While inspecting some of the older holdings in the Map Collection I came across Map #131, identified as “World” and dated 1792. Expecting to find a world map from that year (which would have been cool enough), imagine my pleasure at finding a “New Chart of World History”.
Even more impressive is the fact that the chart was presented to Benjamin Franklin from Joseph Priestley! While the former is well known to all of us, Joseph Priestley (1733 – 1804) may not be. Among other things, he is generally acknowledged as the “discoverer” of the element oxygen! A great friend of Franklin’s due to their mutual interests in electricity (among other natural phenomena) and their membership in the Royal Society of London, Priestley is a fascinating character in his own right. As a publicly avowed friend of the American Colonies and – subsequently – the United States, he was unpopular in Great Britain. As a result, his life was made unpleasant in his home country and, therefore, he spent the last ten years of his life in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania.
The more observant will notice the date of this chart is dated four years after Ben Franklin’s death in 1788. The original chart was created by Priestley considerably earlier (1769) and was called A New Chart of History. The one in the HCHS Map Collection is a reprint engraved by Amos Doolittle of New Haven, CT. It’s clearly an update of the original, or there would be no mention of the United States. Member Bob Leith found the following quote online when a 1769 original was being sold by the Boston Rare Maps company:
“It is worth noting that in 1792 engraver Amos Doolittle of New Haven, Connecticut produced a new edition of the chart, which if anything is even more scarce than the London edition.” And there is one in our Collection! It has suffered some water damage but I doubt I’ll look this good when I’m 220+ years old!