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Map of South America

Map of South America View Interactive Version ]

In 1786, while serving as minister to France, Jefferson received Cruz Cano's map of South American from William Carmichael and sought to have copies made for himself and Congress.1 Jefferson enlisted William Stephens Smith, John Adams's son-in-law who was then living in London, to help him commission the London mapmaker William Faden to make these copies. In a letter to Smith, Jefferson described the map and its importance:

The government of Spain at first permitted the map, but the moment they saw one of come out, they destroyed the plates, seized all of the few copies which had got out and on which they could lay their hands, and issued the severest injunctions to call in the rest and to prevent their going abroad. Some few copies escaped their search. A friend has by good management procured me one, and it is arrived safe through all the searches that travelers are submitted to.2

Sight unseen, Faden agreed to reproduce all twelve sheets of the map.3 In December 1786, Jefferson sent the map to Faden in care of Smith, and drew up a set of suggestions for republishing the map, including three sketches of the proposed layout of the sheets.

Thirteen years later, in 1799, Faden published his copy of Cruz Cano's work, but he neither sent Jefferson the copies he requested nor returned the original. Jefferson, who had enlisted friends such as James Madison4 to inquire as to Faden's progress, resorted to buying a copy from a London map dealer in 1805—nineteen years after sending the original to Faden.5 Publication of the controversial map may have been delayed because of Faden's position as geographer to the King.6


Artist/MakerWilliam Faden, engraver after original by Don Juan de la Cruz Cano
Created1799
Origin/PurchaseLondon, England
Object TypeClocks and Maps
Materialsoriginal engraved on six sheets
Dimensions72 3/4 x 51 1/2 in.
LocationEntrance Hall

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