Latitudes September 2019

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Map Society


September 2019


Ron Grim examines the recovered Champlain map stolen by E. Forbes Smiley




Location: Washington Naval Lodge; 330 Pennsylvania Avenue, S.E., Washington DC 20003 (See end of issue regarding changed time and location)


"In the Footsteps of the Crime (Recovering a Map Masterpiece
Stolen by E. Forbes Smiley)"

Speaker: Dr. Ronald Grim (WMS); Consultant (Map curatorship, historic maps); Formerly Curator of Maps, Leventhal Map Center, Boston Public Library (BPL) (2005-2018); Former Specialist in cartographic history, Library of Congress (LOC) (1982-2004); Former specialist in cartographic history, National Archives (1972-1982).
Ron curated five LOC exhibitions, and four at the BPL. He has published widely, especially on topics related to the historical geography of colonial Virginia, the history of North American cartography emphasizing the exploration and mapping of the western United States, large-scale land ownership mapping, and the place naming process. He is Book Review Editor for Imago Mundi; a member of the Board of Review for the Osher Map Library at the University of Southern Maine; a member of the Editorial Advisory Board for the Journal of Map and Geography Libraries; and a member of the WMS board.
The crimes committed by E. Forbes Smiley against collections and libraries of historic maps in the first years of this century are well known. After his arrest, many maps were recovered, but many were not. Soon thereafter, Ron began his tenure at the Leventhal Map Center, one of Smiley’s many victims. He ordered a detailed inventory of their holdings, disclosing that a number of treasures requested by Smiley “for research” were missing. As years passed, he never gave up the search, and in 2015 his efforts paid off, resulting in the recovery of a map compiled by French explorer Samuel de Champlain. At the time it was for sale for $285,000. The Boston Globe described him as “eagle-eyed map curator, Ronald Grim.” Ron will recount the story of the hunt, the discovery, and the return of the map to the Leventhal collection.




  • 23 October – Dr. Nick Kanas: Heavenly Maps (17th and 18th century celestial atlases)
  • 18 November – Lars Grava: Maps of the Baltic – Caught Between Empires
  • 11 January 2020 – Field trip to Mount Vernon for a talk on Washington's Globe and viewing of maps in their vault (hold the date, as details and sign-up info will be announced soon)
  • 26 March 2020 – Cassandra Farrell, Library of Virginia:  A rare manuscript map of the Fauquier White Sulphur Springs




You can consult the WMS website for all sorts of useful information, such as:
Meeting Schedule and Information:
Videos of past presentations for members:
Copies of all past issues of The Portolan, including High Resolution editions for the past 39 issues:





The National is a leading newspaper in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, that aspires to the level of Western journalism. On 15 May 2019 it published an article titled Charting out a new investment: the enduring appeal of maps. Given that the UAE is a financial center for the Middle East, the focus is hardly surprising. What was surprising was to see WMS President Eliane Dotson quoted throughout. She was in good company. Massimo De Martini, director of London’s Altea Gallery, was cited, as well as US map dealer and entrepreneur Sammy Berk.
The Dotsons are pleased with the article, but they do wish to point out that they did not start their company in 1978. As Eliane points out, she was three years old that year.
If the article is still on line, you can read it here:




Photo by Gord Webster, CC By-SA 20


The State Library of New South Wales (NSW) in Sydney is an immense heritage-listed special collections, reference and research library open to the public. It is the nation’s oldest and second largest library, established in 1826. Located in Sydney’s central business district in several large buildings, its research facilities are excellent and heavily used. One of its greatest treasures, a national symbol in itself, is the map ascribed to Dutch explorer Abel Tasman.
The map measures 73 x 95 cms (28.7 x 37.5 inches). It is not clear when it was drawn, nor by whom. Possibly it was drawn by Isaac Gilsemans, a merchant on Tasman’s second (1644) voyage, or perhaps by or at the direction of Franz Jacobszoon Visscher, Tasman's chief pilot. Because such maps were copied and distributed within the East India Company, it is difficult to be more precise about its origins. It depicts the voyage and known geography of the region in 1644. Its ornamentation suggests it was made for display, publication, or promotional purposes rather than shipboard use.
The map is a national treasure of Australia. Such is its prominence that when a new building was constructed to expand the library in 1939, the Tasman map was depicted in marble in the lobby of the main entrance.
More details regarding this remarkable map, and a better photo, can be found at  We could not publish it here for copyright reasons, but it shows off the vestibule map to best advantage.




Mystery aficionados will know that Canadian author Louise Penny is the author of an extremely popular, long-running series of books set in Canada and centered on Armand Gamache, a senior officer of the Sûreté de Quebec. In 2016 Great Reckoning was her latest release and best seller. In addition to a convoluted criminal situation, there is a mysterious map which runs all through the book. It’s neither old nor particularly valuable, having been drawn by an unknown person or persons, but it is intriguing in its relationship to local people and places. It tumbled out of a wall in a bistro being refurbished in a small village and runs as a sub-theme all through the book. No one will learn any important history of cartography from this novel, but the continuing role of the map is well drawn and the mystery, as always, is first rate. (The Sûreté de Quebec actually exists and is the police force for the province.) (Image CC BY-SA 4.0).




George Washington University Museum, 702 21st Street, NW; Washington, DC; Best Laid Plans: Designs for a Capital City. Through 22 December 2019.


Every landmark in Washington, D.C., has a story. Some never made it past the drawing board. This exhibition examines unrealized designs for the Washington Monument, Memorial Bridge, and other structures around the city through historical prints and paintings from the museum’s Albert H. Small Washingtoniana Collection. More info at


Closing soon! The Greenbrier Historical Society, North House Museum, 814 W Washington St., Lewisburg, West Virginia.  Now through October 2019.  Maps and Globes: The Art of Shaping Our World. This exhibit includes many Virginia and West Virginia maps and other cartographic materials. A key item on display is the Society’s original 1828 James Wilson and Sons Terrestrial Globe, recently restored. James Wilson was America's first terrestrial and celestial globe maker. Wilson was self-taught. He and three of his sons operated two manufacturing plants in Bradford, Vt., and Albany, N.Y. After just a few years of operation they were able to outsell the European globe makers who dominated the American market until then. It's a real American success story. The exhibit will include the historical society’s original, fully-restored Wilson terrestrial globe. Another unusual exhibit item is the first map made and engraved in America. Printed in 1794, it is a map of Virginia by Samuel Lewis.



American Philosophical Society (APS), 104 S. 5th Street Philadelphia, PA 19106. Mapping a Nation: Shaping the Early American Republic. April 12 – December 29, 2019.


This exhibit traces the creation and use of maps in the colonies and young republic from the mid-18th century through 1816. It features historical maps, surveying instruments, books, manuscripts, and other objects to show how maps were used to create and extend the physical, political, and ideological boundaries of the new nation. Details at
The APS will sponsor a symposium on “The Power of Maps and the Politics of Borders” on October 10-12, 2019. Details, including those for persons wishing to present papers, can be found at


Society for the History of Discoveries, Annual Meeting, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL. Theme: The Caribbean - A Cultural Encounter. 14-17 November 2019.


Opening evening reception on 14 November; conference 15-16 November; possible tour of historic Saint Augustine, FL, on 17 November.




S.T. Lee Gallery, Weston Library, Oxford University, UK.  Talking Maps.


The Bodleian Libraries’ summer 2019 exhibition is a celebration of maps and the stories they tell. Drawing on the Bodleian’s unparalleled map collection, Talking Maps brings together an extraordinary collection of


ancient, pre-modern and contemporary maps in a range of media as well as showcasing fascinating imaginary, fictional and war maps. The exhibition will explore how maps are neither transparent objects of scientific communication, nor baleful tools of ideology, but rather proposals about the world that help people to understand who they are by describing where they are. Highlights on show include the Gough Map, the earliest surviving map showing Great Britain in a recognizable form, the Selden Map, a late Ming map of the South China Sea, and fictional maps by CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien. July 2019 - February 2020.


20th Kenneth Nebenzahl, Jr. Lectures: 1919 and the History of Cartography; Newberry Library; Chicago IL; 7-9 November 2019.  There is no cost but space is limited. Reserve now!  1919 was a year of heightened map production around the world. These maps reflect the instability and experimentation of a world attempting to solve the problems that had led to four years of devastating war. Nine scholars from around the world will explore the ramifications of 1919 on the history of cartography. As always, the lectures are free but registration is required. These lectures are extremely popular and often fill up fast.
For more information, please contact Madeline Crispell, Smith Center program assistant at or at (312)-225-3575. More info at


Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library, 700 Boylston St., Boston; America Transformed: Mapping the 19th Century - Part I (The U.S. Pushes Westward: Mapping America 1800-1862); May – December 2019. Part II (From Homesteads to Modern Cities, 1862-1900); November 2019 – May 2020.


During the 19th century, the U.S. expanded dramatically westward. Immigrant settlers rapidly spread across the continent and transformed it, often through violent or deceptive means, from ancestral Native lands and borderlands teeming with diverse communities to landscapes that fueled the rise of industrialized cities.


Historical maps, images and related objects tell the story of the sweeping changes made to the physical, cultural, and political landscape. Moving beyond the mythologized American frontier, this map exhibition explores the complexity of factors that shaped our country over the century.


More Opportunities:
Many more events are listed on the web site known simply as Cartography Calendars, operated for many years by WMS member John Docktor. Go to (note relatively new address) and select the page you wish to see, i.e., Calendar of Meetings and/or Calendar of Exhibitions.


Know someone who's not a member of WMS but should be? Share this copy of Latitudes with them, and steer them to



Cartographic Quotations

Note: Recent Latitudes featured quotations by Alfred Korzybski and Mark Twain. Then in May 2019 Matthew Edney’s Cartography: The Ideal and Its History was published. It uses several literary passages to illustrate a point. These included the Twain and the Korzybski passages, plus others I plan to use. I publish them for amusement; Matthew’s book is far more serious and uses them to underscore a criticism of modern cartography. Here is his selection by Jorge Luis Borges.
In that empire, the Art of Cartography reached such Perfection that the map of one Province alone took up the whole of a City, and the map of the empire, the whole of a Province. In time, those Unconscionable Maps did not satisfy and the College of Cartographers set up a Map of the Empire which had the size of the Empire itself and coincided with it point by point. Less Addicted to the Study of Cartography, Succeeding Generations understood that this Widespread Map was Useless and not without Impiety they abandoned it to the Inclemencies of the Sun and the Winters. In the deserts of the West dome mangled Ruins of the Map lasted on, inhabited by Animals and Beggars; in the whole Country there are no other relics of the Disciplines of Geography.

Suares Miranda
Viajes de Varones Prudentes
Book Four, Chapter XLV
Lerida, 1658



(Note: For better or worse – probably the latter – most written content in Latitudes is the work and wording of editor Bert Johnson, Vice President and Program Chair of WMS. Bert can be reached at Lay-out, much of the graphics, and transmission is done by Eliane Dotson, President of WMS.) 



Appendices (repeated from May 2019 Latitudes due to their importance)





On 11 April 2019, the officers and directors of the Society approved a significant change to the structure of the Society’s programs. In the past we have had one program (speaker or field trip) per month from September through May. Starting in the fall of 2019,

  • The Society will have one program in each of September, October, and November.
  • There will be no program in December.
  • We will seek to offer one event in either January or February, probably a field trip during daylight hours.
  • We will then offer program in March, April, and May, the last being our annual dinner.

Changes for the winter months reflect the reality of coping with holidays, winter weather, early darkness, and government closure due to budget fights.




Two years ago, the Library of Congress mandated that we move our meeting time from 7 PM to 5 PM. This has sharply reduced the number of persons able to attend the meetings, so we have been seeking a new venue for our gatherings.


Our new location for the fall program will be the Washington Naval Lodge No. 4, 330 Pennsylvania Avenue, SE, Unit 400, about three blocks from the LoC. Our meeting time will once more be 7 PM. We will miss the LoC and thank them for their hospitality for the past 40 years. These details are also posted on the WMS web site at


Naval Lodge No. 4 was chartered in 1805. For nearly the next 100 years the Lodge was mainly composed of craftsmen and workers from the Navy Yard and the market nearby. In 1893, the Lodge bought its current location and erected the current building. It quickly became a center of Masonic and community activity on Capitol Hill and Southeast Washington and remains so.
Location of Washington Naval Lodge: Just east of the Madison Building of the Library of Congress, Independence Avenue angles to the right and becomes Pennsylvania Avenue, SE. The Washington Naval Lodge is at 330 Pennsylvania Avenue, SE. It is on the north side of the street (opposite side from the LoC). The street level is occupied by Chevy Chase Bank, roughly across from the BB&T Bank. The lodge is on the fourth floor at #400.



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