The first known map of the United States, published in 1784, has been purchased at auction from the New Jersey Historical Society for the record price of $1.8 million by Washington philanthropist David M. Rubenstein. Rubenstein, who is the co-founder and managing director of the Carlyle Group, plans to loan it to the Library of Congress who in turn has agreed to display the map for at least five years.
The Abel Buell map is named after the Connecticut cartographer who created and, according to Rubenstein, is the first map to show the American flag, is the first printed in the U.S. and the first made after the American Revolution.
According to John R. Hébert, chief of the library’s geography and map division, the library had been coveting this map for decades and “now we can document the process of the way we came to independence,” Hebert said. The Library has not yet decided when or where the map will be displayed.
The hand-colored engraved map is 43 inches by 48 inches, consists of four parts united into one and is an excellent example of period cartography. It shows the eastern half of present-day United States with the boundaries of the original colonies – which are far more expansive in many cases than they are now – and is an important record of the development of the early United States.
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