“Undoubtedly one of the finest early maps of Maine” (Thompson)

D[aniel] F[riedrich] Sotzmann (mapmaker) / Carl Ernst Bohn (publisher) / Sander (engraver), MAINE entworfen von D.F. Sotzmann, Hamburg, 1798 .
Engraving, 25 1/4"h x 17 3/8"w plus margins, original wash and outline color

A very fine and scarce 18th–century map of the District of Maine… by a mapmaker who never visited America.

Sotzmann’s map depicts Maine in its entirety as well as sizable areas of New Brunswick, Quebec and New Hampshire. The geographic detail is particularly strong for Maine’s intricate coastline and complex system of rivers, streams, lakes and ponds south of the 46th parallel, though surprisingly little attention is paid to its mountainous regions. Northern Maine is shown as all but uncharted, with the exception of a few major river systems and some ranges of peaks drawn in the archaic “caterpillar” style. Throughout Sotzmann uses a variety of standardized line forms to differentiate state/national boundaries, county lines, township boundaries, and stage- and post roads.

The map is particularly interesting for its depiction of patterns of land ownership. Massachusetts was perpetually short of cash in the post-Revolutionary years, and its leaders viewed Maine lands as a cash cow, to be sold off as quickly as possible to raise funds and provide new opportunities for development. The first major effort was a 1786 scheme to sell by lottery dozens of townships in Washington and Hancock Counties, the boundaries of which are clearly visible on the map. After that venture failed, Philadelphia financier William Bingham made two massive purchases of one million acres each, both of which are also shown. Other townships were sold scattershot, while some were granted outright to educational and other institutions, and in one case to the “Sufferers of Portland” (aka Falmouth), which had been burned by the British during the Revolution.

For all this activity, however, North of roughly 44˚30′ dozens of townships are shown on the map as unclaimed. Further, it appears that most of the townships that had changed hands had not yet benefitted from development. For example not a single road is shown in the million or so acres held by Bingham in Hancock and Washington Counties.

Also of the greatest interest is Maine’s northern boundary with British Canada, every inch of which remained in dispute following the Revolution. To the east Sotzmann depicts three alternative boundaries between Maine and New Brunswick, reflecting the British claim, the American claim, and the compromise resolution achieved by a bilateral commission in October 1798. This eastern boundary was not fully resolved until 1818, when the boundary line was extended through Passamaquoddy Bay by yet another commission. Even at that late date the northern boundary between Maine and Quebec-established by the 1783 Treaty of Paris at the “Highlands, which divide the rivers that fall into the Atlantic Ocean from those which fall into the river St. Lawrence”-remained unresolved. This dispute was only resolved by the Webster-Ashburton Treaty of 1842.

Comparative cartography
Thompson describes Sotzmann’s map as “undoubtedly one of the finest early maps of Maine” (p. 73), and it is in fact a remarkable composition. Close comparison indicates that below the 46th parallel Sotzmann’s map is largely based on Osgood Carleton’s Map of the District of Maine, published in 1795 to accompany James Sullivan’s History of the District of Maine. There are however a number of important differences. For example, Sotzmann shows the different interpretations of the Maine-New Brunswick border as well as the compromise settlement of 1798. There are also interesting differences of land ownership: For example, townships in southern Hancock and Washington Counties are labeled “Lottery Land,” whereas Carleton assigns ownership to William Bingham, while the Waldo Patent along Penobscot Bay is labeled by Sotzmann as “now belonging to Genl. Knox. Sotzmann also offers far more detail than Carleton of adjacent areas of Quebec, New Brunswick and New Hampshire.

Sotzmann’s depiction of the northern reaches of Maine, as well as adjoining areas of Quebec and New Brunswick, is completely different, and both more detailed and more accurate than that on Carleton’s maps. Sotzmann’s source or sources are not certain, though the outline of the Chaudiere River and the upper St. Lawrence strongly resembles that on Sauthier’s 1777 Map of the Inhabited Part of Canada, itself derived from earlier French surveys. It also differs interestingly in giving a much more conservative view of the Maine-Quebec boundary, which Carleton had placed almost at the St. Lawrence River.

Christoph Ebeling and the Erdbeschreibung
This map was intended for a planned atlas to accompany Christoph Daniel Ebeling’s Erdbeschreibung und Geschichte von Amerika, a magisterial study of the geography and history of the new United States. Ebeling (1741-1817) was a Hamburg academic with a general interest in free states, which interest lead him to a decades-long fascination with America and ultimately to conceive the Erdbeschreibung project.

To produce the maps Ebeling commissioned Daniel Friedrich Sotzmann, Geographer of the Berlin Academy. The atlas was to contain 18 plates, including 16 of the individual states. Unfortunately neither the narrative nor the atlas were fully realized, perhaps because of Ebeling’s advancing years and (in his view) a lack of sufficiently accurate source material. In all, seven volumes of the Erdbeschreibung were issued between 1793 and 1816, while ten maps were completed: Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delware and Maryland. With the odd exception of the Rhode Island map, all of these are scarce, while some (such as Maryland) are extremely rare.

Sotzmann’s map of Maine is very scarce on the market, with no examples listed in Antique Map Price Record. This writer knows of only two having changed hands in the past ten years, one at the July 2003 auction of Ed Thompson’s collection (lot 109, $4600) and the other bound into a Sotzmann atlas that changed hands at the Miami Map Fair several years ago. This writer walked right by that atlas, bound in innocuous green paper over boards, a “miss” that remains one of his greatest regrets as a dealer.

McCorkle, New England in Early Printed Maps, #M796.3. Phillips, p. 383; Thompson, Printed Maps of the District and State of Maine, #25. Not in Rumsey. Background from Ristow, American Maps and Mapmakers, pp.169-178.


Very good. Paper gently toned, with minor soiling and a tiny puncture in Hancock County.