A Charleston Map of Epic Proportions in The Fall Quarterly Auction

One of the most spectacular items being offered from the Ferguson Estate is a fabulously rare, man-sized map titled Charleston Harbour and the adjacent coast and country, South Carolina: surveyed in 1823, 1824, and 1825. The modern eye familiar with Charleston’s landmarks will immediately notice the conspicuous absence of Fort Sumter, the site of the Civil War’s opening shot. The reason for this seemingly gross omission is that Fort Sumter’s construction did not begin until 1829, four years after the map was published — that’s how deep into American history this extraordinary masterpiece of cartography reaches.

The map has even deeper roots. It is signed in print by its legendary engraver, William J. Stone, who in 1823 after three years of labor, completed a meticulous copy of the Declaration of Independence on a commission from Secretary of State John Quincy Adams. Stone’s exact rendering of the Declaration, limited to some 200 copies, made him famous. These engravings were distributed to the few living Declaration signers, various dignitaries, and official repositories nationwide. Stone’s Declarations, being clear and easily reproduced, have been published to the point that they are more familiar to the American public than the deteriorating and much-faded original document. Only about fifty of Stone’s Declarations are known to survive, and they command upwards of half a million dollars at auction.

Stone’s Charleston Harbour map is of course a less celebrated work and its appearance on the open market has been almost non-existent. Our research has only found one example of the map previously being offered to the public: A copy was listed for a whopping $3.75 in a 1917 retail catalogue issued by the venerable Boston bookseller Goodspeed’s. “We can only assume it sold,” says Rob Golan, Leland Little’s Historical Director.

The Ferguson Estate’s hand-colored example was de-accessioned as a Duplicate by the Library of Congress in 1929, with its provenance being verified by an official handstamp placed on the map near Stone’s credit line (The Library retains a black ink version of the map). Now, a hundred years after Goodspeed’s listing, Leland Little Auctions is counting on this remarkable map to fetch quite a bit more than it might have a century ago. One thing is sure: another hundred years could pass before a copy of Stone’s Charleston Harbour surfaces again.