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Morse’s American Geography –
The First American Work of Its Kind
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Most desirable edition, containing twenty-five maps, including the famous Filson map of Kentucky. Most copies of Morse have only three maps; this rare copy (evidently one of a special printing), has 25, one of them being the rare Filson map of Kentucky. In this respect, it is more desirable than the original 1789 edition.

REV. JEDIDIAH MORSE. The American Geography; or, a view of the present situation of the United States of America containing ... A particular description of Kentucky, the Western Territory, the Territory South of Ohio, and Vermont ... with a view of the British, Spanish, French, Portuguese, and Dutch dominions, on the continent, and in the West Indies, and of Europe, Asia, and Africa ... A new edition. London: printed for John Stockdale, 1794. 25 engraved maps.

Inventory #20912.99       Price: $20,000

Second London, and the first quarto (8 x 10 ½”), edition of the first American geography.  Howes calls this “the best edition,” and states that a few copies were issued with twenty-five maps.  Of the 25 maps, 18 are of states or slightly larger areas of the United States, and only one (of new discoveries around the Globe) is not specifically tied to the Americas. The Thomas W. Streeter copy, and most other copies, only have three maps.  Filson’s famous map of Kentucky, included here, is one of the key cartographic landmarks of the trans-Allegheny frontier.  It is essentially unprocurable in the American first edition published in Elizabethtown, New Jersey in 1789, and was not contained in the first London edition.  Morse’s text provides extensive geographical information for each state and province, including the western territory and the Spanish dominions of Louisiana, Florida, New Mexico and California, as well as on the major countries and regions of the world.

Most of this volume is text, with maps interspersed.  The focus of both the text and the maps is primarily North America, with greatest concentration on U.S.  The text essentially serves as a “book of facts” re the states and territories covered. There is overview information about the U.S. – geography, history, wildlife, statistics, etc., and a full printing of the Constitution along with the Convention and George Washington’s transmittal letters, and the Bill of Rights.

Historical Background

Morse (1761-1826), a Yale-educated Congregational minister, sought the assistance of prominent leaders in revising his Geography, and even contacted such luminaries as Washington and Franklin. Through Chauncey Whittelsey, a tutor at Yale, Morse became acquainted with William Livingston, who aided Morse with his revision, and eventually became the book’s dedicatee.  It was through Livingston’s influence and connections that Morse was able to collect the necessary data for such a wide-ranging work.

Expertly bound to style in half 18th-century diced russia gilt over 18th-century marbled paper boards.

References: Howes M840, “aa”; Sabin 50924; Streeter Sale 75.

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