Art Museum Display Recalls Golden Age of Mapmaking

Following the discovery of the New World in the 15th century, European mapmakers scrambled to document and map the new territories, using centuries-old technology. In contrast to today’s mass-produced, utilitarian maps, early European cartographers recruited renowned painters and miniaturists of their times who created maps that were truly works of art, richly colored and intricately decorated.Antique Map #6. A Map of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands...Antique Map #6. A Map of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands...

From March 11 through April 12, 2015, the Franklin G. Burroughs-Simeon B. Chapin Art Museum will display a collection of these magnificent works in an exhibit titled The Mapmakers’ Art: The Bishop Collection of Antique Maps: 1608-1863. The artworks, a 1999 gift from Mrs. George Bishop in memory of her late husband, a local entrepreneur, are part of the Museum’s permanent collection.

The Mapmakers’ Art includes 15 maps illustrating what has been termed the golden age of cartography plus a selection of complementary historical prints. During that era of rapid discovery – and hence, extensive production of new maps – cities as far-flung as Paris, Amsterdam, Florence, Venice and London competed as mapmaking centers of the world.

Since early maps often relied on unverified and often unreliable information from native populations, unsubstantiated reports and hearsay, the maps illustrate the evolution of both exploration and documentation of geographical information.

Among the historic gems included in the collection is An Accurate Map of North and South Carolina by Henry Mouzon, an enormous copperplate engraving of four joined sheets created in 1775. The earliest map in the collection, produced in 1606 by Gerard Mercator and engraver Jodocus Hondius, was based on a 1590 map of Virginia and a 1591 map of Florida. The 1825 map of Horry District by Robert Mills, considered the first American architect, and a map created by naturalist Mark Catesby for his celebrated 1731 work A Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands are other highlights.

Among the historical prints accompanying the maps are four Civil War scenes from Harper’s Weekly and a collection of steel engravings from The Portrait Gallery of Eminent Americans, published in 1863, which include our country’s founding fathers.

Regular gallery hours are from 10 a.m.- 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, 1 – 4 p.m. Sundays. Admission to the Museum is free but donations are welcomed. For further information, call 843-238-2510 or visit


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