Maps and Atlases
The collection of maps focuses on the United States, although there are maps of all parts of the world that were printed in the United States. The size of the collection is about 10,000 items. The strengths of the collection are maps of New England of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and, more specifically, maps of Massachusetts. In 1910, the New England Historic Genealogical Society placed its collection of maps on deposit at AAS; AAS purchased this collection in 1992.
No major acquisitions comparable in size to the collections of John W. Farwell or Thomas W. Streeter have arrived at the Society since 1958, and purchases of cartographic materials each year are restricted to a few items. Gifts are always welcome. Although the geographical arrangement and index of the map collection are adequate for answering reference questions posed by local historians and genealogists, it is almost impossible to respond to queries posed by cartographic historians with respect to cartographers or to techniques used in the compilation of a map. There are partial indices to the collection by engraver and by lithographer. Easy access to those printed in America is made possible by the bibliography compiled by James Clement Wheat and Christian F. Brun, Maps and Charts Published in America Before 1800 (New Haven and London, 1969). This was reprinted in 1985. Kenneth Nebenzahl's Bibliography of Printed Plans of the American Revolution (Chicago, 1975) also reflects the holdings of AAS. These bibliographies are useful to anyone using the collection because they provide access points not available in other finding aids at the Society.
The atlas collection consists of about 650 volumes, dating from the late sixteenth century to the early twentieth century. Although there are many world atlases, the focus of the collection is atlases of the United States, particularly New England. There are atlases designed for school use as well as folio volumes devoted to maps of particular states, counties, and cities. The entire collection has been catalogued and access to this collection can be achieved by using the genre heading "Atlases." There are index cards in the map catalogue in the reading room for maps published in atlases published before 1821.
The Society also has a collection of pocket maps which were intended to be carried and used during travel. The maps are usually small in size and fold neatly into a leather or paperboard binding. There are over four hundred of these maps in the collection, ranging in date from the 1820's through the end of the nineteenth century. State and city maps are found in the pocket map collection, as well as numerous maps showing railroad and steamboat lines, mining claims, and territorial divisions in the western settlements. Some are annotated by previous owners, showing preferred routes or noting hotels and other points of interest. An inventory of the pocket map collection, arranged by state, is available online.
- Georgia B. Barnhill, Andrew W. Mellon Curator of Graphic Arts