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CAREY, Matthew

Carey's American Pocket Atlas

Philadelphia, 1796
Duodecimo (170 x 105 mm.), contemporary quarter calf, marbled paper boards, rebacked with gilt ruled compartments, housed in a solander box with gilt title on gilt ruled ribbed spine. With typographic title page, pp. 118, (2), (4), with 19 maps, one folding with professionally repaired tear, two leaves of advertisements at the end, with light foxing as usual, otherwise in good condition.
‘FIRST EDITION OF THE FIRST AMERICAN POCKET ATLAS’. Following the American Revolution there was a burgeoning domestic production of cartography. Up to this point the market had been dominated by British published material with very little locally produced. One of the first American pioneers in this new market was Matthew Carey (1760-1839). Geographical texts were being published in the newly formed United States, the first was by Jedidiah Morse whose ‘American Geography’ in 1789 contained just two maps. This was followed by Benjamin Workman’s ‘Elements of Geography’ with three maps. Collections of sea charts were available by Matthew Clark in 1790 and John Norman in 1791. The idea of a small America atlas or gazetteer was first demonstrated by Joseph Scott in 1795[94]. Carey prepared his own folio ‘American Atlas’ in 1795 followed the following year by the ‘American Pocket Atlas’ with 19 maps of the United States.

Carey was born in Dublin, Ireland, he was dropped at just a year old by his nurse and sustained lifelong injuries as a result. Possibly therefore he became a shy child and hid himself in books. From an early age he wanted to be a book printer and publisher. He wrote his first piece, against duelling, when he was 17 years old. He wrote a tract anonymously in support of the Catholics which brought about a reward of £40 for his arrest by a conservative group. He left for Paris where he was introduced to Benjamin Franklin. He worked with Franklin at his press in Passy before returning to Ireland where he set up a newspaper. Within a year, he had incurred the wrath of the government and was committed to Newgate Prison for a short while. With a new prosecution impending he fled following his release for America on 7 September 1784 by dressing as a woman.

He arrived in Philadelphia with just 12 guineas to his name. He received a summons from General Lafayette who gave him $400. On 25 January 1785, he published the first issue of the ‘Pennsylvania Herald’ which supported the conservative party. It proved to be a success. However, it drew him in to a bitter dispute, ending in a duel with Colonel Oswald, the editor of the ‘Independent Gazetteer’ in January 1786 which left him badly wounded in the thigh. He was one of the founders of the ‘Columbia Magazine’ and then published the ‘American Museum’.

The maps in this atlas are engraved by William Barker, Joseph H. Seymour, and Amos Doolittle, including a general map of the United States, as well as maps of Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, the Northwest Territory, Maryland, Virginia, Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee, South Carolina and Georgia. Kentucky was named a State on 1 June 1792. The atlas was issued later in the year 1796 evidenced by the referral to Tennessee as a State, something it achieved on the 1 June 1796. Also of interest is the map of Georgia which is depicted extending to the Mississippi River. The Mississippi Territory would be formed from the western section in April 1798. The chapter ‘Territory N. W. of the Ohio’ is its formal name granted in 1787. It would first be carved up by the formation of Ohio in 1800. Each map is accompanied by a full description detailing amongst other details its produce.

Complete examples of this first edition are extremely scarce. The Rare Book Hub only records 3 examples at auction, one of which is this Laird Park copy. Provenance: Sotheby’s New York, Laird U. Park, Jr. sale, lot 44; private English collection. ESTC W37674; Evans 30161; Howes (1962) C137; Phillips (1907-) 1364; Ristow (1985) p. 151; Sabin (1868) 10856; Schwartz & Ehrenberg (1980) p. 231; Walsh (1988) p. 38.
Stock number: 10493
$ 27,500
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