and districts in the Commonwealth, be, and they hereby are, required to make, or cause to be made… accurate plans of their respective towns or districts…” These plans were then to be compiled into a single coherent map of Massachusetts, which would guide tax assessments, infrastructure improvements &c.

The plans were required to be quite large scale (1 inch to 100 rods, or about 3 inches to the mile), indicate the length and bearing of town boundaries, and provide much information about cultural and economic resources such as meetinghouses, schools, mills, mines &c.

Hundreds of town plans were produced in manuscript and filed with the state between 1830 and 1835. They were then employed by Simeon Borden as the raw material in compiling his Topographical Map of the State of Massachusetts. The quality of the raw surveys was so mixed, however, that Borden was compelled to go back into the field to re-survey many areas, and his Topographical Map was not published until 1844. Many of the plans were also published in broadside format, often being reprinted for inclusion in early town histories.

The exact circumstances of publication are unclear, but it has been suggested that the state provided the towns a modest subsidy of $150 to defray the costs of dissemination. They were usually printed by one of the Boston lithographic printing establishments, most commonly Pendleton’s (as in the case of this map of Amherst), with a substantial number printed by T. Moore’s Lithography and the firm of Senefelder. The print runs must have been small and primarily for local consumption, as these plans are generally quite scarce, while some are extraordinarily rare.

OCLC locates institutional holdings at the American Antiquarian Society, Amherst College, Boston Athenaeum, Harvard Map Collection, the Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library, the Library of Congress, the Rumsey Collection, and Yale-Sterling. Rumsey #2601. Not in Phillips, A List of Maps of America. Ristow’s American Maps and Mapmakers, pp. 285-291 describes the Massachusetts town plans of the early 1830s.


Bit of cracking and scuffing, but excellent for a wall map of the period