A landmark historical atlas by pioneering educator Emma Willard

Emma Willard / Samuel Maverick, engraver / Clayton & Van Norden, Printers, A SERIES OF MAPS TO WILLARD’S History of the United States, OR, REPUBLIC OF AMERICA. DESIGNED FOR SCHOOLS AND PRIVATE LIBRARIES. New York: White, Gallaher & White, 1829.
2nd edition. Five double- and seven single-sheet engraved maps, most with original outline color. ¼ red leather over original printed boards. Two ownership inscriptions to ffep. Maps with minor toning, offset, foxing and soiling, lower-right corner of text block bumped, small sliver from lower-right margin of “Second Map”, chip to right edge of “Principle Seats of the War of 1812-13-14.” Endpapers foxed, boards toned, soiled and scuffed but sound. Withal, about very good.

The first historical atlas of the United States, by pioneering educator Emma Willard, who in the service of her broader mission became America’s first female map maker.

Willard’s atlas features twelve single- or double-sheet maps, beginning with an “introductory map” of the “locations and wanderings of the aboriginal tribes.” Though Native American peoples had long been depicted on maps of America, this was the first printed map to document their migrations over time. This is followed by nine maps depicting the country at the milestone dates of 1578, 1620, 1643, 1692, 1733, 1763, 1776, and 1789, as well as the “present day.” Each uses color to illustrate important thematic elements and has larger-scale inset maps and/or pictorial vignettes illustrating iconic moments in American history. The atlas also includes two sheets of maps of the “principal seats of war” during the Revolution and the War of 1812.

In the fashion of the time, featuring Native American peoples on the undated “introductory map” has the effect of removing them from the flow of history. By contrast, the nine dated maps yield a linear, coherent and deeply-patriotic narrative of the exploration, colonization, settlement, political development, and territorial expansion of what became the United States; in Susan Schulten’s phrase, “translat[ing] chaos into order.” (Schulten, Mapping the Nation, p. 24)

Emma Willard (1787-1870)
Born in 1787 in Berlin, Connecticut, Emma Willard took a teaching job in her hometown while still a teenager.  Dissatisfaction with the educational opportunities available to women led her in 1815 to establish the Middlebury (Vermont) Female Seminary, before leaving in 1821 to found the Troy (New York) Female Seminary, “which soon became a preeminent school for future teachers and one of the country’s finest institutions of female education.” (Schulten, p. 18) The school is still in operation today, known as the Emma Willard School.

The atlas reflects Willard’s ongoing critique of the teaching of geography and history, both of which at the time emphasized rote memorization, largely through study of densely-worded texts.

“[She] did not take issue with the goal of memorization, as later educators would, but instead faulted existing learning methods and reformulated the presentation of information.  The distinction is important, for she believed that the visual preceded the verbal. Information presented spatially and visually would facilitate memory by attaching images to the mind through the eyes….


“This concern with the visual dynamics of learning and the importance of geography fueled Willard’s interest in cartography.  She found maps unmatched for their ability to convey complexity, visualize the nation, and help students gain a more holistic view of the past. Maps placed history, she argued, and this physicality and emphasis on location would foster memory.” (Schulten, p. 19)

The Atlas was first published in 1828, in tandem with Willard’s History of the United States, or Republic of America[:] Exhibited in Connexion with Its Chronology and Progressive Geography by Means of a Series of Maps. Together, the two works were the first to treat American geography and history as interdependent subjects, employing maps as an essential pedagogical tool.  The atlas met with enough success that a second edition of the atlas appeared in 1829 and a third edition in the early 1830s (possibly 1831), printed by Elliott & Palmer, while the History went through many editions well into the 1840s.

Offered here is the second edition, dated 1829 and with the imprint of printers Clayton & Palmer. However several of the maps exhibit relatively minor changes relative to the Rumsey copy[2] of the second edition. To give but one example, in our copy the title of the 1578 map is “First Map to Accompany Willard’s History of the United States”, while in the Rumsey copy this has been extended to “First Map or Map of 1578…” Also on this map the track of Cabot’s voyage (in pink) differs from that on the Rumsey copy.

In all, a very nice example of a landmark American atlas, with a terrific back story.

Phillips, Atlases, #10650. Rumsey #2642. Sabin #10648 (1828 ed.)  Background and interpretation from Susan Schulten, Mapping the Nation (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012), pp. 18-28 and Schulten, ed., Emma Willard[:] Maps of History (San Francisco: Visionary Press, 2022), pp. 54-61 and 152, then illustrated in full on pp. 152-177. Some biographical background from the finding aid to the Emma (Hart) Willard Collection at the Emma Willard School.