Mapping The West, America’s Westward Movement 1524-1890

by Paul E. Cohen with introduction by David Rumsey, Rizzoli International Publications, Inc., New York, 2002, ISBN 0-8478-2492-6, 205 pages with bibliography, prints, and maps in  full,color.

If someone didn’t give you this book for Christmas, I’m sorry.  Go out and buy it because-IT’S WORTH IT!
Paul Cohen is a map dealer and an excellent writer. He is the co-author of Manhatten in Maps.  Above and beyond that, he was able to entice a number of well known map experts to write sections of this work.  You know many of them If you came to our joint meeting with the Philip Lee Phillips Society, you certainly will remember Ron Grim, Pam van Ee and Jim Flatness, all of the Library of Congress and each a recognize scholar.  Our own members Warren Heckrotte, editor of California 49, and Gary Kurutz, California History Librarian, both contributed readable yet scholarly sections.

Many of us know Alice Hudson, Chief of the Map Division of New York Public Library, and Bob Karrow of the Newberry Library, both contributors.  Henry Taliaferro and Tom Suarez are each well respected map dealers and researchers.  And there are many others.  With an editorial staff like this you know the contents will be first rate.  Speculation will always be labeled as such, not as fact.
Paul Cohen has done an excellent job of selecting over 60 maps of great significance to be printed in color in large page format. The book measures 9-1/2″ wide by 11″ high and many maps are printed across much of two pages.

David Rumsey’s introduction is a classic in itself.  We learn how his interest in maps was formed.  Stranded in the middle of northern Nevada’s Owyhee Desert, he found himself in the unenviable position of having to cross 50 miles of barren waste on foot without an adequate map.  This four day journey and near brush with death taught him the value of understanding maps.  Thankfully for those of us who share his passion for old maps, David survived to tell us about it.

The book begins with a nearly two page full color copy of Hernan Cortes’ Plan of the City of Mexico and Map of the Gulf of Mexico from the Newberry Library’s collection.  The last map is that of the U. S. General Land Office, Map of the United States and Territories, 1890.  In between are clearly printed versions of Costanso’s 1771 map, Zebulon Pike’s 1810 map, Charles Preuss’ several maps for Fremont, and of course, Gouveneur K. Warren’s maps of the 1850′s, and lots more.

This is a book which can be read straight through or in bits and pieces. I suspect that map collectors will tend to do the latter, starting with their own favorites.

Our own President, Glen McLaughlin is liberally quoted. If I find one fault with the book it is the repeated misspelling of David Karpeles’ name, since many of his maps were used for illustrations.  However, having maps in full color and excellent quality, allowing much detail to be seen, makes up for any small shortcomings.

Bill Warren
From Society’s December 2002 Newsletter