Joseph T. Scott was an engraver in Philadelphia and beyond his published works we know little about him. He engraved the first map of Tennessee for Mathew Carey in 1793. Despite being a publisher of cartographic works, Carey outsourced their actual engraving. The epithet of the first American atlas is normally handed to Carey for the ‘American Atlas’ published in 1795. The definition of an atlas is a bound collection of maps, without text. But dated to the same year is Scott’s ‘United States Gazetteer’ with a full set of maps of the newly formed United States. W. Graham Arader III once possessed an example of this work with a manuscript notation of Mr. Wm. McIntire, Baltimore, MD on the front paste-down, dated 1794! This even though the Preface here is dated 1 December 1795.
If one takes a looser definition of an atlas to mean a collection of maps with or without text, then Scott’s ‘Gazetteer’ is therefore the first of the United States. The popularity of the book encouraged Carey to publish his work the following year and the ‘American Pocket Atlas’ in 1796. In the same year Scott included his maps in the ‘Atlas of the United States’.
The Gazetteer was extensive in coverage and immediately caught the public’s attention. The Preface outlines the work: ‘I think it necessary to observe, that I have travelled through many of the states myself, and have been in several of the towns throughout the Union … I received my information from several of the members of Congress’. He goes on to state that no gazetteer has ever been published of the United States, I may with some degree of justice say, I have ‘trodden an unbeaten path’.
The maps comprise a large folding general map of the country followed by 18 more detailed ones bound of course in alphabetical order. These include Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, New Jersey, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Northwest Territory, Southwest Territory, Vermont and Virginia. In the Preface Scott states that ‘The maps I have drawn and engraved myself, and I trust they will be found, on examination, as accurate as circumstances would admit, and probably more so than any collection of maps that has hitherto been published in the United States’.
Provenance: ‘To Frances Griffin from her affectionate friend Uncle Guillemard’ inscribed on front free endpaper; Norwich Public Library with stamp to bottom of final leaf; Tombland Bookshop, Norwich, October 1996; Burden collection. ESTC W29640; Evans 29476; Howes S237; Phillips 4521a; Sabin 78331.