March 31, 2009 "A Study of the Cartographic Manuscripts of Henry David Thoreau" at Library of Congress on April 8

Press Contact: Donna Urschel (202) 707-1639
Public Contact: John Hessler (202) 707-7223

Henry David Thoreau is well-known as the author of “Walden” and other classics of American transcendental literature, but he is less known for his work as a cartographer and land surveyor. John Hessler, a senior reference librarian in the Geography and Map Division at the Library of Congress, will discuss Thoreau’s mapping interests in “Building, Dwelling, Thinking: A Study of the Cartographic Manuscripts of Henry David Thoreau,” a lecture at noon on Wednesday, April 8, in the Geography and Map Reading Room in the basement level of the James Madison Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E., Washington, D.C. Sponsored by the Library’s Geography and Map Division, the event is free and open to the public; no tickets or reservations are needed. According to Hessler, Thoreau made his living for a brief period as a surveyor in Concord, Mass., and also copied many of the maps made by the earliest explorers of the American continent, several of which are found in the collections of the Library’s Geography and Map Division. Hessler will discuss Thoreau’s mapmaking activities, and will present new research based on Thoreau’s book-borrowing records from the Harvard Library and the recently established attribution to Thoreau of several maps in the Library’s collections. This lecture is part of an ongoing series called “Map Talk.” The Library of Congress has the largest and most comprehensive collection of maps and atlases in the world, some 5.3 million cartographic items that date from the 14th century to the present time. The Library’s map collections contain coverage for every country and subject, and include the works of all the famous map-makers throughout history—Ptolemy, Waldseemüller, Mercator, Ortelius and Blaeu. For more information, visit Founded in 1800, the Library of Congress is the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution and the largest library in the world, with nearly 142 million items in various languages, disciplines and formats. As the world’s largest repository of knowledge and creativity, the Library is a symbol of democracy and the principles on which this nation was founded. The Library serves the U.S. Congress and the nation both on-site, in its reading rooms on Capitol Hill, and through its award-winning Web site at Many of the Library’s rich resources and treasures may also be accessed via interactive exhibitions on a new, personalized Web site at


PR 09-066
ISSN 0731-3527