William Faden map of the United States, updated to include the Louisiana Purchase

Engraving and etching on wove paper, 21”h x 25 1/8”w at neat line plus margins, original outline color. Segmented and laid on linen, with printed William Faden label affixed to verso. Housed in a slipcase of marbled paper over boards with affixed shelf labels, probably not original to the map. Map with some minor surface soiling, foxing and offset, and a few pencil notations at lower left. Verso bears pencil annotations of a prior owner, “bought Nov. 16, 1970, from Goodspeed’s… Paid $35.00.”

William Faden’s important and extremely long-lived map of the United States, with great interior detail reflecting the territorial development and geopolitical situation of the early Republic. Among other things, this is the first state to depict the newly-acquired Louisiana Territory.

The map depicts North America as far west as the Missouri River watershed and north to Newfoundland and the southern reaches of James’s (i.e., Hudson’s) Bay. It was first issued in 1777 during the American Revolution by William Faden, bearing the title The British Colonies in North America. After the war was concluded and American independence recognized by the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1783, Faden reissued the map with changes reflecting the much-changed geopolitical situation. In particular, he introduced a color scheme to differentiate the boundaries of the United States and the holdings of France, Great Britain and Spain, the other geopolitical players on the continent. The scheme evolved with successive issues of the map, most notably with the introduction in 1793 of the “Aborigines”, their lands delineated in purple.

Offered here is the 1809 issue of the map. At the time, relations between the powers engaged in North America remained extremely fraught, but the acquisition of Louisiana had brought the Founders’ dream of a coast-to-coast empire closer to fruition. As with previous issues of the map, its most salient features remain the great attention paid to inland waterways and the use of outline color to delineate the geopolitical situation: The United States, yellow, here extended to include the Lousiana Purchase; British Canada and the Bahamas, red; Spanish Florida and New Mexico, green; a sliver of Newfoundland held by France, blue; and the vast territories that “should belong by right” to Native American peoples, purple.

A closer look reveals a wealth of Native American tribes and settlements to the south and west of the Appalachians, with a corresponding paucity of European settlements. Signs of the coming flood are legion, however: American settlements and forts in Kentucky and modern-day Ohio, and a profusion of parcels staked out by land speculators and for the benefit of war veterans as far west as the Mississippi.

The odd boundary between Maine and New Brunswick is of particular interest, reflecting as it does a distinctly British spin on the ambiguous terms of the Treaty of Paris; the issue eventually brought the United States and Great Britain to the brink of war would not be resolved until the 1842 Webster-Ashburton Treaty. Native American lands, outlined in purple, lie squarely within territory assigned to the United States by the Treaty of Paris. Faden’s note on the matter reflects the strong British preference for a Native American buffer between the United States and Canada, but otherwise does nothing to resolve the confusion:

“The Whole of the Countries not actually settled by Europeans, should belong by right to the Aborigines, but our Intention has been only to Indicate the few Limits that are known of their respective Possessions, as well as the Boundaries of the Lands, granted by them, or those with the Several States, to which they have agreed.”

One oddity is the extension of the system of waterways in the upper Mississippi Valley, which among other things incorrectly shows a water link between the Mississippi and Lake Winnipeg. The map also has a number of anachronisms, indicating that Faden was less than thorough in updating it from the previous edition of 1796. Among these are the never-recognized proto-state of “Franklinia” sandwiched between North Carolina and Tennessee and long-since defunct; and, more significantly, the failure to delineate the State of Ohio, which had joined in the Union in 1803, and the Louisiana and Orleans Territories (both est. 1804)

William Faden (1749-1836) began his map-engraving and –publishing career in partnership with the heirs of Thomas Jefferys, but by 1776 he was issuing maps under his own imprint. He first came to prominence by publishing dozens of maps depicting the battles and campaigns of the American Revolution, and in 1783 would be appointed Geographer to His Majesty King George III. He ultimately revised and re-issued his Map of the United States eight times through 1820; thereafter his successor James Wyld re-issued it another six times, the final state appearing in 1843 (Stevens and Tree’s hitherto definitive cartobibliography of the map identifies a total of 14 states of the map, but I am aware of another, intermediate between their states 1785 (d) and 1793 (e).)

In all, an attractive, important and absolutely fascinating map, a trove of information for the early political and territorial development of the United States and the ongoing struggle for possession of North America.

Sellers & Van Ee, Maps and Charts of North America and the West Indies, #732 (1st state). Stevens & Tree, “Comparative Cartography”, #80g (in Tooley, ed., The Mapping of North America). This 1809 state of the map not in Phillips, Maps of America.