1822 Map of The United States of America by John Melish

United States of America. Compiled from the latest & best Authorities by John Melish. Engraved by G. Murphy, 1822.

This is a finely engraved map of the United States by one of the first American cartographic publishers, John Melish. Published in 1822, the map offers a snapshot of the nascent yet growing United States, pushing westward as a result of intrepid explorers and early settlers. 

This map extends west to the Rocky Mountains and provides a comprehensive view of the Missouri River, thanks to information from the expeditions of Lewis & Clark, Humboldt, Pike, and others. A notation at the western edge of the map shows where "Clarks Canoes stop 3000 miles from the Mississippi." Outlined in original yellow hand coloring, the swollen Missouri Territory encompasses the entire northern plains region from the Mississippi to the Rocky Mountains. The new state of Missouri is presented with preliminary boundaries; Arkansas Territory is at its largest size, following much of the Red River.

Current day Minnesota and Wisconsin are shown here as part of the North West Territory. In Texas there are a few early place names including Ft. Matagorda, but Galveston is poorly located. Melish does a thorough job of identifying and labeling Native American tribal lands, roads and trails, forts, and watersheds.

Cartographically, Melish pulls much of the coastal geography from his earlier 1812 pocket map. This particular map was first issued in 1818, the map is dated under the title 1820, with a note that it has been “Improved to 1822.” This map was published in both the Traveller's Directory through the United States and in A Complete Historical, Chronological, and Geographical Atlas.

John Melish (1771-1822) was born in Scotland, yet visited the United States and West Indies several times in the early 1800s. His first trip to the States was 1806, officially moving to Philadelphia in 1811. A traveller, cartographer, and writer, Melish recorded every observation from his travels in the American South. In 1812, he published Travels in the United States of America, which includes his first published maps and started him on his cartographic career. 

Melish began work on a comprehensive map of the United States in 1815. Nearing completion in 1816, Melish solicited the advice of former President Thomas Jefferson and sent a copy of the map to Monticello. Jefferson replied with copious notes and remarked: “It is handsomely executed and on a well chosen scale; giving a luminous view of the comparative possessions of different powers in our America. It is on account of the value I set on it that I will make some suggestions.” (Dec. 31, 1816, handwritten letter Jefferson to Madison). The map, published in 1818, became Melish’s masterpiece. Twenty-five known states of the map were reissued between 1816 and 1823. Melish’s dominance in the mapmaking and American cartography cannot be understated. His subsequently published travelogues, atlases, and comprehensive and regional maps became the gold standard of American 19th century publishing.

CONDITION: This map is in very good condition. The map was issued folding; fold lines are still present but flattened. Map has a few archivally-repaired fold separations. Paper is very healthy, save minimal toning near upper right of Atlantic Ocean.

Map has been beautifully framed to conservation standards, with an acid-free dark green top mat, UV Conservation Clear glass, and a hand-built black wooden frame. 




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