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Friday, April 22, 2011

Map of the Day: "The First Official State Map of California." Eddy, William. Priced $1,500 under recent auction value.

Framed size: 56" x 63"

“Approved and Declared to be the Official Map of the State of California by an Act of the Legislature Passed March 25th 1853.” -New York: J.H. Colton, 1854

  •  On April 21st 2011, Pacific Auction Galleries sold an example for $39,000. It was sold as lot 280 in sale 452. 
  • This example is available in a museum quality frame for $1,500 less, or $37,500.

The need for an “Official Map” of California was recognized at the founding of the California state government. An act of the state legislature passed on April 4, 1850 ordered the State Surveyor General to make an accurate map of the state. This was William Eddy.

Not much is known about William Eddy’s earlier career or education, however it is fairly certain that he was an experienced surveyor, and had some education in engineering before being appointed City Surveyor of San Francisco in 1849 during San Francisco’s first charter election. Eddy and his staff surveyed numerous city and private locations, and the majority of early maps of San Francisco were based upon Eddy’s various surveys, thus putting Eddy Street on the map!

With his new position as State Surveyor General, William Eddy, submitted a budget of $12,850 to pay for expenses to be incurred while surveying and drafting the development of the “Official Map” of California. Eddy received only $3,000, greatly limiting his ability to travel to sites to make accurate, first hand surveys. He submitted his map in 1853 and was ordered to have the map engraved on copper and supply copies to various state officials. William Eddy died while the map was being prepared for publication, and the work was completed by his brother, R.A. Eddy of Marysville, California, whom was also a surveyor. The map was sent to J. H. Colton in New York for engraving and printing.

William Eddy’s map was the best of the state of California of the time, however, Eddy was unable to ascertain critical information resulting in errors that eventually met with harsh criticism. In fact, the map was criticized by government and military officials as “disgraceful.” One major error in Eddy’s map showed the Colorado River running to the east, but the river was found to run almost north. Also county boundaries were still obscure in areas, as it had been difficult for Eddy to obtain accurate data from county surveyors who were mostly unaware themselves.

In spite of the critics, Eddy’s map of the state of California was a substantial improvement over the commercial maps previously published. For the first time the map showed the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada in approximately the correct location. It also showed Lake Bigler, whose name officially changed to Lake Tahoe in 1863, very close to its actual position. Also the beautiful, large scale of the map allowed Eddy to depict many mines, ranches, trails and routes. The Oregon Trail is prominent to the north, and Fremont’s route of 1844 is equally prominent in the south. The inset of San Francisco is based upon Eddy’s map of 1851.

Eddy’s California map was further reviewed and determined not up to the standards of an “Official Map” thus tossed aside. It was not until 1873 that California had an accurate map of the state produced by the California Geological Survey. That map was based on a trigonometric survey of the whole state that took over 10 years of work to produce.

In addition to its historical significance, this map also has an interesting provenance. Included with the map is the map’s original leather case, which bears the bookmark of the English explorer and author Julies Lucius Brenchley. Brenchley was born in Maidstone, England and was educated at Maidstone Grammar school and continued his education at the University of Cambridge for a life in the church. It was only after his father invited him on a European tour was Brenchley thrown off course from his church studies and decided to further his travels.

From 1845 to 1867, Benchley traveled the world collecting art, ethnographies and natural history artifacts all the while writing and sending specimens home. Brenchley explored all the continents save Antarctica; however, he was exceedingly prolific in the South Seas. Today his artifacts reside in museums throughout England, most notably Artefacts from the Solomon Islands in the Julius L. Brenchley Collection housed in London. Brenchley wrote Jottings during the cruise of HMS Curacoa among the South Sea islands in 1865 and A Journey to Great Salt Lake City based on his travels. Julius Brenchley died in 1873 at the age of 58 and is buried in Maidstone, Kent, England.


Offered at $37,500.
We intend to have the lowest prices on ABE, Alibris, Biblio, AE, and Artnet while maintaining the highest levels of quality in the business for every offering. To inquire or view the complete offering, please contact our curators at info@aradernyc.com or call our 72nd Street NYC gallery at (212) 628-3668.   

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