William M. Eddy "Approved and Declared to be the Official Map of the State of California by an Act of the Legislature Passed March 25th 1853."
The Extremely Rare First "Official Map" of the State of California, a highly important historical artifact and a fascinating cartographic curiosity, presenting a very powerful, yet finely elegant, visual impression.
William M. Eddy
Approved and Declared to be the Official Map of the State of California by an Act of the Legislature Passed March 25th 1853.
New York: J.H. Colton, 1854
Lithograph map with Original Hand Color, in Excellent Condition, with Original leather case (bearing the bookplate of Julius Lucius Brenchley)
Framed size: 56 x 63 inches,
The imperative for an "Official Map" of California was recognized even before the territory's admission to the Union as a state (September 9, 1850). An act of the California legislature, passed on April 4, 1850, created the office of the State Surveyor General, with the prime mandate to make an accurate general map of the state.
William H. Eddy was appointed to this position. While little is known of Eddy's early career, he was evidently a formally trained and experienced surveyor becoming the City Surveyor of San Francisco in 1849 following San Francisco's first charter election. Eddy and his staff conducted the authoritative surveys of numerous public and private locations, and the majority of early maps of San Francisco were based upon Eddy's work. His endeavors culminated in the celebrated 'foundational map' of the City of Francisco in 1851. Eddy Street is an enduring testament to his great contribution to the development of the city.
Upon being appointed State Surveyor General, Eddy, submitted a budget of $12,850 to pay for expenses to be incurred while surveying and drafting the "Official Map" of California. Eddy received only $3,000, greatly limiting his ability to travel to sites to make accurate, first-hand surveys. While he his surveys of Northern California are technically quite impressive, he was compelled to rely on the far less accomplished surveys and accounts of others for his depiction of much of the southern half of the state.
Eddy submitted his map in 1853 and the state legislature mandated Eddy to arrange for the map to be printed in sufficient quantity to supply copies to various state officials. Administrators acutely required an accurate geographical conception of the state in order to formulate decisions regarding infrastructure development, resource extraction and demarcating and adjudicating matters concerning land titles.
William Eddy died while the map was being prepared for publication, so his work was continued by his brother, R.A. Eddy of Marysville, California, who was also a surveyor. The finished manuscript map was sent to America's leading cartographic printer, J. H. Colton in New York, for engraving and printing.
William Eddy's map was by far the finest general map of the state of California produced during its time, being a substantial improvement over its commercially-produced rivals.
Artistically, it was also highly impressive, the engraving and original hand color being of the highest quality, with its large-scale adding gravitas to the composition. However, owing to its curious depiction of the southern half of the state, it was very controversially received. On the progressive side, for the first time, the map showed the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada in approximately the correct location. It also showed Lake Bigler (officially renamed Lake Tahoe in 1863) very close to its actual position. Also, the beautiful, large-scale of the map allowed Eddy to depict many mines, ranches, trails and routes in manner not possible on other maps. The Oregon Trail is prominent featured to the north, as is the route of Fremont's 1844 expedition to the south.
The inset of San Francisco is based upon Eddy's great 1851 map. The map sparked controversy, owing in good part, to the fact that it counterfactually showed the Colorado River running to the east, when in reality it flowed in a roughly north-south direction. The overall shape of Southern California is remarkably stylized, while many county boundaries were still obscure, as it had been difficult for Eddy to obtain accurate data from county surveyors, many of whom were themselves largely oblivious to this critical information.
It would not be until 1873, under the auspices of the California Geological Survey, that a largely planimetrically-accurate general map of California was produced. This accomplishment was the culmination of over a decade of exacting trigonometric surveys, a project which received dramatically more financial and technical support from Sacramento than had Eddy's enterprise.
Owing to the controversy surrounding its depiction of Southern California, Eddy's map did not gain widespread acceptance as the "Official Map", and consequently, very few copies were printed.
Today the map is an extreme rarity, and the present example is especially spectacular owing to its remarkably excellent condition and dramatic appearance. It is accompanied by its original leather case, bearing a bookplate that lends it an august provenance, being the private library of the English author and traveler, Julius Lucius Brenchley (1815-1873). Brenchley was born in Maidstone, England and enrolled at the University of Cambridge to study Theology, in preparation for joining the Anglican clergy. It was only after his father invited him on a European tour that Brenchley chose a different and exciting direction. Leaving Cambridge, from 1845 to 1867, Benchley traveled the world collecting art, ethnographies and natural history artifacts, all the while writing and sending specimens home. Brenchley explored all the continents save Antarctica. He visited California (where he likely acquired this example of the Eddy map) and made a journey to Utah's Great Salt Lake. Particularly notable, was his journey to the islands of the South Seas aboard the HMS Curacao. His magnificent collection of art and ethnographic artifacts from the Solomon Islands comprises the Julius L. Brenchley Collection housed at the British Museum in London.
References: Carl Wheat, Maps of the California Gold Region (San Francisco: The Grabhorn Press, 1942), no.257; Carl Wheat, Twenty Five California Maps, in Essays for Henry Wagner (San Francisco: The Grabhorn Press, 1947), no.19; David Rumsey Collection (online): no.5582.000.