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Mapa Geografico De America Meridional (1799)

Faden Map of South America. Courtesy of Library of CongressArtist/Maker: William Faden (1750-1836) after Don Juan de la Cruz Cano y Olmediall (1731-1802)[1]

Created: 1799

Origin/Purchase: London

Materials: paper engraved on 6 sheets

Dimensions: 184.8 x 130.8 (72 3/4 x 51 1/2 in.)

Location: Entrance Hall

Owner: Library of Congress

Historical Notes: In 1786, while serving as minister to France, Jefferson received Cruz Cano's map of South American from William Carmichael and sought to have copies made for himself and Congress.[2] Jefferson enlisted William Stephens Smith, John Adams's son-in-law who was then living in London, to help him commission the London mapmaker William Faden to make these copies. In a letter to Smith, Jefferson described the map and its importance:

"The government of Spain at first permitted the map, but the moment they saw one of come out, they destroyed the plates, seized all of the few copies which had got out and on which they could lay their hands, and issued the severest injunctions to call in the rest and to prevent their going abroad. Some few copies escaped their search. A friend has by good management procured me one, and it is arrived safe through all the searches that travelers are submitted to."[3]

Sight unseen, Faden agreed to reproduce all twelve sheets of the map.[4] In December 1786, Jefferson sent the map to Faden in care of Smith, and drew up a set of suggestions for republishing the map, including three sketches of the proposed layout of the sheets.

Thirteen years later, in 1799, Faden published his copy of Cruz Cano's work, but he neither sent Jefferson the copies he requested nor returned the original. Jefferson, who had enlisted friends such as James Madison[5] to inquire as to Faden's progress, resorted to buying a copy from a London map dealer in 1805&—nineteen years after sending the original to Faden.[6] Publication of the controversial map may have been delayed because of Faden's position as geographer to the King.[7]


  1. This article is based on Stein, Worlds, 389.
  2. See William Carmichael to Thomas Jefferson, June 16, 1786 for mention of a map of Mexico sent to Jefferson. Carmichael's description of this map's suppression by the government, and the timing of the shipment suggest that Carmichael's map of "Mexico" was actually the Cruz Cano map of South America. See PTJ, 10:213-216 for a discussion of the details surrounding the map's reproduction.
  3. Jefferson to William Stephens Smith, August 10, 1786, in ibid., 10:211-217.
  4. William Stephens Smith to Jefferson, September 22, 1786, in ibid., 10:398-399.
  5. Jefferson to James Madison, Philadelphia, June 28, 1791. Thomas Jefferson Papers, Library of Congress. Letterpress copy available online. Jefferson also asked Thomas Pinckney, then in London, to check on the map's progress. Jefferson to Pinckney, June 24, 1792, ibid. Letterpress copy available online.
  6. Jefferson to William Tunnicliff, April 25, 1805. Huntington Library; W. & S. Jones bill to Jefferson, August 3, 1805, ibid.
  7. Boyd, Julian P., Charles T. Cullen, John Catanzariti, Barbara B. Oberg, et al, eds.  The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1950-. 33 vols, 10:215.

Further Sources

  • Cruz Cano y Oldedilla, Juan de la. Mapa Geografico... London: 1799. Image available online from the David Rumsey Collection.


cwollerton's picture
This a gorgeous map and so full of detail for the time. No wonder the Spanish government wanted to keep it secret. Check out the link under "Further Sources" to see an image of the map in the David Rumsey Collection online.
ccrittenden's picture
A map that Spain never wanted us to see!
Catherine Coine...


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