Women in Cartography Exhibition at Boston Public Library

A General Map of North America (1762) John Rocque (c. 1709-1762) The Norman B. Leventhal Map Center

A General Map of North America (1762)
John Rocque (c. 1709-1762)
The Norman B. Leventhal Map Center

The Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library’s Central Library in Copley Square will exhibit Women in Cartography: Five Centuries of Accomplishments from October 31, 2015 to March 27, 2016. The exhibition features forty cartographic artifacts—maps, globes, atlases, and works of art—made by women from the seventeenth century to the present day. The exhibition highlights the work of women who have historically been marginalized in the field of cartography. The rise of large corporate map-printing houses around 1800 and Victorian social constraints on women devalued the significance of women map-makers from the early modern period (1453-1789). Boston Public Library’s exhibition recognizes these underrepresented women and their impact on cartography, including the work of Mary Ann Rocque (fl. 1762-1770) and Elizabeth Holt (1727–1788), two eighteenth-century women publishers involved in map production and distribution.

Following the death of her husband John Rocque (c. 1709 -1762), Mary Ann Rocque maintained his map business and published his works for six years. In 1762, Rocque published her husband’s A General Map of North America (1762), which is included in the Women in Cartography exhibition. Like many eighteenth-century women publishers, Rocque was prompted by social pressures to conceal her gender and signed only her initials, M. A. Rocque, in the copyright statement of her published maps. Her omission obscured her important role as a woman map publisher until recently.

Supplement to the New-York Journal, no. 2013 (1785) Osher Map Library, University of Southern Maine

Supplement to the New-York Journal, no. 2013 (1785)
Osher Map Library, University of Southern Maine

Also featured in the exhibition, Elizabeth Holt was one of the few eighteenth-century women who published under her full name. Holt continued the publishing business of her husband John Holt (1721-1784) after his death. The Boston Public Library’s exhibition features a supplement from a 1785 edition of the New-York Journal that lists maps for sale at Elizabeth Holt’s printing-office. This supplement and many other cartographic items from the seventeenth century onward will be on display at the Leventhal Map Center in Boston through March 27, 2016. This exhibition will be of interest to those researching or curious about women’s roles in the history of print, publishing, or cartography.

On Thursday, November 12, 2015 at 5:30 pm a reception will be held in the Commonwealth Salon, Central Library. A talk by Alice Hudson, Curator of the Women in Cartography exhibition and former Chief of the Map Division at the New York Public Library, will follow at 6:00 pm.

Of note, a similar exhibition Women in Cartography: Celebrating 400 Years of Unsung Contributions to the Mapping World was on display at the Osher Map Library at the University of Southern Maine from March 26, 2015-October 22, 2015.

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