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A Magnificent Cartographic Watershed for North America

North America/ Northwest/ / Canada/ Early Artic Exploration. WYLD, James/ FADEN, William [ [London, 1824 & 1825]
Map of North America Exhibiting-The recent Discoveries, Geographical and Nautical….
Folding map engraved on seven sheets, joined to form three, each measuring 19 x 65 inches (engraved areas only), with 12 1/2 x 31-inch extension appended to bottom sheet. Vibrant, original outline shading; a number of reinforced fold separations, largely in exterior areas, a few mended tears to extension sheet; paper bright & crisp; overall very good to excellent.


A rare, majestic, large-scale map, in an early edition, that provided the best general depiction of North America, including its farthest northern reaches, of its time. Notably, the map includes the then recent far-northern explorations of Franklin of 1820-21 and of Parry in 1819 and 1820, both being clearly noted with accompanying voyage tracks. Wheat described it as a “large and beautiful map, excellent in all respects save for its southwestern geography.” The map was engraved with elegance and clarity and with its topography nicely rendered; this example has vibrant shading in period color.
This map originated in an 1820 printing by William Faden, although this fact was missed by Stevens & Tree, Wheat and others. This seems to have been due to the great rarity of this edition, of which fewer than five examples are known. The map was Faden's last major production before his retirement in 1823, at which time James Wyld took over his business. Wyld immediately re-issued the map in 1823, considerably updating it with the northern voyages material mentioned above and other information. Stevens and Tree list four editions of the map to 1856, but in addition to missing the Faden edition of 1820, they also did not note the 1823 first Wyld edition (as in Rumsey) and this 1825 edition as well. The sheets of this copy are, in fact, mixed issues, the top two being dated 1824 and the bottom sheet with the newly added extension covering Mexico and Central America being dated 1825; it is also dated 1825 in the title. The map, however, was clearly issued in this way, as indicated by all physical evidence including early stamped numbers on the versos. OCLC lists just a single copy of an 1825 edition (Oxford).
The two great competing maps of North America contemporary with this one were the Arrowsmith, published from 1795 to 1850, and the American-published Melish map, whose publication dates ran from 1816 to 1823. Having originated later than both of these, the Faden/ Wyld map had the advantage of integrating then very recent explorations and political developments onto a newer template. It provided a more complete picture of the West, particularly in its delineation of the Rocky Mountains, the Sierra Nevadas, and the coastal ranges. It is similarly superior in its mapping of the Northwest and in its shaping of the west coast line. The map drew on the explorations of Pike, Humboldt, and Lewis and Clark, and for areas to the north—Mackenzie, Hearns, Bouchette, Vancouver, Parry, and Ross. The latter two led the explorations (1818 and 1819) that made groundbreaking findings into the true nature of the Northwest Passage, about which there was renewed interest in England at the time. The cartography derived from these and other British explorations, some of them reaching to upper Canada and the lower arctic, were assembled on this map into a coherent picture with considerable skill.
The Northwest is an area where the Faden/ Wyld map was more advanced than both the Arrowsmith and Melish. Here at least in relation to the Melish map, Faden had the advantage, as an English mapmaker, of fresher information. The difference is most noticeable in the mapping of the coastal ranges; for example Mt. Rainer appears on the Faden and not on the Melish. By the time of the War of 1812 to well after, there was no longer an American presence at the mouth of the Columbia River. Fort Astoria, founded in 1811, became by 1813, Fort George, due to some combination of a purchase and seizure by the British. In 1811, the Englishman, David Thompson, navigated the entire course of the Columbia River, and Faden appears to have had access to his data.
The map’s delineation of the Great Salt Lake is most interesting and also in advance of the competition; it is also reflective of remaining uncertainties in the mapping of the West at the time. It is the earliest we’ve encountered to actually use the term “Salt Lake” for the body of water and to show it complete and enclosed. Although the Spanish learned of the existence of the lake from Indians as early as 1776, there was not a recorded sighting and exploration by white North Americans until 1824. Until then, only bits of information concerning it filtered back from largely illiterate trappers and mountain men. Naturally, prior to this point, there was much confusion in the mapping of the lake, but Faden and Wyld seem to have been farther along than others. Other early maps called it Lake Timpanagas, which was the actual name of another lake—Utah Lake—which is actually south of the Great Salt Lake.
Two then recently ratified boundary lines appear on the map—one being that between the United States and British Canada (which includes what is now the northwest portion of Washington State) that was signed in London in October 1818; the other was the aforementioned border between the United States and Spanish-held territory as established in Washington in February of 1819. It is interesting that compared to the Melish map of the United States, this map makes more clear just how much territory of what would eventually become part of the United States was held by Spain.

Wheat 366; Stevens & Tree 63; Rumsey 4087; Tooley’s Dictionary of Mapmakers, Vol. Q-Z, pp. 415-416.

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