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The similarities are so close as to suggest that this recently
rediscovered manuscript may be a link between William Clark’s own map of the route followed by the expedition that opened up the route to the West and the Pacific (now held at Yale) and the engraved version by Samuel Lewis and Samuel Harrison that appeared with some copies of the much delayed account of that historic expedition when it first appeared in 1814.

Titled ‘Map of Lewis and Clarks Track across the Western
portion of North America from the Mississippi to the Pacific Ocean’ and dated 1811 in pencil, the manuscript map, it has been suggested, could be the work of Nicholas King, official surveyor for Washington D.C., who in 1803, at Jefferson’s behest, had been commissioned by the then Secretary of State, Albert Gallatin, to prepare a preliminary map for the expedition. It is possible that this is a copy of the map that King kept for himself and held until the return of the Lewis and Clark expedition, when what had previously been projection and informed guesswork could be checked against facts.

Whether or not Nicholas King was
responsible, this remains a key document in the mapping of the American West, and in a Sotheby’s New York sale of June 20 it sold for $210,000 (£125,750) to an American collector.

The printed and published version of the map seen here comes from an 1814 first edition of the book that resulted from that epic journey, which, sponsored by the Federal government at a cost of $2500, covered 8000 miles in a period of two and a half years. The publication was delayed first by the appointments of both men to positions in the newly acquired Louisiana Territory (Governor and Superintendent of Indian Affairs respectively) and then by Lewis’s murder, or at least death in mysterious circumstances in 1809, but even so the first edition of this most important of the overland narratives was replete with errors and most copies lacked this map.

The copy seen at Christie’s New York on June 17 was entirely uncut in the original boards, albeit now rubbed, soiled and rebacked, and complete with the map. There was some foxing and soiling, and marginal worming in the first volume, but it sold at $85,000 (£50,900) to an American dealer.