David M. Rubenstein, co-founder and managing director of The Carlyle Group, has given the Library of Congress stewardship of the first map printed in North America, depicting the boundaries of the new American nation and showing the “Stars and Stripes” for the first time. The map, which was printed in early 1784 and is considered the best preserved of those few copies in existence, had been in the custody of the New Jersey Historical Society since 1862 and was sold at Christie’s in Manhattan on Dec. 3, 2010. The map will be displayed at the Library of Congress in the early spring and will be available for public viewing for five years.
Abel Buell’s map “A New and Correct Map of the United States of North America Layd Down from the Latest Observations and Best Authorities Agreeable to the Peace of 1783” is the first to be copyrighted in the United States and was published only six months after the Treaty of Paris signing (Sept. 3, 1783) ended the Revolutionary War. This map is the single most important American cartographic document missing from the collection of the Library of Congress, according to John Hébert, chief of the Library’s Geography and Map Division.
Maps and atlases have been an important part of the collections of the Library of Congress since its beginning in 1800, when a joint congressional committee purchased three maps and an atlas from a London dealer. From this modest beginning the Library’s cartographic holdings have grown during the past two centuries to more than 5.2 million maps, 80,000 atlases, 6,000 reference works, numerous globes, and a large amount of cartographic materials in other formats, including electronic. Abel Buell’s “A New and Correct Map” will join “America’s birth certificate”—Martin Waldseemüller’s monumental 1507 world map—as a welcomed and complementary addition to the Library’s rich map collection.
A civic-minded Washingtonian, David Rubenstein has long been a supporter of the Library of Congress. He is a member of the Library’s private-sector advisory group, the James Madison Council, and in 2010 he gave the Library $5 million in support of the National Book Festival.
“It is a great privilege for the Library of Congress to display this map, which will be on loan from Mr. Rubenstein for the next five years,” said Librarian of Congress James H. Billington. “The cartographic curators have pointed to this map as the most important document not held in the national collections.”
“The Library of Congress, under Jim Billington’s leadership, is widely recognized as the finest library in the world, and I am pleased to make the Buell Map available for all to see at the Library’s extraordinary facilities,” Rubenstein said.
The Library’s Associate Librarian for Library Services, Deanna Marcum, called the Buell map “a centerpiece in the map history of the New World.”
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