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American Shores Maps of the Middle Atlantic Region to 1850 The New York Public Library
Map Collection
Overview Basics of Maps Maps Through History Geographical Areas


Trade, the food of empire, requires the creation of maps. How else to keep track, literally, of ships’ paths from Europe to Africa to the West Indies and America laden with goods, slaves, settlers, criminals, indentured servants, etc. All the workers helped turn the wheel of trade, which allowed the production of maps, purchased by a growing merchant class and newly literate public. The relationship of the Middle Atlantic region to its international trading partners can be seen only on these maps of worldwide coverage.

World, 1790.
catalog record

The double-hemisphere design became popular for world maps after the full extent of the Americas was known. The presentation of the earth's geographic spaces as equal units had been a popular classical motif, and its use continued well into the 18th century. It implies the roundness of the earth, which the rectangular Mercator projection on the map does not. This particular 1790 map emphasizes exploration and trade. Captain Cook’s and other explorers' oceanic routes are shown, and for trading purposes, all the important ports are named. Notice that Chesapeake Bay is written well out into the Atlantic, and Philadelphia and Annapolis are named also.
World, 1635.
catalog record

This is a very early Mercator projection map of the world. The two edges, right and left, meet to form a whole cylindrical earth. The map is encyclopedic in the information provided: flying fish and sailing ships dot the ocean; small azimuthal polar maps appear in the corners; the grid of latitude and longitude covers the map; one label and two dedicatory cartouches decorate the map; full and partial compass roses emphasize the northerly orientation; and 14 views of cities and 8 cartes à figure representing the four seasons and the four classical elements (earth, air, wind, fire) decorate the margins. To convert all the visual information into words would take pages and pages of text.








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