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Madison Map of Virginia (1807)

Artist/Maker: Bishop James Madison (1749-1812)[1]

Created: 1807

Origin/Purchase: Virginia

Materials: paper engraved on 4 sheets

Dimensions: 114.6 x 173.8 (37 1/4 x 53 in.)

Location: Library of Congress

Owner: Library of Congress

Historical Notes: While serving as president of the College of William and Mary, Bishop James Madison, first cousin of President James Madison, determined the need for an updated map of Virginia. Familiar with the local surveyors that the college licensed and examined, Madison sponsored the work, although himself had no training as a draftsman or surveyor. Under the supervision of William Prentis, William Davis began drafting the map in 1803. Two years later Madison began collecting subscriptions for the work.[2]

Madison advertised the map in the April 15, 1805 Richmond Enquirer: "The price to subscribers will be eight dollars, neatly mounted, colored and glazed. One dollar, (to lighten the great expense of publication) to be paid on subscribing."[3]Jefferson subscribed in June 1805, for two copies, and paid for them in full in 1807, when the map was published.[4] He supported Madison's efforts to produce an accurate map of the state, and offered his assistance with a second edition:

"Do you think of ever giving us a second edition of your map? If you do, I may be able to furnish you with some latitudes. I have a pocket sextant of miraculous accuracy, considering its microscopic graduation..."[5]

In 1818, after Madison's death, Davis redrafted a second edition of the map, which remained the authoritative work on Virginia until about 1827.[6]


  1. This article is based on Stein, Worlds, 386.
  2. Walter W. Ristow, American Maps and Mapmakers: Commercial Cartography in the Nineteenth Century (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1985), 121.
  3. Earl G. Swem, Maps relating to Virginia (1914 reprint; Richmond: Virginia State Library and Archives, 1985), 85.
  4. Thomas Jefferson, June 22, 1805, in MB, 2:1157 and July 21, 1807, in ibid., 2:1207.
  5. Jefferson to James Madison, Monticello, December 29, 1811, in PTJ:RS, 4:369.
  6. John Wood and Herman Boye's 1826 Map of Virginia, which was not distributed until 1827, superce3ded Madison's map. See Ristow, 121-123. Seymour Schwartz and Ralph Ehernberg, The Mapping of America (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1980) cite 1826 as the end of the map's influence, 224.


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