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Prized map discovered at South Caroliniana Library

Cataloging librarian Craig Keeney didn't know he was about to discover an historical treasure when he opened a map drawer at the South Caroliniana Library this past spring.

Keeney was going through items in the Henry P. Kendall Map Collection when he pulled out a map of Colonial North and South Carolina.

Keeney thought he was looking at a copy of what’s known as the Mouzon map. But, unbeknownst to him, he was looking at an original, hand drawn map by British cartographer Louis Stanislas d’Arcy Delarochette, who was actually the primary author of the “Mouzon” map, not Henry Mouzon himself.

Delarochette received no attribution when the “Mouzon” map was published in 1775, but since Mouzon’s name was engraved on the map, he got the credit for centuries.

The “Mouzon” map

“We’d just finished putting our map catalog online, and I thought we really needed to finish cataloging the Kendall Collection to make it accessible to the public,” Keeney says.

Kendall was an entrepreneur from New England who had a summer home in Camden, South Carolina. He had a great interest in South Carolina history and amassed a world-class collection of books and maps. He donated his collection to the Caroliniana in the 1960s.

Until Keeney opened the map drawer at the Caroliniana, the original, hand drawn Delarochette map was thought not to have survived, having last been noted in a 1945 railway shipment from Chapel Hill, North Carolina to New York City. Researchers had been using photocopies of it for years for reference.

The “Mouzon” map has quite a formal title: An accurate map of North and South Carolina, with their Indian frontiers, shewing in a distinct manner all the mountains, rivers, swamps, marshes, bays, creeks, harbours, sandbanks and soundings on the coasts; with the roads and Indian paths; as well as the boundary or provincial lines, the several townships, and other divisions of the land in both the provinces, the whole from actual surveys by Henry Mouzon and others.

“The ‘Mouzon’ map was regarded as the map of the Revolutionary War since all the field commanders, including George Washington, the French commander Comte de Rochambeau and British commander Sir Henry Clinton, relied upon it for navigating the Carolinas during the war,” Keeney says.

“The map was so detailed and geographically advanced that it remained the go-to map of the Carolinas for two generations following the war. It was widely known and used and is still widely recognized today,” he says.    

The map mix up

Giving credit where due, Mouzon was one of the finest map makers of his time. He just didn’t author much, if any, of the “Mouzon” map.

“Mouzon had very little to do with the depiction of South Carolina on the Carolinas map that bears his name, and absolutely nothing to do with the survey of North Carolina,” Keeney says.

How do we know this?

“Scholars have spent decades meticulously studying maps of the same era, and they’ve carefully examined the detailed descriptions of the unpublished map that Mouzon produced and compared them with the ‘Mouzon’ map,” Keeney says.

Scholars have noted multiple discrepancies between Mouzon’s notes and the “Mouzon” map, and they just don’t add up to Mouzon being a leading contributor. We say “contributor” because the “Mouzon” map was produced by the London publishers Robert Sayer and John Bennet, who combined the works of multiple cartographers to produce the map that became the 18th century go-to map of the Carolinas.

The deep dive

So how did Keeney determine he was holding Delarochette’s original, hand drawn map?

He first contacted map collector and amateur cartographic historian Jay Lester after discovering a detailed blog Lester authored in 2015 entitled Anniversary of the Mouzon-Delarochette map of the Carolinas.

“I sent Jay some scans of what was written on the back of the map, which matches what appeared in the 1939 Henry Stevens, Son & Stiles map dealers’ catalog, Old Maps of America, 1525-1825, which is when the Delarochette map was last offered for sale.” Keeney says.

In fact, the catalog description of the map and inscription on its reverse matched Keeney’s map almost exactly. The only discrepancy was the measurement of the map, which differed in the catalog from the map Keeney discovered at the Caroliniana.

Lester then visited Keeney in Columbia and examined the map. He felt it was not a copy, that it was indeed the original, hand drawn Delarochette map.

“It looks virtually the same as a Mouzon map, except there’s no title on it,” Keeney says.

Keeney also took a deep dive into research, locating clues — auction records, correspondence and written descriptions — to help him determine the authenticity of the map and piece together the history of its whereabouts throughout the 20th century. 

Lester invited Keeney to exhibit the map at the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts Cartography and Culture national seminar in Winston-Salem this past October.

“The map historians, collectors and subject experts who examined the map were unanimous on two points. First, that the map is an original manuscript, and second, the map is the same as the Delarochette map described in Old Maps of America, 1525-1825, except for the discrepancy in measurements,” Keeney says.

“You could say I came away from the seminar with more questions than answers,” Keeney says. “But that's the exciting part about working with the special collections at the Caroliniana. Our materials enable scholars to make new discoveries.”

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