Have Cartographer, Will Travel

Carte du theatre de la guerreWhen you travel for work, do you bring your own mapmaker to document your plans and triumphs?  Gilbert du Motier, the marquis de Lafayette (1757-1834) did when, in 1777, he sailed from France for South Carolina to help fight in the American Revolution.  Among the over 40 maps, books and objects in “Journeys and Discoveries:  The Stories Maps Tell,” on view at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, is an intriguing map based on the work of Lafayette’s very own cartographer, Michel Capitaine du Chesnoy (1746-1804).   

Talented, experienced and about ten years older than his boss, Capitaine du Chesnoy (who, confusingly, held the rank of captain when he first arrived in the colonies) drew maps of the conflicts in which Lafayette participated in 1777, 1778 and after.  Eighteenth-century military officers valued mapmaking skills.  Understanding landscape, waterways and structures helped military strategists plan campaigns, stage retreats and organize travel.  Officers also used maps and drawings to communicate important ideas and information to their colleagues, superiors and supporters.   

Capitaine du Chesnoy made several manuscript maps portraying some of Lafayette’s different militaryA Plan of the Action at Bunkers Hill 1775 activities.  At least eighteen of these maps survive in American and European collections.  Six ink and watercolor maps now form part of the collection of the Library of Congress.  You can view them on the library’s website.  When Lafayette traveled to France in 1779, he asked Capitaine du Chesnoy to put together a cartographic summary of the battles of the American Revolution up to that point for Lafayette to share with King Louis XVI (1754-1793). A Paris printer produced an engraved version of the summary map and made it available to the public in 1779.  One of these printed maps--the only one of Capitaine du Chesnoy’s manuscript maps known to have been engraved--is on view in “Journeys and Discoveries.” Come see it and compare Captiaine du Chesnoy’s work with other 1700s maps portraying military events--such as Thomas Hyde Page's (1746-1821) summary of the battle of Bunker Hill--and others. 


Paul E. Cohen, “Michel Capitaine de Chesnoy, the marquis de Lafayette’s Cartographer,” The Magazine Antiques, January 1998, 170-177.

Photo credits:

Carte du Theatre de la Guerre, 1779.  Cartography by Michel Capitaine du Chesnoy.  Paris, France.  Van Gorden-Williams Library and Archives, 029-75. Photograph by David Bohl.

A Plan of the Action at Bunkers-Hill…, 1775-1778. Compiled by Lieutenant Thomas Hyde Page.  Engraved and published by William Faden (1749-1836), London England.  Van Gorden-Williams Library and Archives, 071-86.  Photograph by David Bohl.


Back to Our Roots: The Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, Inc.

In honor of the nation's bicentennial, the Supreme Council, Scottish Rite, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction dedicated the museum and library in April of 1975. Just a few years before, Sovereign Grand Commander George A. Newbury (1895-1984), the motivating force behind the museum and library, conceived the institution “… to tell a thrilling story--the story of America.” Since then, the museum has collected objects, documents and books related to American and Masonic history and presented exhibitions and programs exploring the same subjects.  2010_42_61

On official documents founders called the museum the “Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, Inc.” but did business and promoted the organization as the Museum of Our National Heritage or as the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum of Our National Heritage. In 2001, the public name of the museum was shortened to National Heritage Museum, but our legal name remained Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, Inc.  Over the last few years, we have been getting back to our roots and using our legal name accompanied by the symbol of the Supreme Council, Scottish Rite, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction—a crowned double-headed eagle with the motto Deus Meumque Jus (God and My Right) to acknowledge our founding, special connection to and continuing support by the Freemasons of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction.  You may have seen the name and logo changes in our publications, promotional material, on our building signage and now we feature the change here, on our blog.

AChatelain 001 1975 1719s it has for the past four years, our blog will continue to explore intriguing aspects of our object, archives and library collections.  We will also keep readers abreast of exhibitions, programs and other special events.  Right now we are preparing for an exhibition of selections from our rich map collection—in its first year alone, the museum purchased over 30 historic maps for its holdings.  This image shows a detail of one of the maps that will be featured in the upcoming exhibition, "Journeys and Discoveries:  The Stories Maps Tell."  Most importantly, our blog is a place where we can hear from you.  If you have a question or comment, please get in touch!

Photo credit: 

Detail from Carte tres curieuse de la Mer du Sud…, 1719.  Chatelain family, Zacharie Chatelain (d. 1723) and Henri Abraham Chatelain (1684-1743).  Amsterdam, Holland.  Van Gorden-Williams Library, 001-1975 1719.  Photograph by David Bohl.

Scottish Rite Double-Headed Eagle Pendant, ca. 1912.  Gift of the Supreme Council, 33º, Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, USA, 2010.042.61a-b.  Photograph by David Bohl.



For map-lovers

Geog_us One of the recently announced American Library Association children's book award winners that particularly got my attention is Uri Shulevitz's How I Learned Geography.  The author-illustrator has included autobiographical details in previous books but never so poignantly.  His latest book tells of his Polish family, ravaged by war and forced to relocate.  Strangers in a new country, they are poor and hungry yet one night instead of food from the market his father brings home a large, colorful map and places it on their wall.  At first Uri and his mother are annoyed because there are so many other things they need.  In time he realizes the map nourishes him and his dreams as no food ever could.

It's a sentiment map-lovers of any age can appreciate.

And we are a museum of map-lovers.  Interesting, historic, beautiful and colorful maps both large and small may be found029-1779_T1 on many of our walls and often are exhibited or used in exhibits to illustrate the stories we tell.  Over thirty years ago when our Museum was new and the Library & Archives collection just being formed, maps were identified as a priority and a small but respectable collection acquired.  One of the early acquisitions, shown at right, Carte du Theatre de la Guerre dans L'Amerique...1775-1778 was drawn by Captaine de Chesnoy, an aide-de-camp to the Marquis de Lafayette and published in Paris. The three columns in the lower right list major campaigns of the Revolutionary War in chronological order so there's lots of visual and narrative interest all in one map.

Fortunately today it's easier than ever to find, study and even print or order reproductions of every imaginable kind of map.  New England has several wonderful map collections including the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at Boston Public Library (BPL) and the Osher Map Collection at the University of Southern Maine (where the new map museum will open in September 2009).  Online resources about maps also are extensive.  It's hard to beat former British Library map librarian Tony Campbell's Map History site for an all around introduction to anything and everything having to do with maps.  The Library of Congress, University of Texas, New York Public Library and David Rumsay map sites also are comprehensive and, the Library of Congress along with the BPL site, provide the opportunity to buy reproductions from their collections.

And this post wouldn't be complete without mentioning Google and their many map products.  Several official and unofficial blogs are available to try to keep up with and make sense of their latest map offerings.

Sources listed and mentioned above: 

Chesnoy, Michel.  Carte du theatre de la Guerre... Paris: Chez Perrier graveur:  Chez Fortin, [1779].  Call number:  map 029-1779?

Shulevitz, Uri.  How I Learned Geography.  N.Y.: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008.

Silvestro, Clement M.  A Decade of Collecting Maps.  Lexington, MA:  Museum of Our National Heritage, 1985.  Call number:  GA 190 .S54 1985