The foundation map of nineteenth century South America

By ARROWSMITH, Aaron, 1814 

Outlines of the Physical and Political Divisions of South America; delineated by A. Arrowsmith partly from scarce and original documents, but principally from manuscript maps and surveys made between the years 1771 and 1806 corrected from accurate astronomical observations to 1810.

America South America
  • Author: ARROWSMITH, Aaron
  • Publication place: London
  • Publisher: Published by A. Arrowsmith, No.10 Soho Square Hydrographer to H.R.H. the Prince of Wales
  • Publication date: 4th January, 1811. Additions to 1814.
  • Physical description: Engraved wall map on six sheets, all with original outline hand-colour, inset of Patagonia and the Falkland Islands lower right, a few old folds reinforced.
  • Dimensions: 2390 by 1980mm (94 by 78 inches).
  • Inventory reference: 2313


Arrowsmith’s monumental map of South America.

Arrowsmith specialised in large multi-sheet maps. These were generally separately-issued, and are now very scarce. His five great wall maps of the Americas were particularly well-received, and became foundation or prototype maps of the area and were extensively copied by other publishers” (Tooley). These five wall maps were of North America (first published 1795), the United States (1796), the West Indies (1803), Mexico (1810), and South America (the present map) (1810). They were generally republished many times, as new information became available.

The present map is the second state of the map, with additions to 1814. The map has been slightly revised by Arrowsmith with first issue, with changes in the coast line between Buenos Aires and Rio, and on the northeast coast, near Maranham. The second state sometimes accompanied Antonio de Alcedo’s The Geographical and Historical Dictionary of America and the West Indies’. (1815).

Aaron Arrowsmith (1750–1823) was the finest cartographer of his generation. Although he received little formal education it is believed that he was taught some mathematical instruction by William Emerson, an author of several books on the application of mathematics to the area of cartography. Around 1770, Arrowsmith moved to London to seek employment. It is believed that he worked for William Faden before joining John Cary Sr. in the early 1780s. There he provided the measurements for John Cary’s early publication detailing the roads from London to Falmouth, his first signed work. Arrowsmith set up on his own in 1790 and over the next thirty years produced some of the most beautiful, elegant, and sought-after maps of the era. 


  1. Tooley, R.V. The Mapping of America, p. 98, no. 77b
    • Tooley, R. and Matthews, D. (1980). The Mapping of America with an index compiled by Douglas Matthews.