A marvelous Vermont schoolboy map

Melvin Wright, MAP of VERMONT Projected by Melvin Wright. Londonderry Po[illegible] 20th D[ecember] 1841.
Ink and watercolor on wove paper, 18 ¾”h x 22 5/8”w at sheet edge. Lined with linen an mounted on rollers, the rollers possibly a recent addition.

An unusually ornate and decorative example of the genre.

 In the 18th and 19th centuries map drawing was an important method of geographic education at the primary level, and “schoolboy” and “schoolgirl” maps are frequently encountered on the market.  The great majority are unadorned and relatively pedestrian, but this Vermont schoolboy map is extraordinary for its care of execution and ornamentation.

The central image is a large map of Vermont indicating towns and county boundaries, with outline color by county, as well as adjacent parts of New Hampshire and New York. I am uncertain of the source for the cartography, but a likely possibility is a late state of James Whitelaw’s Vermont from Actual Survey. Surrounding the map are six pictorial vignettes, a feature unheard-of on early student maps. These include “View of the hills at Marshfield,” “A singular curiosity at Norwich” (two pines joined by a lateral limb), “View of the Green Mountains with their height above tide water,” “View of the Aborigines of Vermont,” “View of the Capital,” and “View of the coat of arms of the State of Vermont.”

The map is signed “Melvin Wright Londonderry.” Several men by this name resided in Vermont in the mid 19th century, but the most likely candidate is the young man born at Londonderry on February 22, 1824, later settled in nearby Proctorsville (in the town of Cavendish) and “became well known as a singer, teacher, and composer of songs and other music.” As of August 26, 2016 I find on Ebay an envelope bearing the printed return address “Melvin Wright, / Proctorsville, VT. / Publisher and dealer in / Sheet music, musical instruments, / and agent for the / B. Shonegar Melodeon Company.”


Toned, handwriting legible but difficult to read in places. Cracking, some losses along edges, black selvage partially perished.