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Munsell, Luke __Cartographer ||Curtis M. Doolittle & S. Bishop Munson __Publisher
Place Made:
Cincinnati Ohio United States of America
Date Made:
ink on paper
HOA: 15″; WOAL 19.5″
Accession Number:
Luke Munsell (1790-1854) “bestowed four years of unremitted labor” on the first large scale map of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, engraved by Hugh Anderson in Philadelphia, and published on December 16, 1818. The title cartouche and a dedication were decorated with beautifully engraved vignettes based on paintings by Thomas Sully. Surviving copies of this beautiful map are held by the Kentucky Historical Society, the University of Kentucky, the Library of Congress (3), the American Philosophical Society, and the University of Pittsburgh. The last of those is viewable on line: . The Filson Historical Society may have a copy of this map; their catalog entry is ambiguous as to whether it is an original or a photographic reproduction.

A boundary clarification between Kentucky and Tennessee and the erection of multiple new counties prompted Munsell to issue a revised and slightly smaller wall map in 1834, engraved and printed in Cincinnati. The University of Chicago, the British Library, the Kentucky Historical Society, the National Archives, and the Filson Historical Society hold copies of this map. The last two may be a revised edition published in 1835, based on their respective catalog descriptions.

Lastly, the map was published in Cincinnati on a much smaller scale as a pocket map in 1835. Currently known surviving copies of the pocket map include the MESDA copy, one in the Kentucky Historical Society, and one in a private collection.

CARTOGRAPHER: Dr. Luke Munsell was a 19th Century polymath and polyglot. Luke Munsell was born June 4, 1790, in East Windsor, Connecticut. He received an excellent education, including training as a civil engineer and as a physician. He also obtained proficiency in Greek, Latin, and Hebrew. In October 1811, Munsell left Connecticut, arriving in Frankfort, Kentucky, in November of that year. He has been described as Frankfort’s first librarian, and for three years he was “engaged” in the Kentucky Seminary until August 29, 1814. He spent the following four years laboring over the surveys, cartography, and publication of his seminal map of the Commonwealth. In 1822, Munsell married Eliza Sneed; they subsequently had ten children.

In 1832, Dr. Munsell was appointed chair of Chemistry, Mineralogy, and Natural Philosophy at Centre College in Danville, KY. A cholera epidemic that year claimed the life of the superintendent of the School for the Deaf in Danville. Out of necessity, Munsell served in the dual role of superintendent and school physician. Simultaneously, he served as corresponding secretary of the Kentucky Colonization Society and secretary of the Kentucky Temperance Society. In the latter role, his responsibilities included editing the Society’s monthly periodical, The Harbinger of the Mississippi Valley. Despite these many obligations, he still found time to do research in the medical field. Dr. Munsell’s investigation and application of galvanism was published as Remarks on Electro-Therapeutics in the Transylvania Journal of Medicine in 1833.

Munsell’s anti-slavery position was the likely impetus for his family’s move to Indianapolis in 1835 or early 1836. He was obviously established there in 1836 when he registered a copyright for a map of that city. Munsell served intermittently as town surveyor between 1839 and 1844, worked as a civil engineer, advertised his services as a physician, was a founding member of the Second Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis, and was local agent for the American Land Agency. In 1852, the family moved to Jeffersonville in southern Indiana, just across the Ohio River from Louisville. In 1854, Munsell died in Jeffersonville at the age of 64 “of heart disease after seven months severe suffering.” Dr. Luke Munsell was interred at Frankfort Kentucky.

1. 1818 map of Kentucky:
2. 1834 map of Kentucky:
3. Frances L. S. Dugan, Footnote to a Map. [Lexington]: University of Kentucky Library Associates, 1962.
4. Frank Munsell, A Genealogy of the Munsell Family (Munsill, Monsell, Maunsell) in America. Albany, NY: Joel Munsell’s Sons, 1884.
5. John David Smith and Thomas H. Appleton, Jr. eds, A Mythic Land Apart: Reassessing Southerners and Their History. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1997.
6. Lunsford P. Yandell, M.D., ed., The Transylvania Journal of Medicine and the Associate Sciences, Vol. VI. Lexington, KY: J. Clarke & Co. 1833.
7. Jacob Piatt Dunn, Greater Indianapolis… Chicago, IL: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1910.
8. Kentucky Library Associates, Kentucky Libraries. Paducah, KY. Kentucky Library Associates 1987 (Winter).

DESCRIPTION: Map of Kentucky and embossed cover – Engraved, hand-colored map, issued as a pocket map. It has been removed from its covers and flattened; covers retained.

Cover embossed with MUNSELL’S MAP OF KENTUCKY. The map shows the 84 counties established through 1834. It includes insets of Louisville, Frankfort, Lexington, and Maysville, and a table of population data for Kentucky from each U.S. census through 1830.

Credit Line:
Gift of James W Lester Jr & Judy R. Lester