The Mismapping of America

by Seymour I. Schwartz, University of Rochester Press, 2003, ISBN 1-58046-129-8, 233 pages.

Seymour Schwartz is a familiar name in the American map world. His book co-authored with Ralph Ehrenberg,The Mapping of America is a well known classic.  He has written several other books including The French and Indian War 1754-1763 and This Land is Your Land.  Each of these works has been well received and can be said to be fairly carefully researched.

In this latest work Dr. Schwartz sets out to discuss such  cartographic curios as the naming of America for Vespucci rather than Columbus, the Island of California, the search for the Northwest Passage and French creative cartography of the 18th Century. An author can hardly be blamed for a printer’s error in reversing a map as is done with the Juan Vespucci map, Figure 11 and 11a. This is an editing error. Unfortunately, this is neither the first or last such error. The book contains interesting material but typographical errors and substantial errors of fact cloud the work’s value. As an example, the author writes that Drake anchored in a harbor at 38º 30′ North Latitude and remained for six days. It seems certain to the reviewer that Dr. Schwartz meant “six  weeks” as often quoted from contemporary sources. Had the author had one or more people familiar with each section editing it would undoubtedly have minimized such slips. One gets the impression critical review was sadly lacking.

Bill Warren
From Society’s June 2003 Newsletter