“Nevada Plateau.” Topographical map IV from Clarence King’s Geological and Topographical Atlas accompanying the report of the Geological Exploration of the Fortieth Parallel. New York, 1876. 29 x 42. Chromolithograph by Julius Bien. Very good condition.
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A very large topographical map of northeastern part of Nevada. This dramatic image is from one of the landmark surveys of the American West. After the Civil War, the American people, and thus the government, became interested in finding out about the economic resources of the West. Thus government surveys turned from being military surveys, with science being simply an adjunct, to surveys which were primarily scientific in focus. In particular, they became “geological” surveys: “geology” at the time having a wider definition than now, referring broadly to the science of the earth, including within its compass botany, soil science, archaeology and anthropology.
The first government survey dedicated to studying the geological, and thus economic aspects of a far western state was the 1860-74 California Geological Survey led by Josiah D. Whitney. The California Geological Survey established the methods and aims for future surveys by the U.S. Government, which in 1867 authorized the first in a series of systematic scientific surveys of the West, the U.S. Geological Exploration of the 40th Parallel, led by Clarence King, who worked on with the CA Geological survey. Its purview was to survey the geological features and natural resources of the lands on either side of the Pacific Railroad from California to eastern Wyoming, designed as a practical survey to determine the economic potential of the lands along the railroad route.
In 1876, this survey produced an atlas entitled the Geological and Topographical Atlas accompanying the report of the Geological Exploration of the Fortieth Parallel. The chief cartographer for this survey, James Terry Gardner, had worked with King on the California survey. The atlas included a general map, then five each of topographical and geological sectional maps in sequence along the route of King’s survey. This is one of the sectional maps, presenting the topographical information on the area shown, including depictions of orography, lakes and rivers, roads and the railroad. The map is beautifully crafted, filled with excellent information and very rare.