The only complete impression known of this charming and extraordinarily rare allegorical map of courtship, love and marriage.
This wonderful print examines and maps the human experience of romance, courtship, love and marriage, using an extended allegory to describe the many perils—and occasional pleasures—to be found on “The Great Ocean of Love.” Cartographic allegories of love and marriage have a long history and appeared in several European countries in the 18th century, but the present item is one of the largest and most intricate I have encountered.
At the top of the image an appropriately solemn wedding is being conducted, while to either side a young man and a maid face each one another across the Great Ocean. The Ocean itself is shown in bird’s-eye view, dotted with dozens of pictorial vignettes illustrating aspects of the romantic experience. Would-be lovers are guided by a compass rose at lower-left, featuring the cardinal directions of Hope, Love, Despair and Hatred. The whole is flanked left and right by long columns of text, which play out the allegory in very great detail.
The text begins by explaining that the Ocean “represents a period of life that all persons are supposed at some time or another to pass. By an examination of the chart voyagers will be enabled to avoid the dangers that beset them, and arrive safely at the haven of felicity.” These dangers are illustrated on the map by numerous islands, bays, straits, gulfs, harbors, rivers and other features, with names like the “Whirlpool of Impetuosity,” the “Floating Isles of Flattery,” and the “Shoals of Perplexity.” Each is explained by the text, which instructs the viewer how they are to be safely traversed in order to achieve a happy marriage. The overall message is undeniably pessimistic, and one gets the impression that reaching “the picturesque and delightful Lake of Affection” is a long shot indeed! Even in that happy place couples must still be on their guard, for they need only look up to see the craggy peaks of the mountains of “Deceit” and “Hatred” looming above!
The print is exceedingly rare. I find only one other impression, being the copyright copy at the Library of Congress. That impression however lacks the columns of descriptive text, indicating it was deposited before the print was finished. It does bear the date “1849” inscribed at lower right, enabling us to date the print.
A delightful and fascinating look at the attitudes and humor of mid-19th century America.
OCLC #871359083 (LC only). Not in Persuasive Cartography: The PJ Mode Collection.
Cleaned, with some lingering soiling and staining. Mended tears and an area of loss in vignette at top center patched. Lined on verso, with ownership inscription of W.E. Diener of Philadelphia visible beneath tissue. An acceptable example of a rare item.