Taking possession: the cartouche as cultural text in eighteenth-century American maps 1


Originally published in Word and Image 4 (1988). Scan, spell-check and mark-up by Claudia Silverman

To view 'the history of map-making' as 'the record of man's attempt to understand the world he lives in'2 is to give the map a peculiarly neutral status as a form of representation. Indeed, it reinforces a sense of the map as a seemingly objective image of the land and lays stress on its basis as at once mathematical and scientific measure of the earth's surface. If, however, we see maps as a very different kind of measure; as a series of texts which do not so much 'understand' as image a culture's relationship with the land then we begin to see the map, as a cultural text, in something approaching its necessary ideological context. In this view maps emerge as essentially symbolic structures: collective images of the way in which cultures seek to 'impose' themselves 'upon space'.3 In other words, the map exists as a text of possession: a reconstruction of a culture's way with the world.

Svetlana Alpers underlines this sense of the map when she suggests that 'in the last resort' the 'geography of the land' is 'the geography of the mind', seeing the map as a picture: 'an assemblage of the world'.4 Maps, thus, are not so much objective and scaled equivalents of the land as, once again, visual texts which map the culture's image of the land. Clearly such a view denies the way in which the look of maps (particularly in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries) has been divided between 'scientific cartography' and 'visual art'. When, for example, A. H. Robinson suggests that 'fancy borders, ornamental cartouches [and] curvaceous lettering' may be a 'source of pleasure' but do not 'add to the functional quality of a map' and 'may actually detract from it',5 he denies (and simplifies) the complex textuality held within the look of a map. Such a view not only fails to give the map its necessary cultural status; it ignores the subtle relationship between the scientific and decorative; it fails to see them, in other words, as a series of interrelated indexes which bind the map within a series of ideological assumptions as to the way the land is viewed.

My concern in this essay is to consider briefly the status of such decorative art on the map (most obviously the cartouche),6 and suggest ways in which it is basic to the way maps contain, in their 'look', a hierarchy of value: a visual register in which a map's cultural meaning is suggested through what might be called its visual calligraphy (the lettering, colour, thickness of lines, symbols, as well as the larger cartouches and embellishments) which declares the map as both cultural text and ideological image -a political frame of space in which the map is offered as a scaled version of control and, by implication, of possession. And North America, specifically the British colonies in the eighteenth century that are to emerge as an independent United States, is of particular significance in this view of the map. Not only is the history of American mapping, like the settlement of the continent, one of bringing the land into a series of images which both mirror and aid settlement and exploration: it is, above all, a political mapping.7 The American map, thus, was from the first used by the competing European colonial powers as a text of ownership and control, as well as of information and accurate (often inaccurate) knowledge about the continent.8 What we can see in such eighteenth-century maps of America is the extent to which they are offered to us as cultural icons, as images of order and control in which the map itself becomes a conveyor of possession. The map 'speaks' out as first claim to the land and pictures, as it were, ownership. It does not measure a literal land; it measures a political index (be it French or British) and inscribes that power into the created image of the land. It naturalizes cultural myth. And the more we insist on this sense of the map so the more its 'look' (and visual detail) is opened up, and declared, as part of a continuing and increasingly complex image of possession: icons of attempted closure in which the intention is to fix identity.

The names on early American maps, for example, offer obvious examples of the ways in which the image of the land was written and re-written in terms of the colonial powers' attempts to name the land in their own image and reflect larger political tensions. In such a context names (and letters and types of script) become part of a powerful visual alphabet which underlines the larger significance of the map's visual iconography. The names stamp their presence on the space (of the map, of the land) so that America becomes part of a process of double inscription: both a white page which, historically, had to be 'filled in' and an unknown terrain which itself was open to settlement and control. Map and land thus exist as simultaneous integers of a similar process. Thus nomenclature, as one aspect of the look of maps, becomes a primary ingredient of the visual dimension of possession: a verbal pattern through which culture speaks itself onto the land; renaming as it wipes clean one history and rewrites, as it renames, its own history onto the surface of the map (and land).

In the seventeenth century, of course, there are any number of such examples as 'America' becomes part of a European lexicon of order and dominance.9Just as Sir Francis Drake tooke possession in the name of Q. Eliza calling it new Albion,' so John Smith's 1616 map of New England, for example (see figure 11 ), literally invents a nomenclature in the image of the colonies. As W. P. Cumming notes, 'Smith's own draft of the map of New England had Indian names already known to the English such as Pennobscot, Pemmaquid, Sagadahock, Kinebeck.11 But these were not seen as 'definitive'; rather they became provisional namings to be, literally, displaced by an English vocabulary. Thus in the opening dedication to his A Description of New England (London, 1616) Smith addresses his fifteen-year-old monarch thus:

I heare present your highness the description in a map; my humbleste is, you would please to change their Barbarous names, for such Englsh, as posterity may say, PrinceCharles was their Godfather.12

In consequence, albeit temporarily, Cape Cod became Cape James and Aggawan, Southampton. The River Charles and Cape Anna, of course, have been retained.

Although in a wider context part of this 'naming' is related to the 'psychological tendency to give familiar names to unfamiliar places',13 there is surely a more fundamental political dimension to such a process. Indeed, it has its equivalent, in the seventeenth century, on how central and visually apparent are coats of arms on maps (see, for example, figure 12, Lord Baltimore's 1635 map of Maryland). If such devices appear as blatant stamps of possession, they also underline how central the look of maps is to an image of control. Further, they recall us to the extent that maps of America, from the first, were made objects: constructions produced amidst highly charged political and cultural conditions. Far from being decorative, the 'pictorial' figuration of a map was basic to the order it imaged: the land as seen.

And the eighteenth century is of especial interest in relation to the look of such maps. Not only do we see the respective claims of the colonial powers making themselves known on maps of America, we also see how these claims are held within an increasingly 'scientific' art of mapping. In turn, of course, these maps reflect the increasing tensions between colony and colonial power and, ultimately, to the development of an indigenous (and independent) mapping. All stress the extent to which the map as a political text was central -a view made obvious, for example, by the ways in which Deslisle and Hermann Moll wrote out maps of conflicting French and British claims to American territories as if they were propaganda sheets and political tracts. 14 In other words, what we see in the 1700s and throughout the century is 'a battle for territory by the geographers which parallels the struggles for empire urged by the traders, colonial representatives, and finally the European governments'.15

I want to suggest the ways in which the 'decorative' elements of these eighteenth-century maps reflect the wider political and cultural tensions and the cultural assumptions inscribed onto the map as a text of possession. These maps, thus, became advertisements: potent images of control in which the cartouche, in particular, mirrors the map proper. And I want to do so by focusing upon a series of cartouches (primarily from the eighteenth-century atlases) which reflect these developments, both as images of British power and Libertas America in which the mapping imagery -as a political rhetoric -declares a free state: a new grid of co-ordinates to frame an 'independent' United States.


Although there had been a number of magnificent atlases published in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries which included sections (even volumes) on America (Corneille Wytfliet's Description Ptolemaicae Augmentum [1579], Willem Janszoon Blaeu's Atlas Maior [l662], and, for example, John Seller's coastal atlas The English Pilot [1671]), it is the eighteenth century which sees the publication of a number of atlases concerned specifically with the American continent. In the second half of the century, in particular, there is a proliferation of American atlases:'6 Thomas Jeffrey's General Typology of North America (London, 1768), William Faden's North American Atlas (1777), Joseph Frederick Wallet Des Barr's Atlantic Neptunes (1774), Mathew Carey's American Atlas (1795), John Russell's An American Atlas (1795), and John Reid's The American Atlas (1796; published, significantly, in Philadelphia). All stress the extent to which 'America' is given an increasingly individual status -and image -as a specific political (and national) entity. All, of course, reflect an image of the land but they frame that image within a visual vocabulary which inscribes the political dimension of the act of mapping into the look of the map and the way in which we are invited to read the land (in the map).

The various editions of Jefferys' and Faden's atlases17 of America are particularly suggestive of this kind of response and give to the decorative aspects of the maps (especially the cartouche) an especial significance as to what, exactly, is being mapped. Indeed, in Jefferys', the tension between a scientific basis for the map and its 'use' for ideological ends is made plain in the way the text of the atlas declares itself as an 'Accurate Map of North America' (it tellingly indicates that the Western areas contain a 'vast tract of land unknown') which, in turn, maps what is described as 'the British and Spanish Dominions on this great continent.'18 In essence, then, the maps are concerned with empire and thus declare themselves as icons of possession, and the cartouches give both ballast and direction (visual, narrative, symbolic) to this political frame within which the territory is to be fixed 'accurately'.

Thus in these maps the cartouche focuses, as it were, a series of secondary features on the maps 'proper' which defer to the more obvious visual representations of the power strewn across the land. In Map 15, for example, of Jefferys' The American Atlas, entitled the 'Province of New Hampshire', the 'Connecticut River is fixed by his Majesty in Council, to be the bonds between New York and New Hampshire'. And as majesterial power, so to speak, 'fixes' and 'bonds' space according to 'natural' lines so the spaces either side of these lines are, as in the Smith map, given over to a re-presentation of English place names: Epping, Southampton, Ha mpstead, Nottingham, London Derry, Chester, Durham, Epsom, Chichester, Canterbury, Peterborough, Salisbury, Ipswich, Gloucester, and Bradford, for example. A 'New England' reproduced from the old -for on this particular map physical (natural) features, other than boundaries, are kept to a minimum. What becomes apparent are the borders and boundaries which give the sense of a series of lines as a geometry of cultural possession -which reinforces the presence of the English names -through which the land is made manageable.

Such information (in its visual context) must be read in conjunction with the cartouche in the lower righthand corner of the map (figure 1). It offers itself as a parallel text and establishes a pictorial equivalent (a comparative image) of the way the land is portrayed in the map 'proper'. The eye, thus, moves between the two so that (and we are to meet this again and again) we read them both as aspects of the same space. Far from any decorative function the cartouche here at once visualizes and offers an allegorical narrative inferred in the map: it establishes an index of meaning in which names, colours, lines, etc., are focused. Map and cartouche, as word and image, are fused into equivalent representations of a single unity: a single text.

Thus, as this is a map of the 'most inhabited part of New England', so the cartouche presents to the eye a group of figures and makes the way they 'fill' the space basic to its meaning. Their presence, as figures on the land, is overwhelming. And this presence reinforces the narrative iconography of the picture. To the right, for example, is a stone representing Plymouth Rock with the date (MXCXX) inscribed deeply into its surface (an image of written ownership and arrival). The date infers both their landing on the continent and the establishment of a history now inscribed, and celebrated, in the map. Thus 1620 is at once historical fact and contract -an inference of a signed affidavit, so to speak, between the arrival of the figures and the land on which they now write their history. Indeed the force of the cartouche is to underline this sense of arrival and settlement to a remarkable degree for not only is a boat at anchor and goods are being brought ashore but those goods are, in turn, being laid out on the land as images of the new community; commodities offered to our approving eyes. Like the nomenclature, they 'fill' the space. To the left, then, are boxes, chests, and mugs (pewter and silver); to the right, fish and a (dead) platipus: the meeting of commodity and nature; the land as read and the land as used.

As allegory this celebrates colonization and dominion and thus visualizes an index of control and order. And as the map symbolizes this order, so the cartouche echoes that order imaged in the map. Thus the two figures on the right, presumably an Indian and American (with, characteristically, a pilleus li¢ertatis) at once greet and celebrate this new order as they bow and openly offer the land to the group on the left: four male (European) figures with a woman and child whose 'density', as a group, has a larger spatial presence just as their dress (and armoury) declares a social register which counters the native and mythic dress of the 'native' figures. All in brief, is unity (and the serpentine line underlines this) just as all is beneficence. History and myth are one: a function of both map and cartouche suggested, for example, by the way in which the pilleus worn by 'America' is reproduced as headgear on the head of a colonizer: at once hat to be worn and symbol to be read.

A similar narrative function for the cartouche is clearly at work in Map 21 of the Jefferys atlas: a 1775 map19 of Virginia and Maryland dedicated to 'the Right Honourable, George Dunk Earl of Halifax First Lord Commisioner, and to the rest of the Right Honourable and Honourable Commisioners for Trade and Plantations . . .' (figure 2). As the cartouche of the New Hampshire Map signified 'arrival' so this, like its dedication, insists on trade and plantations as the narrative image, so to speak, through which we read the map. Maryland and Virginia are figured in relation to a particular kind of commerce and commercial order.

Thus the cartouche celebrates the tobacco industry and does so at the point at which its product leaves the colony: the coast -a line of reference which directly places the scene in relation to the map. As such the cartouche evinces an extraordinary picture of a particular cultural (and ideological) hierarchy of which trade is only the most apparent aspect. Although tobacco, for example, is clearly offered as of fundamental importance (the open barrel full of leaves to the left) it is, once again, the distribution and position of the figures which is so telling. Indeed their spatial arrangement inculcates the ideological and economic structures in which American plantation culture, and its resultant wealth, was built.

There is, for example, a clear distinction here between the group of white merchants and of native (black) workers. The whites, all male, appear wholly comfortable and at ease. The seated figure adopts a pose (or more properly appears in repose) worthy, almost of a Reynolds or Gainsborough portrait. Indeed his position suggests the extent to which he has 'seated' himself into this world: it does not threaten, it serves him; an aspect made clear by the way in which the servant boy brings to him a goblet of refreshing drink. The stance of the white figures is in stark contrast to the black figures. All the black figures are only partially clothed, and apart from the figure of the cooper working on a barrel, the remaining three figures are in different attitudes of subservience: the servant boy, the figure pushing a barrel who has been drawn in a prostrate position (literally over a barrel), and the figure in the boat; again bent over.

Significantly, the white figure with his back to the 'reader' adds figures: he calculates and makes a ledger of the world he at once controls and can trade with. Indeed the cartouche suggests this sense of control at every level. The physical environment depicted here, for example, is both extremely solid (buildings are made of stone, not wood) just as the warehouse appropriates, and is able to contain, whatever the land can produce. Even the harbour, as a carry-over from the map, has been given a sense of containment for the line where land meets water is made navigable by a 'wooden' fence. In brief as the scene is given over to trade and industry so an attendant hierarchy of significance is made more potent by the way in which straight lines (a pictorial grid create a picture of the solid and the secure (a set of co-ordinates): so secure that this culture exports its wares. In 'A Map of South Carolina and a part of Georgia', also in Jeffcrys, trade and plantations move inland. The cartouche for this map (figure 3) is dominated by the central position of the stone 'monument' on which is inscribed the King's legend. The title of the map suggests, in this context, a title to the land: an inference given added credence by the way the 'stone' slab is drawn with a three-dimensional appearance (with the attendant effect of weight and depth) and, finally, of how its presence (as arbiter of ownership) is stressed by the way in which the natives work on and around it. As the slab dominates the scene so they appear to accept it and work on unaware of what it might signify. Further, as the vegetation grows around it so the more it becomes part of a natural setting: increasingly hidden even though cut into its surface is the scale, the measure of the land represented on the actual map. There are no white figures here; it is as if the stone-like monument is, in itself, a controller of space. The native figures continue as happy and unattended. As the palm trees and the hut attest to a sense of luxury and bountiful produce (note the foreground objects offered to our gaze: grapes, gourds, fruit etc.), so the scene suggests an implicit industry (in its eighteenth-century sense) and harmony; an image made more suggestive by the ways in which the lines from the map feed into (and presumably from) the cartouche -an interdependence on which map and cartouche, alike, depend for their unified and closed frames of meaning.

A cartouche (figure 4) from a 1733 map of South Carolina makes this doubly significant,20 and infers later racial conflict by the way it distributes the figures in the scene. Once again in the centre of the cartouche are two white figures: merchants at ease and almost casual in the way they have centred themselves in this world. Their position, like their power, is assumed. To the right a black figure carries goods to (or from) a boat; the figure surrounded, almost entramelled, by the baggage laid out about him (the chests have upon them lines which 'mirror' the grid-like projections of maps; they almost have the appearance of maps). To the left is the figure of an Indian: observing the scene as he observes the settlement (and entrenchment) of the Europeans. The Indian appears to gaze upon the scene, a stranger, almost, to the land and is a mythic presence rather than active participant (think, for example, of the way in which White's drawings of Indians by this time had virtually created the stereotype for their inclusion on maps and in illustrations);21 The Indian's absence/presence is finally made significant by the line of settlement in the background which completes the fragile achievement of concord. A 'concord' made distinct by the way the shape of the tree itself holds the title of the map: a double abundance, as it were, of fruit to be eyed and read.


Cartouches of the kind found in Jefferys (and Faden) are thus given a central place within the wider reading (and meaning) of these maps. Even though they can be seen as part of a decorative vocabulary developing in the seventeenth century (the Dutch, in particular, established a highly ornate style often using insignia, armourial bearings, and figures) their position within the map as a cultural text, particularly in the eighteenth century, gives to them a significance fundamental to what the maps represent.

Their importance (of the kind I am suggesting) might be gauged, for example, from the inclusion of a cartouche on what is judged to be one of the most (some would say the most) important American map of the eighteenth century: John Mitchell's A Map of the British and French Dominions in North America, with the Roads, Distances, Limits and Extent of the Settlement . . .published in London, 1755. Invariably viewed as a 'mother' map of the period, this was used 'in determining the boundary established in the definitive Treaty of Peace of 1783 between Great Britain and the American Colonies',22 and such was its significance that it went through some 21 editions. It is, in itself, an extraordinarily impressive map. Its size, some 76 x 52 inches,23 suggests its continental scope. It is, however, made up from eight separate sheets with, significantly, one of them given over to a cartouche in the lower righthand corner. What this does is to give the cartouche a specific and almost dramatic presence as an integral part of the map. As such the cartouche, in its spatial organization and iconographic structure, reveals a complex (if oft repeated) ideological hierarchy with a decided political significance. Something of this significance (figure 5) is suggested by the dedication and explanation of the map's existence: a map, we are told 'undertaken and at the request of the Lords Chancellors for Trade and Plantations' and 'inscribed', by Mitchell, to the Earl of Halifax. The range and type of scripts used in this 'dedication' underlines its declared importance for as the lettering is proffered in a mix of the formal and of the ornamental so the effect is to create an idea, at least, of an engraved and almost legal-like writing. Status, as it were, is conferred through the palpable imposition of a range of lettering which has about it the force (and presence) of parliamentary document and royal decree: a testimonial to a text which declares, at every level, legal provenance to its claims of ownership.

As we might expect, then, the cartouche is structured according to a distinct vertical hierarchy (a chain of being almost) in which, once again, political possession is inscribed into the composition. The eye, for example, as it 'reads' the cartouche, obviously movesdown as it reads the inscription. As it carries out this 'natural' act so it reproduces the implied hierarchy of significance established through the visual iconography which surrounds the inscription. To read the cartouche, is, then, to re-inscribe (with the eye) the message of title and map. The cartouche thus becomes part of a 'natural' reading by the eye so that all the elements are part of a formal, but also assumed, closure. Everything, so to speak, is in its place -and who would expect anything otherwise from a map?

The side borders, for example, are established through the images of two plants native to the Americas: corn (on the right) and the coconut palm (on the left). These grow upwards, edging into the 'canopy' which, through the use of clouds, suggests an ethereal-like position over the scene (seen) at the base of the cartouche. An aspect given added weight by the way in which two cherub-like figures (of the kind we would expect in High Renaissance painting) hold a crest (in favour of Britain) which, in turn, is topped by the Union Jack: ultimate and highest symbol which here is literally pictured as a canopy which oversees and covers all that lies beneath. Were it to be flying its effect would be 'openly' political.Here its 'passivity' suggests a natural status, almost akin to heavenly observance. Once again, all is unity and concord.

Indeed, as the eye moves directly down to the scene below so almost underneath the crest and flag the figure of an Indian looks up to these national (but protective) symbols and appears to give thanks (it is almost in a praying position) as it looks upward. As the figure does so the inference seems to be that it also reads, or at least looks through, the inscription. To the right of this figure sits (presumably) the half-naked figure of America which establishes, from the direction of 'her' look, a horizontal direction which balances (as it reinforces) the vertical structure. Thus in this axis, the eye moves out over the scene (and the map) over which the flag 'sits': a scene at once beautiful and serene. In the foreground are fishing nets and a beaver: images of plenty over which two cherubs disport themselves, and behind (and the nearest we come to a literal picture of the land) an image of settlement; ships, buildings, barrels, and a fence.

Again, though small in size the use of the fence suggest how detailed and compressed is the iconic meaning of the separate elements here, for the land is itself being fenced off as the map also divides the land in order to bring it under control: to scale it down. The fence exists as an equivalent to the grid created by the map's projection each 'netting' the land. The net, in turn, adds to the series of images which evince orders of possession. America is, thus, a land to be netted for its commodious potential but also a land to be 'imaged' through the values pictured in the map.

The final effect here is that of a mix of myth and history; of myth, pre-eminently, in the service of history as it naturalizes the dominion of European power over the New World. Thus the use of images from myth and history (barrel and cherub, flag and corn) and thus, through this 'mix', the way America is shown to be at peace. Indeed myth is so foregrounded that history has become myth; the two are offered as part of a single register which, in turn, feeds the map as it also supports the eye in its gaze over and across the space of the map. The continent has become both object and subject of speculation. And if one seeks further confirmation of how significant the cartouche is to the map then the fact that the map consists of eight sheets is tantalizingly suggestive. If we remove the sheet with the cartouche a 'hole' is immediately made in the map and the cartouche gains in presence through its very absence. To return the sheet is to complete the map and bring the land back into focus.

Unlike the cartouches on the maps of Carolina and Virginia, there are no scenes of work here. It is, indeed, as if the mythic and allegorical content transcends (hides) such effort in favour of an ideal image; just as the map abstracts and selects information from the land in order to create a picture of implied reciprocity. A similar scene of repose, for example, appears on 'an Accurate Map of North America' which, although included in Kitchen's General Atlas (London, 1773), also appeared in Jefferys' The American Atlas (1775 and 1776) as well as Faden's North American Atlas (1777). Although an 'idealized personification of the British Colonies',24 what is of significance is the way (figure 6) once again, myth naturalizes the history contained in the map. Indeed the figures inhabit a scroll-like frame as if lines of demarcation (no matter how aesthetically ameliorating) are the very 'objects' upon which they are situated. The props are characteristic also: a fishing net hangs to the right and a cherub sits between the native figures while about them are various animals -a parrot, a beaver, a lizard and so on.

The two Indian figures, one male, one female (America) are in repose and, although they sport ornate head-dress and carry prominent hunting gear they appear as closer to Diana than as images of American Indians (for example, as in White and Le Moyne).25 The mythic dimension is further established by the benign lion (England shows its passive face) and the way in which the figures might have come from a painting by Rubens. One thinks, perhaps, of the Allegory on the Blessings of Peace (c. l 630)


Although these cartouches are dependent upon the use of the figure within the narrative structure, as it were, of the picture's meaning, a number of cartouches imply possession and control even though the figure is absent. In Jeffervs and Faden, for example, there are cartouches in which, though the figure has been displaced from the scene, the iconography is clearly that of colonial possession. Indeed these scenes (and there are as many of Canada as there are of what is to become the United States) make the sense of possession more apparent: paradoxically establishing a British authority through the use of symbol as 'silent' arbiter of power. In 'A New Map of the United States of America with the British Dominions on that Continent', for example (figure 7), from Jefferys, Britain is given authority and substance by the appearance of footware and a crown (the crown) on a branch of wood: a set scene in which the boxes have been placed by the implied authority; a measure of its power just as the scale at the bottom is equally a measure of the ability to scale-down a wilderness and present it as a controlled image.

The framing device in which the title appears is also significant. The effect is to suggest that the inscription is on a backcloth hung from the branch: an image which proclaims the British presence to the land and, in other cartouches, dominates scenes of landscape and forest. In Faden's 'The British Colonies in North America' (figure 8) such a device is given monumental stature by seemingly inscribing the title of the map into what appears to be the side of a hill. Once again the scene is composed of characteristic elements: a net strung between trees, standing and working (native) figures, symbols of trade and commerce and a settlement in the background. But what stands (looms) over everything is the title as it merges into a natural scene which mixes a series of American vegetation and flora into a single landscape rich as it is lush. As the title faces the Atlantic Ocean so it advertises ownership to the world: a narrative image, so to speak, of the larger story pictured on the map of the land. It has the equivalent effect of a billboard placed in the landscape.

Even in these limited examples, then, one can see how the cartouche, far from serving a decorative function, or of simply being an extension of the earlier Dutch penchant for highly wrought ornamentation, gives to these maps of the eighteenth century a highly charged allegorical dimensions which both parallels and frames the way the map is to be read and the terms on which the image of the land (as a map) is validated through a series of structures and hierarchies themselves indicative of the cultural and political conditions within which the map is produced. They thus become significant historical representations and, equally, suggest a symbolic register to the political basis of the act of mapping. In turn the cartouche, while the most obvious pictorial device in these maps is part of a wider visual vocabulary which underpins the whole look of a map's image.

Indeed, in an extreme form, we can see how the cartouche is understood as a political image by looking at its use, in America, on maps after the War of Independence. In these the cartouche declares the newly won nationhood and establishes an alternative symbolism (and, ultimately, visual vocabulary) to displace former British possession. American maps thus seek a native iconography, a cartographic vernacular, as it were, to image independence.

In a map published in 1783, for example (figure 9), the imagery so characteristic of British control has given way to an almost celebratory 'rhetoric' of political independence. The land, like the map, is advertised as 'free'. Thus to the left stands Washington with Americana libertas who now openly refers us to the inscription (her hand touches the 'A' of 'America') just as she holds, again characteristically, a pilleus libertatis. To the right sits Thomas Jefferson (himself a geographer and drawer of maps) writing in a book and accompanied by what has been identified as the goddess of Justice and Wisdom.26 Over all now flies the original American flag. The cartouche thus narrates an alternative history just as, in its impatience to establish an alternative myth, it gives validity to the 'land' through a series of abstract values made manifest by the 'physical' presence of the new nation's political leaders: Washington and Jefferson. The imagery is given credence, as part of larger text, by the way in which Jefferson's book suggests the nation's values and independence being inscribed into their own and alternative founding tracts, be they the Declaration of Independence, The Federalist Papers or the Constitution. All inscribe into the map a set of alternative values which the maps of the United States of America will reflect. The map, as cultural text, will offer a visual track of the land in which the political values, inscribed into constitutional tracts, are manifest. Thus the implicit ideal state of the cartouche: an imagery 'freed' from former iconic control.

And such also is the effect of the cartouche in Abel Buell's A New and Correct Map of the United States published in 1784 and modelled heavily on the maps of Mitchell and Lewis Evans. This is a map with a double distinction: advertised as 'the first ever compiled, engraved, and finished by one man, and an American' it is also the first time an American flag appears on a map printed in the United States.27 Its native status is suggested by the way in which it is 'humbly inscribed to his Excellency the Governor and Company of the State of Connecticut' and made obvious by the siting of the flag in so prominent a position. Indeed, the map's relationship to the 1755 Mitchell map is auspicious, for the cartouche (figure 10) establishes significant parallels with the Mitchell cartouche (discussed above). It is as if it parodies and echoes the 'narrative' found there, declaring, through its alternative symbolic narrative, its status as a map of an independent nation.

The play of myth and history so basic to the Mitchell is here re-ascribed to the way in which the new nation declares its own control of the map and land. Thus in the bottom righthand corner the date of the Declaration of Independence is written into a natural setting, much in the way other dates had been inscribed into the 'land' in earlier cartouches. America (as America libertas) is seated in a similar pose to Brittania libertas.28 America also looks out over the space of both cartouche and map: an indice of possession as well as of an implied millenial future. The map, as it were, is now looked upon by a native eye and Buell's map gives as a basic co-ordinate the 'Meridian of Philadelphia' (home of another map-maker and publisher: Benjamin Franklin). Where the Mitchell stressed colonial fruitfulness and concord so the Buell cartouche has a tree as evidence of a natural (i.e., American) hierarchy. The land, in this view will not be used by colonial powers: America has claimed its rightful inheritance. Indeed the tree and, to the left, the scroll echoes the outline structure of the Mitchell cartouche but, in so doing, once again establishes an alternative symbolic hierarchy to supplant the British. If the Stars and Stripes has replaced the Union Jack it does so 'openly'. It does not cover in the way the British flag was shown as a canopy over the scene. Thus also cherubs and heavenly figures now proclaim the new history: a state completed by the symbol of the sun as it rises to meet the new age and suggests itself as a compass rose from which emerge radiant beams; lines of light which, as the new co-ordinates, move out over the map to illumine the land. The sun, as the centre of light, suggests a wholly distinctive projection and sanctions the flag as it flies over both map and cartouche: equivalent images of liberty and possession.


From its beginnings the map as a cultural text in America has had a distinctive status: often openly political it has stressed the act of possession and conferred both dominion over and domination of the land -be it colony or independent nation. The map, as military chart, Crown publication, or administrative text, has always established itself as a signature of authority -be it British, French, Spanish or 'American'. And the 'decorative' aspects of this status -the iconography and 'look' of the map-have been basic to the way such authority is invested in what purports to be an objective and accurate rendering of the land.

The cartouche is a fundamental aspect of this authority and has a complex history of its own.28 In the American map, in particular, it is clear that it has a function integral to the map itself. To this extent the use of the cartouche might be distinguished from other earlier 'signs' of authority (figures 11 and 12) in which much of the imagery announces itself as a stamp of authority, a seal of ownership over the map rather than as, with the cartouche, part of an interrelated structure which 'narrates' the map itself.

Equally what the cartouche suggests is the way in which, with later less obviously decorative and pictorial maps, thelook of maps remains highly symbolic and, while not so apparent perhaps, still speaks to the map as a cultural and, in the end, ideological construction. Thus a 'plain' map, as it were, can be deceptive as to what it offers the eye. The iconography has, in one sense, been hidden -inscribed into the lines of the map -so absorbed that we are hardly aware of it. The early mapping of America is, in this context, again of significance. Indeed some indigenous examples make palpable how much a 'plain' map might be as much a cultural text even though it is, ostensibly, devoid of 'ornamentation'. Thus John Forster's White Hills map (figure 13), published in 1677 in William Hubbard's A Narrative of the Trou¢les with the Indians in New England (at a scale of one inch to fifteen miles), the 'first known map printed in English America'29 is distinctive precisely because it is, seemingly, devoid of decoration. And yet this seems to be the point for, as with William Wood's 'The South part of New-England, as it is planted this year, 1634' (figure 14)30 published in Wood's New England Prospect (London, 1634) obvious symbolism and ornate embellishments have given way to a plain style inferred in both the line of the maps and their look. Their way with the land is imaged in the maps: the line here is the iconography; the word is the image. These are images of a different kind of possession: the values which look on the land have wholly inscribed themselves into the look of the map. In these examples the cartouche is the map.

.I -It is at this point that I would like to offer my gratitude and thanks to the John Carter Brown Library, Providence, Rhode Island, for its generous support and help which enabled me to both examine a number of early manuscript maps of America, and to make use of its extensive library of cartographic material and associated literature. My thanks are also extended to James Flatness, Senior Reference Librarian, Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress, and to John West and Jim Styles, Photographic Unit, University of Kent for their help with the illustrations to this article.

2 -The World Encompassed, Baltimore Museum of Art (Baltimore, 1952), p. xi.

3 -See, for example, 'The Blue Guide' in Roland Barthes' Mythologies (English edition, London, Paladin, 1972).

4 -Svetlana Alpers, The Art of Describing Dutch Art in the Seventeenth Century (London, Murray, 1983), p. 124; see especially pp.119-126; see also A. H. Robinson and B. B. Petchenik, The Nature of Maps: Essays Towards Understanding Maps and Mapping, (Chicago and London, University of Chicago Press, 1976).

5 -A. H. Robinson, The Look of Maps (Madison: University of Wisconsin, 1952), p. 1 7.

6-Nearly all the cartouches discussed in this article can be found in the excellent The American Revolution in Drawings and Prints: A Checklist 1765-1790, compiled by Donald H. Cresswell with a foreword by Sinclair H. Hitchings (Washington DC, Library of Congress, 1975). It is well to recall that in N. J. W. Thrower's Maps and Man (Englewood Cliffs, Prentice-Hall, 1972), the cartouche is defined as 'A feature of a map or chart, often a decorative inset, containing the title, legend, or scale, or all of these items' (p. 168).

7 -See, in this context, Jeanette D. Black, The Blathwayt Atlas, 2 vol. (Providence, Brown University Press, 1975) and William P. Cummings, British Maps of Colonial America (Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1974). Black tells us, for example, that the 'impressive expansion of interests' by the British in the seventeenth century 'necessarily led to an attempt to control, direct and master the diverse areas'. Maps were basic to this effort (vol. II, p. 3).

8 -An obvious example is the way California, for some time, was depicted as an island, e.g. John Seller's Atlas Maritimus, 1672, and in John Speed's Atlas, 1671

9 -See, for example, Tony Campbell Early Maps (New York, Abbeville Press, 1981), and Emerson D. Fite and Archibald Freeman (eds.), A Book of Old Maps Delineating American History (New York, Dover Publications, 1975).

l0 -On the legend of John Farrers' map of 1651, see Cummings, British Maps of Colonial America, p. 2; see also Drake's own explanation in The World Encompassed (London, 1628), p. 80.

11 -W. P. Cummings, 'The colonial charting of the Massachusetts Coast', Seafaring in Colonial Massachusetts, (Colonial Society of Massachusetts, 1980 ), p. 79

12 -From the 1616 London edition, but see also Travels and Works, ed. Arber and Bradby. (Edinburgh: John Sizat,1910), I. 123; 699 700.

13 -Jeanette Black in the Compleat Plattmaker, N. J. W. Thrower (ed.) (Berkeley and London, University of California Press, 1978), p. 168, see pp. 101- 123.

14-This is, in itself, a long and complicated story. See, for example, W. P. Cummings, The Southeast in Early Maps (Princeton, NJ, Princetown University Press, 1958), pp. 40 45, and Campbell, Early Maps, p. 36.

15 -Cummings, The Southeast in Early Maps, p. 39.

16 -See, for example, Walter B. Ristow, 'Early American atlases', Surveying and Mapping, 12 (1962), pp. 569-574

17 -See Cummings, British Maps of Colonial America, p. 104, for a note on the various editions of these atlases.

18 -I have examined a 1776 edition of The American Atlas, but what is declared remains good for earlier editions also.

19-In British Maps of Colonial America (p. 18), Cummings makes an important distinction between maps of the South and those of the North in the early period: 'In the South the plantations were prominent on the maps; the subscribers to a map were often the landowners themselves. In the North small towns and settlements were the more prominent features; in New England the churches of meeting houses are often indicated.'

20 -See Cresswell, The American Revolution, pp. 228 and 294.

21 -'White's drawings conventionalized an image of the American Indian of the Atlantic Seaboard that has persisted to the present day'. Paul Hulton and David Beers Quinn, The American Drawings of John White 1577-1590 (London and Chapel Hill. British Museum, 1964), p. 58.

22 -In Cummings' The Southeast in Early Maps, it is described as 'historically and politically one of the most important works in American cartography' (p. 101). In The World Encompassed (Baltimore) we read that it 'served as a model until superseded by Arrowsmith's map of 1814': see number 256. In Seymour 1. Schwarz, The Mapping of America (New York, 1980), it is described as 'the most important map in the history of American cartography' (p.149).

23 -See Fite and Freeman, A Book of Old Maps Delineating American History, pp. 292-293.

24 -Cresswell, The American Revolution, p. 297.

25 -See Marshall B. Davidson, The Drawing of America (New York, Abrams, 1983), pp. 9 -18, and Hulton and Beers, the American Drawings of John White

26 -Cresswell, The American Revolution, p. 386.

27 -See J. C. Wheat and C. T. Brun, Maps and Charts published in America before 1800: A Bibliography (New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 1969), p. 21.

28-See Frank H. Somner, 'The metamorphoses of Brittania', American Art 1750- 1800 Towards Independence (New Haven and London, New York Graphic Society, 1976), pp. 40 49.

29 -Schwarz, The Mapping of America, p. 100.

30 See Hulton and Beers, A Book of Old Maps Delineating American History, pp. 137-140

GRAHAM CLARKE is Lecturer in English and American Literature at the University of Kent. His current research interests include the significance of the map in American culture, and American photography in relation to New York City.