Picked up “Changing Perceptions: Chartering Alexandria, 1590-1999” at The Lyceum. A soft cover, it sells for $14.95 there, about half of what one bookseller on line is asking, and there’s probably a very limited quantity on the web.
As the Introduction notes, this book celebrated the 250th anniversary of the founding of Alexandria. 49 pages long, it traces Virginia through the years.
One of the books editors is Jim Mackay, the Lyceum’s Director. Trust me. This serves as a stamp of approval. Mackay told me they were blessed that William G. Anderson donated his rare map collection.
When it comes to early Virginia maps, Captain John Smith (1580-1671) is always a great starting point. His 1612 map has been praised many times. As the book points out, Smith’s map is “especially remarkable given the size of the area covered and the brevity of his explorations. It became the prototype map of the Chesapeake Bay, a distinction that lasted for sixty years."
I learned a lot with this book. John White came before Smith. His 1590 map was the first to name Virginia in its title. It served as the prototype until Smith’s map. White was also a gifted watercolorist, and the first to draw images of the Native Americans.
If the early maps are not your cup of tea, you can skip to the 18th century. Joshua Fry (1700-1754) and Peter Jefferson 1708-1753) laid out “A Map of the most Inhabited part of Virginia” in 1753. Alexandria (Belhaven) is identified for the first time in their second edition.
We also learn about several Alexandria merchants who sold survey instruments.
William Everard ran a shop on Prince Street during the 1790s.
John William Pfaltz, a Swiss-German clock and watchmaker set up on Fairfax Street.
Daniel Munro opened a shop on Prince in 1818. He made mathematical instruments and cleaned and repaired them.
Booksellers James Kennedy and Sons also sold this type of equipment on Fairfax Street.
As you would expect, the main drawback with a book of maps is the images are not sharp enough to see in detail. This problem can be solved, of course, by searching on the web. I find the LOC site is the best for inventory and zooming in.
One also has to make adjustments for some of the early maps, which were oriented with west. And with only the Indian names marked, pinpointing old and new is difficult.
Fortunately, we’re blessed with the Chesapeake’s peninsulas and bends in the rivers. Once you find that compass, you’re set for a fantastic voyage.