CONTEMPORARY MANUSCRIPT MAP OF THE MASON DIXON SURVEY. Manuscript map titled in cartouche, "A Map of that Part of AMERICA where a degree of LATITUDE was measured for the ROYAL SOCIETY, by Chas Mason & Jer: Dixon,"

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Lot 31
CONTEMPORARY MANUSCRIPT MAP OF THE MASON DIXON SURVEY.
Manuscript map titled in cartouche, "A Map of that Part of AMERICA where a degree of LATITUDE was measured for the ROYAL SOCIETY, by Chas Mason & Jer: Dixon,"

Sold for US$ 11,475 inc. premium

Fine Books and Manuscripts

15 Dec 2021, 12:00 EST

New York

AMERICANA
CONTEMPORARY MANUSCRIPT MAP OF THE MASON DIXON SURVEY.
Manuscript map titled in cartouche, "A Map of that Part of AMERICA where a degree of LATITUDE was measured for the ROYAL SOCIETY, by Chas Mason & Jer: Dixon," 177 x 104 mm, 18th-century [not before 1768], pen-and-ink on laid paper, right side of a circular watermark to left edge (Pro Patria?), contemporary hand coloring filling waterways of Chesapeake Bay, ruled borders, numbered with mileage along lower edge and latitude along right, numbered in ink "98" along top edge, mounted on tab along left edge.
Provenance: Independence Seaport Museum, Philadelphia: proceeds from this sale will be used for the purchase or immediate care of the Collections.

A CONTEMPORARY COLORED MANUSCRIPT MAP SHOWING THE BOUNDARIES DRAWN BY MASON & DIXON IN 1768.

Freshly returned from their observation of the 1761 transit of Venus, Mason & Dixon were sent to Philadelphia, in order to survey disputed land claims between the Penns and the Calverts. Over the course of nearly 5 years, they measured and figured, and remeasured, and marked a line extending 233 miles from the point they determined 15 miles south of Philadelphia. The surveyors also ran a north-south line for 83 miles, based on a 12-mile circle extending from New Castle, separating the lands of Maryland and Delaware. Most importantly, from the perspective of scientific advancement, they received permission and funding from the commissioners to carry out the first exact measurement of a degree of latitude in North America. The 1769 transit of Venus was still a few years away, and scientists around the world were fine tuning their understanding of the shape and size of the earth and the solar system.

By the middle of 1768, they had completed their survey and in response to an order from the commissioners created a large manuscript map of their work, and had 200 copies printed in Philadelphia. They returned to London on the Halifax Packet on September 11, 1768, having in 5 years completed one of the most complex and important surveys in history, the full importance of which would not be revealed in their lifetimes.

Upon returning to London, on November 24, 1768, the surveyors read before the Royal Society their paper "Observations for determining the length of a degree of latitude in the provinces of Maryland and Pennsylvania, in North America," which included as a reference a version of this map. It was first published in the Philosophical Transactions," engraved by J. Mynde.

Of course, the importance of the Mason Dixon line extends far beyond the cartographic significance of their work. Throughout the early 19th-century it was used in the growing battles between North and South, in order to delineate the two worlds. In time, the line came to figuratively distinguish two very different worlds within American culture. As Lawrence Wroth wrote in 1936, the line "was something more than a boundary between two political divisions, that it was, in fact, a symbol differentiating two cultures, two definite states of mind which have existed in the nation from the beginning of its settlement."

The manuscript version here closely resembles the map published by the Royal Society, with additional details not in the published version, and without the labelling system employed in that map. We have been unable to determine the origins of this map, but it is contemporarily drawn on 18th-century paper, with an interesting Philadelphia provenance, and the manuscript "98" indicates it was removed from a bound volume of manuscript maps (see following lot, for a second map likely removed from the same volume). We locate no other manuscript versions of this map.
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