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March 15th, 2012:

The Moseley Manuscript Map

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by Mike Childs, Digital Publishing Librarian,

Map imageHow often does a completely new and previously unseen Colonial-era map of North Carolina come along?

Where does such a map hide for 270 years? Why was it made? And for who?

Such questions were the topic of a talk by the owner of the Moseley Manuscript Map, Michael McNamara in Wilson Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on Saturday, March 10, 2012.

Michael McNamara is the rightfully proud owner of this beautifully colored and restored map, having purchased it at auction from anonymous sellers at Swann Auction Galleries in New York on June 14, 2007 for the princely sum of $360,000. Independent researcher and collector McNamara recounted his detective work and its frustrations in establishing the probable provenance of this rare piece of North Carolina history.

Surveyor General of North Carolina Edward Moseley’s detailed 1733 map of North Carolina is well known to historians, but there are only three known copies still in existence, one at East Carolina University. This newly discovered map of Moseley’s is a hand-drawn original, dating from approximately 1736-1737.

It has a number of differences from the 1733 map, showing county borders, more rivers, a misplaced attempt at the South Carolina border, and most interestingly, a fictional colony on the Pee Dee River, labeled: “This is a Representation of an Improvement (sic) made at the conflux of the two Rivers, which Demonstrates the advantages of such a situation, both for Profit, Pleasure & Security.” This clue to its provenance hints that at least part of the map’s purpose was to encourage settlers to come to North Carolina. McNamara also believes the map’s purpose was to help wealthy land speculator Henry McCulloch and his partner, future North Carolina governor Arthur Dobbs, obtain a 1.2 million acre land grant in North Carolina in 1737.

In a bizarre twist, it seems the map has, in a way, been hiding in plain sight lo these many years: A much-copied mezzotint portrait of governor Dobbs by engraver James McArdell shows him holding a map of North Carolina. The engraving is based on a portrait by painter William Hoare. McNamara tracked down the original portrait, and makes a compelling case that the map in the portrait can be no other than the Moseley Manuscript Map.

McNamara has an upcoming article on the map in the Journal of Early Southern Decorative Arts, the official publication of MESDA (Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts) in Winston-Salem, NC.

View the map online at:,1245

Information about Arthur Dobbs:

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