The Ireland map from Carey’s General Atlas…, 1814 edition, sold for €8000 (£6800) at Adam’s.

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Mathew Carey (1760-1839) was responsible for the first world atlases to be made stateside. Earlier examples had appeared - including an American atlas from Carey in 1795 - but these were more localised.

His first General Atlas giving a global view came in 1796 and included 45 maps. It was republished in 1800, 1802 and 1804 and another edition released in 1811. The USA was a rapidly changing country at this time and mapmakers had to constantly update their work.

In 1814 Carey produced a significantly revised General Atlas Improved and Enlarged, being a Collection of Maps of the World and Quarters, which was the version offered at Adam’s on May 1.

It featured 58 hand-coloured maps (32 entirely new and the remainder greatly updated, including the discoveries of Lewis and Clark) but is said to be a sought-after edition. It was the first to use standard outline hand colour. The final edition was produced in 1818 (Carey apparently called the 1818 version the third edition so the one in 1814 can be considered a second edition).

This atlas was printed in Philadelphia by M. Carey, No. 121 Chestnut Street, in 1815. Housed in stained plain brown boards with worn leather spine, it had a signature in ink Tho. C. James which added greatly to its innate appeal.

It was one of more than 80 lots in the auction that formed part of the original contents of Dawesfield in Pennsylvania, an American farmhouse built by Abraham Dawes and by descent through generations of the female line. The site served as the Revolutionary Headquarters of General George Washington from October 20 until November 2, 1777.

The atlas was in the personal library of Dr Thomas Chalkey James (1766-1835) who was married to Hannah née Morris (Daws’ granddaughter, who had inherited Dawesfield, where the couple lived).

Dr James was a Philadelphia physician and joined the staff of Pennsylvania hospital. In 1810 he was elected professor of midwifery at the University of Pennsylvania.

He favoured being part of the intellectual and scientific life of Philadelphia: he was a member of the American Philosophical Society, the librarian of the College of Physicians and a founder of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Adam’s says: “It is known that he preferred a quiet literary life at Dawesfield, which is witnessed by the categories of the books that were housed in the library.”

Dr James established an extensive library, primarily comprising books related to his profession, as well as social, philosophical and political articles of his era.

Estimated by Adam’s at €3000-5000, the General Atlas sold for €8000 (£6800).

In 2022 Chicago saleroom Pook & Pook sold an 1814 edition General Atlas for a premium-inclusive $3276 but the condition was not as good. Another printed in 1816 took $5750, again with premium, at Freeman’s in 2018.