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September 16, 2013

Library of Congress to Exhibit Rare Abel Buell Map of the United States from 1784

Display Also Features Five 18th-Century Maps of North America

The Library of Congress on Oct. 14 will open "Mapping a New Nation: Abel Buell’s Map of the United States, 1784," an exhibition featuring the first map of the newly independent United States that was compiled, printed and published in America by an American.

"Mapping a New Nation" will debut at the Library’s Columbus Day Open House on Monday, Oct. 14. The exhibition will be located in the Great Hall North Gallery on the first floor of the Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First St. S.E., Washington, D.C. Free and open to the public from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday, the exhibit is ongoing, with no closing date.

Rare and historically important, the Abel Buell map also was the first map to be copyrighted in the United States. Seven copies of the map are known to exist, and this copy is considered the best preserved and, therefore, is the most frequently chosen for illustration of Buell’s work.

Philanthropist David M. Rubenstein, co-founder and managing director of The Carlyle Group, purchased this map through an auction at Christie’s in Manhattan in December 2010. Rubenstein, a long-time supporter of the Library of Congress, has generously placed the map at the Library so it can be publicly displayed and, by digital technology, made available for research purposes.

Prior to the sale, the map had been in the custody of the New Jersey Historical Society since 1862. The remaining six copies are held in research libraries.

Also on display will be four early maps of North America by John Mitchell, Carington Bowles, Thomas Hutchins and William Faden, which were created from 1755 to 1778. Buell most likely consulted these maps when he engraved his large wall map. A 1784 map of the United States by William McMurray, which was published nine months after Buell’s map, will complete the exhibition.

An interactive program will be part of the exhibition and will help to bring the map and its creator to life. Highlights include:

  • "A Closer Look," which describes the unique features of the Buell map.
  • "Out of Many, One," which compares and contrasts the Buell map to other maps that existed at that time and examines the parts of the Buell map that were derived from those maps.
  • "Journey Across a New Nation," which traces the travels of George McCully on his 1783 trip from Pittsburgh to Detroit to inform the local Indian tribes that the United States had won the war with Britain.
  • "The Interesting Life of Abel Buell," which describes Buell’s creative and restless personal history. Among his many skills, Buell was an inventor, a goldsmith, a manufacturer and an engraver.
  • "The Preservation of the Buell Map for Exhibition," which illustrates the conservation and preservation efforts that played a major role in presenting this map to the public. The segment also describes the map’s state-of-the-art display case. This hermetically sealed, anoxic encasement was designed and constructed in collaboration with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to allow the Buell map to be placed on exhibit for an extended period of time. The encasement, tooled from a single block of aluminum and covered with hurricane-proof glass, enables tight control of the map’s environment, reducing its potential degradation by oxygen and moisture.

The Library of Congress, the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution and the largest library in the world, holds more than 155 million items in various languages, disciplines and formats. The Library serves the U.S. Congress and the nation both on-site in its reading rooms on Capitol Hill and through its award-winning website at www.loc.gov.

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PR 13-157
09/16/13
ISSN 0731-3527

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