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Nineteenth Century British Explorer Maps

Identifier: SC MS 0204

Scope and Contents

Sixteen sheets of hand drawn maps in dark brown ink approximately 22.5 cm x 37 cm (15 maps) and one map of irregular shape 22.5/35.5 cm x 37 cm. The map papers have several watermarks: C. Wilmot 1822, E. Wise 1826, J. Whatman Balston & Co. 1826. The collection consists of twenty- one maps of North America’s Arctic regions, five maps of North Africa, and two assorted. All the maps appear to be made by the same hand and reflect British nineteenth century explorations. Some of the maps have an embossed seal of a crown and the word BATH on the map sheets.


  • Creation: 1818-1824

Access Restrictions

Access Restrictions: Collection housed remotely. Users need to contact 24 hours in advance.

Use Restrictions

Collection is open for research.

Copyright Notice

Please inquire about copyright information.

Biographical / Historical

This collection of hand drawn maps appears to have been made for publication of British exploration narratives prevalently published by the London publisher, John Murray & Co. in the early nineteenth century. Following the British victory in the Napoleonic wars, there was a strong need for the British Admiralty to find safe harbors and secure trade routes to control the far-flung British Empire. Many of the British Navy’s captains and sailors were reassigned to explore trade routes especially the North-west Passage. Many of the men mentioned with regard to these maps were contemporaries having served together in the Navy or on previous explorations. Based on some of the map notation, there seemed to have been knowledge from the British explorers at the end of the eighteenth century available for the early nineteenth century British explorers to expand upon for trade and securing a hold on the far-flung British Empire. Among the explorers sent to secure a British presence were Sir John Franklin, Sir William Parry, and Major Dixon Denham as noted by the maps. The Arctic maps are especially interesting as various British explorers’ routes are compared. Various ice fields, icebergs, shore lines, Eskimo huts and Arctic fauna are noted.


1 Linear Feet (16 maps in 1 flat box)

Language of Materials



16 hand drawn maps represent British exploration in the nineteenth century. Twenty-six maps illustrating the travels of various British explorers at the behest of the British Admiralty compose the collection. Among the explorations mapped are Sir John Franklin’s first voyage, his two overland journeys and Sir William Edward Parry’s voyages on the ships Hecla, Griper and Fury in the Arctic searching for the Northwest Passage and the North Pole, Major Dixon Denham, Capt. Hugh Clapperton, and Dr.Walter Oudney journey through northern Africa following Ritchie and Lyon searching for Timbuktu, William Browne’s visit to Darfur and the British Navy searching for safe harbors along Atlantic and Pacific trade routes. The Arctic maps appear to have been drawn by John Bushnan, assistant surveyor under Parry. Comparisons are made between the various exploratory routes with detailed cartographic notations. Many of the maps are details of specific areas used to compose printed maps that appear in the published narratives of the explorers’ journals. The Arctic maps have unique notations regarding ice fields and icebergs observed during the explorations.


Sixteen sheets are grouped into three categories: the Arctic maps, the Africa maps and assorted maps (Azores, Loo Choo and Dar Fur). These maps appear to be original drawings for large scale maps engraved for the publisher John Murray, London. This publisher was well known in the nineteenth century for publishing the journals of many British explorers among them were William Parry’s several journeys and the Denham journal.

Acquisition Information

George A. Leavitt & Co. Auctioneers, New York Item No. 2425 Lehigh University Library Accession No. 14371.

In Progress
Eleanor Nothelfer and Berto Sicard
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Lehigh University Library and Technology Services.

Repository Details

Part of the Lehigh University Special Collections Repository

Lehigh University
Linderman Library
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Bethlehem PA 18045 USA
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