American Cartography Leads Swann Galleries’ Map Department to First Million-Dollar Sale


New York—Swann Galleries’ December 8 auction of Maps & Atlases, Natural History & Color Plate Books featuring The Mapping of America brought over $1.27 million, making it the highest-grossing sale in the Map department to date. 

The sale was headlined by William Faden’s The North American Atlas, London, 1777 [circa 1780], a rare and important atlas pertaining to the American Revolution. It sold for $341,000*, a record for the atlas at auction. Alex Clausen, Swann Galleries’ Maps & Atlases, Natural History & Color Plate Books specialist said, “The sale of Faden’s North American Atlas for $341,000 reinforces Swann Galleries’ position as the foremost place to buy and sell atlases and American cartographic material.”

Other top performers from The Mapping of America section included Meriwether Lewis and William Clark’s History of the Expedition under the Command of Captains Lewis and Clark, New York, 1814, detailing their famed exploration of the western United States, which realized $52,500. John Melish’s Map of the United States with the contiguous British & Spanish Possessions, Philadelphia, 1816, was the first large-format American map to depict the nation from coast to coast; this near-pristine example brought $42,500. Another atlas, Joducus Hondius and Gerard Mercator’s Historia Mundi: or Mercator’s Atlas, London, 1635 [1637], with 183 engraved maps, sold for $20,000.

Many of the items in the sale had particular historical significance tied to them as well. A copy of John Disturnell’s engraved folding map, Mapa de los Estados Unidos de Méjico, New York, 1847, was the map used to negotiate the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, one of the most important treaties in US history. The copy in Swann’s sale sold for $40,000. Andrew Ellicott’s Plan of the City of Washington, Philadelphia, 1792, was the first “official” plan of the nation’s capital; it realized $20,000. The only map by founding father Thomas Jefferson, A map of the country between Albemarle Sound, and Lake Erie, London, 1787, realized $18,750; while the only copy of the rare 1794 final state of Joshua Fry and Peter Jefferson’s A Map of the most inhabited part of Virginia known to come to auction in the last 50 years brought $20,000.

Among the other maps and atlases, Peter van den Keere’s atlas Germania Inferior including the Leo Belgius map, Amsterdam, 1617 [but later], sold for $11,250; while Abraham Ortelius’s Typus Orbis Terrarum [First Plate], a double-page engraved world map, Antwerp, 1571 or 1573, realized $9,100. Jean le Clerc and Nicholas Sanson’s Atlas Antiquus Sacer, Amsterdam, 1706, an atlas of both the ancient and modern world with a particular focus on the Holy Land, sold for $8,125.

In the Natural History and Color Plate Books category, groups of hand-colored engraved plates by Mark Catesby from the first edition of his book, The Natural History of Carolina [etc.], sold well: a group of thirty one sold for $11,250, while another group of fifteen sold for $8,750. Currier & Ives and Francis “Fanny” Palmer’s “The Lightning Express” Trains. “Leaving the Junction,” New York, 1863, brought $15,000. A three-volume set of Sir William Hamilton’s Collection of Etruscan, Greek, and Roman Antiquities from the Cabinet of the Honble. Wm. Hamilton, Naples, 1766-76, with 390 etchings and engravings, many hand-colored, brought $47,500.

Complete results are available online via

Swann Galleries’ first Maps & Atlases, Natural History & Color Plate Books auction of 2016 will take place on May 26.

For further information, or to consign items to upcoming Maps & Atlases auctions, please contact Alex Clausen at 212-254-4710, extension 17, or via email at

*Prices include buyer’s premium.

Image: Lot 58, William Faden, The North American Atlas, with 42 engraved maps, including Ratzer's Plan of the City of New York, London, 1777 [circa 1780]. Sold December 8, 2015 for $341,000, an auction record.

Auction Guide