G.K. Warren Western U.S. 1857


Gouverneur Kemble Warren. “Map of the Territory of the United States from Mississippi to the Pacific Ocean.” Washington, 1857. 45 1/2 x 42 1/4. Lithographed by Selmar Siebert. Some old tape stains in upper left and light discoloration on some folds. Else, very good condition and professionally conserved. Wheat: 936.

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A first edition of one of the landmark maps of the American West, a remarkable cumulative rendering of all that was known geographically of the region prior to the Civil War. Lieutenant G.K. Warren, of the U.S. Army Topographical Engineers, was given the task of synthesizing all the geographic information available on the American West, especially deriving from the government surveys, begun in 1853, for routes for a proposed transcontinental railroad. Warren wrote that he was instructed “to carefully read every report and examine every map of survey, reconnaissance, and travel which could be obtained.” This included maps from as early as Lewis & Clark and Major Stephen Long, through the many railroad and government surveys up to 1857. This was a gargantuan task, for not only did Warren use a listed 45 source maps, but he had to reconcile quite a bit of conflicting data. Though Warren had received some information too late to be included in this edition, he attested that “In other respects this map is a correct representation of our information up to May 1, 1857 and the engraving has been carefully verified.”

Warren did a remarkable job; as Carl Wheat states, the map is “a beautifully executed map, and displays the genius of its author.” Warren noted that there was some material he was unable to include and new explorations were underway regularly in the second part of the nineteenth century, so several updated editions of this map were published later. This first edition was in many ways the most impressive of all the versions, for this was the initial creation which Warren had to create out of the jumbled hotchpotch of information taken from the myriad previous explorations and surveys. This map was the first accurate overall picture of the American West and a monumental document of the region on the eve of the Civil War.