J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Mapping Out a Map-Filled Visit to Boston

This weekend is your last chance to see the “We Are One: Mapping America’s Road from Revolution to Independence” exhibit at the Boston Public Library. And I heartily recommend doing so. Here’s my review of the show.

The exhibit’s last day is Sunday, 29 November. After that, our only solace will be the Leventhal Map Center’s database of Revolutionary-era maps. (The map center at the library also has a smaller exhibit on women cartographers, which I haven’t seen.)

Just a short walk outbound along Boylston Street and you can also visit the Massachusetts Historical Society. Its current exhibit, running through early January, is titled “Terra Firma: The Beginnings of the M.H.S. Map Collection”:
As the M.H.S. approaches its 225th year, Terra Firma celebrates the beginnings of one of its most diverse and interesting collections. Among the maps on display are landmarks of map publishing that include the first published map of New England, the first map of Massachusetts published in America, and a unique copy of the earliest separate map of Vermont, as well as maps of important battles and maps and atlases from the United States and beyond.
There’s a webpage of audio profiles of four of the men who made those maps, including Gov. Thomas Pownall, Col. Richard Gridley, and Henry Pelham [who also serves as the @Boston1775 Twitter avatar]. Admission to the M.H.S. galleries is free, and they will be open this Friday and Saturday, 10 A.M. to 4 P.M.

And if that’s not enough maps, the Boston Athenaeum has an exhibit up through the end of February called “Collecting for the Boston Athenæum in the 21st Century: Maps, Charts, & Plans,” on recent additions to its collection of maps and charts.
Some of the highlights will include a very scarce chart of Casco Bay by J.F.W. DesBarres, a rare French edition of a classic map of the Americas by Petrus Bertius, published in the mid-seventeenth century, and a beautiful example of one of the earliest charts to focus on the New England coastline by J. van Keulen.
There are a number of eighteenth-century maps on the exhibit list, including a 1793 print of Sir Thomas Hyde Page’s Plan of the Action at Bunkers Hill on the 17th of June 1775 (thumbnail above). Admission is $5, free for members. Check the calendar for days when the Athenaeum is open.

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