Lot 25
  • 25

Robinson, John Hamilton

200,000 - 300,000 USD
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  • A Map of Mexico, Louisiana and the Missouri Territory, including also the State of Mississippi, Alabama Territory, East & West Florida, Georgia, South Carolina & Part of the Island of Cuba, by John H. Robinson. M.D. Member of the Military Philosophical Society of America, Member of the Western Museum Society of Cincinnati, and Brigr General in the Republican Armies of Mexico &c. Philadelphia: Printed and Coloured by John L. Narstin, 1819
  • paper, ink
Engraved map on twelve sheets joined as six and mounted on linen (each ca. 35 x 22 1/2 in.; 889 x 569 mm, and totaling ca. 70 x 67 1/2 in.), engraved by H. Anderson, contemporary outline handcoloring and light varnishing, large engraved allegorical vignette by Anderson above title depicting Robinson bowing before two female figures holding shields bearing the federal eagles of Mexico and the United States, respectively, while a winged female hovers in the background; lengthy engraved dedication below the title ("To Maj. Gen. Thomas Hinds, Brigr. Gen. John Wood, Col. Coles Mead, Edward Turner Esqr. Jonathon Thompson Esqr. Vela Metcalfe Esqr. & James Metcalfe M.D. This Map is Respectfully inscribed as a testimony of their Patronage, in Promoting the Publication by the Author"); eight statistical and other informational tables engraved lower left, including latitude and longitude, populations of various provinces, size and locations of Indian peoples, and mountain heights. 

PROVENANCE: The Library of Congress (small stamp below the imprint, "Map Division Library of Congress"; likely a copyright deposit copy) — Thomas W. Streeter (penciled note in margin above vignette, "By exchange with the Library of Congress for the surveys by George Washington Dec. 1939"; see also Streeter's article "The Rollins Collection of Western Americana," in Princeton University Library Chronicle, Vol. IX (June 1948): 203, where he describes his attempts to secure Rollins's copy of the Robinson map before "a search of about a dozen years was rewarded by my finding a procurable duplicate of the map in a great institutional library") — Yale University 

The six sheets uniformly handsomely framed and glazed with UVIII Plexiglass. A very little bit of minor chipping at margins and sheet edges, occasional browning or minor soiling, some scattered craqulure from varnish.


Allen, John L., "Patterns of Promise: Mapping the Plains and Prairies, 1800–1860," in Mapping the North American Plains, ed. Luebke, et al., fig. 3–4, pp. 41–62; Cohen, Mapping the West, pp. 105-107; Martin, Robert S., "The Notorious Doctor Robinson: A Mexican Revolutionary’s Map of North America," in Exploration and Mapping of the American West, ed. Donna P. Koepp, pp. 24-49; Martin & Martin 27; Narrett, David E., '“Liberation and Conquest: John Hamilton Robinson and U.S. Adventurism toward Mexico, 1806-1819," in Western Historical Quarterly, Vol. XL, No. 1 (Spring 2009): 23–50; Schwartz & Ehrenberg, pp. 245, 248. Streeter, Texas 1073; Wheat,  Transmississippi 334

Catalogue Note

FIRST ISSUE OF A SEMINAL MAP OF THE AMERICAN SOUTHWEST: THE FIRST MAP TO DELINEATE THE BORDER OF TEXAS AND LOUISIANA AS ESTABLISHED BY THE CRUCIAL ADAMS-ONÍS TREATY OF 1819. ONE OF ONLY ABOUT TEN COPIES TO SURVIVE, THIS IS EVIDENTLY ONE OF THREE COPIES DEPOSITED BY ROBINSON IN THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS IN ORDER TO SECURE COPYRIGHT. John Hamilton Robinson was the naturalist and medical officer (and possibly a spy) on Zebulon Pike's expedition to the southwest, later venturing several times to Mexico and serving in her army. On the map itself Robinson explains his cartographic sources: "The Information on which the Author feels himself justified in the publication of this Map, is from his own knowledge of the Country in his several voyages thither and also the several Manuscript Maps which are now in his possession, drawn by order of the Captain General of the Internal Provinces and Viceroy of Mexico." In a legend along the Pacific Coast he gives a specific credit: "This portion of the coast was laid down from the map made by Don Juan Pedro Walker by order of the Captain General of the Internal Provinces in 1810." Robinson also likely relied on William Clark's map of the Lewis and Clark expedition as well.

In the parlance of the day, Robinson was a "filibuster"—a combination of adventurer and mercenary—fully committed to the sometimes competing goals of Mexican independence from Spain and the expansion westward of the United States. He conceived of his map in helping both of those endeavors by highlighting the vast territory claimed—or at least coveted— by both the United States and Spain. 

Robinson published a prospectus for the map claiming that it would "contain the latest and best information from the discoveries and possessions of the American, Spanish, Russian, British and French travellers and navigators, and representing the claims of their respective governments in the North western coast of America." Robinson's map shows the routes of Pike, Lewis and Clark, Dominique, and Font; cities and towns, villages and missions, Indian nations; silver mines; and forts among other features. He has also captioned many points of interest, including naming Pike's Peak (although he called it Pike's Mountain).

Robinson's map, like the mapmaker himself, has long been controversial. Some historians view the map as an instrument of imperialism—a blueprint for Revolution, in the words of Robert Martin. "A grand and influential work [and] an astonishing personal compendium of fact and imagination [with] an element of self-aggrandizement bordering on deception. … Robinson’s map has been called a document of 'revolutionary ardor' [and] was an expansionist document that challenged Spanish colonial boundaries but left a number of important issues unresolved. … Although A Map of Mexico, Louisiana, and the Missouri Territory may be interpreted as an unresolved political landscape, it understandably struck Robinson’s like-minded contemporaries more as a bid for empire. … John Hamilton Robinson was a schemer and an idealist who perceived no contradiction between the disparate causes he favored. To conquer New Spain was to liberate the American continent along with Mexico—to chart a new course for the western hemisphere with the United States unquestionably in the lead. His plotting along the Louisiana-Texas frontier in 1814 was a precursor to James Long’s filibuster of 1819—in which Anglo-American adventurers, acting contrary to their own government, crossed the Sabine and declared a Texas republic with barely a fig-leaf of Tejano or Mexican participation" (Narrett). A less jaundiced view of Robinson's intentions is provided by John L. Allen: "Perhaps the greatest map of the decade was one produced not in the ateliers of Europe or even the eastern United States but in Natchez. … Robinson’s map was an augury of the future rather than a reflection of the past, and among all the maps of the decade it most clearly depicted the patterns of promise."

VERY RARE: Streeter located seven copies of Robinson's Map of Mexico, Louisiana and the Missouri Territory, and we can trace only one copy in the auction records: a copy of the third issue, with some restoration and facsimile, at Dorothy Sloan Auction 22, 12 December 2009, lot 356 ($240,000).

The present copy is the first issue, which may have been issued prior to the final agreement on the Adams-Onís Treaty. A legend above the 40th parallel reads "Limit of the United States," and the word "Former" has not yet been added o the legend engraved along the Rio Grande: "Western Limits of the United State."

This copy also has a distinguished provenance. It was initially in the Library of Congress, evidently one of three copies deposited by Robinson in order to secure copyright. The map was exchanged as a duplicate with Thomas Streeter, the great collector and bibliographer of Texas and was eventually sold, with the rest of the Streeter Texas Collection, to Yale University. Yale, in turn, sold the map as a duplicate.