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“Mapping the New World” Exhibit at Historic

Bath

 A stunning collection of 29 early North American maps are showcased in the new exhibit at Historic Bath, “Mapping the New World.” Covering over 300 years of cartographic history, the collection provides a unique look at the evolution of our understanding of the New World, with many of the maps focusing on North Carolina and its iconic coastal region.

 “The collection gives an intriguing look at the early development of North Carolina…. It includes all the earliest maps showing Bath as the state's first and most important town in the early 1700s,” commented Gene Roberts, who recently donated the collection to the historic site. Roberts, retired journalist and professor of journalism, started collecting maps in the 1980s. 

Roberts “saw two 18th century maps with Bath, N.C. on them,” while traveling in London and decided to buy. “They were not the rarest of the 18th century maps but they whetted my interest and I added to them over the years, building up my knowledge as I went along.” 

Having spent summers near Bath as a teenager and later purchasing a home there, Roberts focused his collection on that area, eventually expanding to include early North Carolina maps that preceded the 1705 founding of Bath.

The earliest map is from 1540 and in the style of the period features colorful depictions of the New World complete with sea monsters and shipwrecks – potent visualization of the perils of sea travel. Later maps replace the sea monsters and shipwrecks with increasingly accurate coastlines and spellings of recognizable place names. By the late 18th century, the maps begin to take on the familiar crispness of today’s cartographic style.

Culminating in the 1850s with “A New Map of North Carolina with its Canals, Roads & Distances,” the collection aptly illustrates the constant progression towards an era of precise navigation. The significance of these documents was emphasized by Donna Kelly, head of Special Collections at the State Archives of North Carolina.

“Cartographic records are tremendously valuable for identifying long-forgotten places and showing how our coast has changed over the years,” she observed. 

The free exhibit will run through June 19. Visit the exhibit center from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday, to experience this rare collection.

For additional information on the site, please visit https://historicsites.nc.gov/all-sites/historic-bath, follow on Facebook @historicbath, or call (252) 923-3971. Historic Bath is located at 207 Carteret St, Bath, NC 27808 and is part of the Division of State Historic Sites in the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.

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