1795 Mathew Carey trade catalog, including many maps and his first published atlases

Mathew Carey / Printed by Wrigley and Berriman, no. 149, Chesnut Street, CATALOGUE OF BOOKS, PAMPHLETS, MAPS, AND PRINTS, PUBLISHED BY MATHEW CAREY, 118, Market Street, PHILADELPHIA. [Philadelphia:] Mathew Carey, 1795.
Disbound catalog, 12mo, 24pp., signed A-B⁶. Minor foxing, soiling, toning and wear, but very good.
$4,500

A very scarce catalog of stock for 1795 issued by the Philadelphia book importer, bookseller and publisher Mathew Carey.

Carey was a prolific and successful publisher, and the catalog is extensive indeed, running to 22 pages, not including the title and a blank leaf. Pages 3 to 22 include a wide variety of items numbered 1 through 76, including for example THE UNITED STATES REGISTER, for 1795 (p. 3); CHARLOTTE—A TALE OF TRUTH, a reprinting of a wildly successful London novel, whose male protagonist said to be modelled on British mapmaker John Montresor (p. 4); JEFFERSON’s NOTES ON THE STATE OF VIRGINIA, available with or without the map (p. 6); Mary Wolstonecraft’s RIGHTS OF WOMAN (p. 7); Hector St. John Crevecoeur’s LETTERS FROM AN AMERICAN FARMER (p. 9); and the full run of THE AMERICAN MUSEUM, From its commencement in January, 1787, to its termination in December, 1792, with an endorsement from “Gen. Washington” (p. 11). Following the numbered list of offerings, pages 22 to 24 include a half-page list of maps, a one third-page list of “Elegant fancy prints” and an unnumbered sequence of pamphlets.

The catalog includes Carey’s cartographic publications, among them his COMPLETE ATLAS FOR THE PRESENT WAR, featuring maps of the theatres of war on the European continent and in the West Indies, regarding by some as the earliest atlas published in America (p. 12). Perhaps the most significant, and certainly the most ambitious of the cartographic works is item 38, Carey’s American edition of William Guthrie’s A NEW SYSTEM OF MODERN GEOGRAPHY OR A Geographical, Historical and Commercial Grammar, for which Carey commissioned a new suite of maps copied from the English originals as well as an important series of original maps of the American states drawn by Samuel Lewis. This entry covers almost all of pages 15-16 and includes an itemized list of the maps, with asterisks helpfully indicating the many maps “added to this edition, exclusive of those in the last London edition”. This project spawned two atlases, Carey’s American Atlas (1795) and Carey’s General Atlas (1796), both important early American atlases, the latter being the first world atlas published in America.

Pages 22-23 feature a price list for several dozen separately-offered sheet maps, including the various maps prepared for the Guthrie Geography, but also includes Elihu Barker’s rare two-sheet map of Kentucky (1794, $1.67) and, perhaps surprisingly, Antoine Pierre Folie’s map of Baltimore (1793, $1), engraved in Philadelphia, which is not otherwise known to be connected to Carey. Surprisingly, the map of Tennessee, originally prepared for Daniel Smith’s A short description of the Tennassee Government (1793), is priced at $1, while the other maps from the Guthrie are 37½ cents.

The catalog is scarce. I have been able to locate 13 holdings in American institutional collections, and RareBookHub records only three examples appearing on the antiquarian market, most recently at Swann Galleries in 2004, with “later wrappers; foxing and staining” for $1380.

Mathew Carey (1760-1839)
Carey was born in Dublin, into a prosperous middle-class Catholic family. He was originally apprenticed into the Irish book trade but became increasingly active as a journalist and political commentator. His republican views brought him into conflict with the authorities and he fled, first to Paris where he met Benjamin Franklin and the Marquis de Lafayette. Having returned to Dublin, he was again compelled to flee into permanent exile in Philadelphia, where he established himself as a bookseller by a gift from Lafayette, who was then in the city.

This catalogue appeared at a transitional moment in Carey’s American career; much of his business was books imported from Britain, but he already had an impressive output, much pirated from English publishers, but also including a few American novels and periodicals and political tracts written by Carey himself. In 1794 he began to expand the publishing side of his business, with ambitious productions including the Guthrie volume, Carey’s American Atlas (1795) and Carey’s General Atlas (1796). By the time of his retirement, Carey had perhaps 1200 publications to his name, making him a leading hub in the book trade.

In keeping with British practices, Carey was a frequent printer of stocklists or catalogues, ranging from single-page to 64 pages, with this 1795 catalogue one of the largest catalogues traced. Catalogues of this kind were highly important tools for the book-trade, stocklists that Carey could bind into books sold by him to provide a permanent aide-memoire of his business and to prompt further sales. They were also distributed to booksellers widely dispersed throughout the U.S., as well as to subscription agents and traveling salesmen.

References and census
Evans, American Bibliography, 28388. Streeter Collection, VII:4318. ESTC W30294 records seven institutional holdings, at the Library of Congress (three copies), American Antiquarian Society, New York Public Library, Huntington Library, John Carter Brown Library, Library Company of Philadelphia, and College of William and Mary (November 2021). OCLC 35633872, 77787095, 950918546 and 208021401, between them listing the above holdings and add the Boston Athenaeum, Clements, Hagley Museum & Library, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, State Library of Pennsylvania and Winterthur (November 2021).