The Boswell Collection was established in 1971 and reached its present size of about 1,700 maps by 1985. Its creation was the idea of Ernest W. Toy, founding librarian of Cal State Fullerton, and Roy V. Boswell, a rare book and antiquarian map authority. They believed that a carefully selected collection of early maps would become a valuable resource for interdisciplinary education and research in history, geography, anthropology, art, and other fields of study.
Building the collection over fourteen years allowed time to refine the criteria governing the project. These were that the maps be originals in fine condition, not modern facsimiles; that they represent the entire range of map production in the Western world from the earliest available up to 1901 (defining “early” by this terminal date); that they illustrate the major techniques of map making; that they portray continents, countries, cities, and specific areas of importance as well as the world as a whole; and that the work of both major and minor cartographers be represented.
Because the Boswell Collection is intended to represent the achievements of Western cartography, it is a diverse assemblage with all kinds of physical characteristics, subjects, and purposes. There are maps of different sizes, scales, and projections; uncolored and hand-colored; woodcut, copperplate, steelplate, and lithograph; thematic maps, including street maps, battle plans, sea charts, and views in perspective; flat maps, folded maps, and atlas maps; maps by unknown cartographers as well as by the masters; imaginative maps of idiosyncratic charm, of unpretentious simplicity, of sophisticated draftsmanship; maps with essentially political, or scientific, or navigational, or military purposes; maps of cities, countries, and continents, and of oceans, islands, and coastlines.
If the Boswell Collection is distinguished by its variety, it is also defined by its chronology. With the exception of a single mappa mundi from the late 14th century, and a dozen maps probably dating to the late 15th century, the collection consists of about 12 percent 16th century maps, 18 percent from the 17th century, 37 percent from the 18th century, and 31 percent from the 19th century. This distribution no doubt reflects the greater production and availability of 18th and 19th century maps, their relative prices on the modern market, and the choices open to Roy Boswell and Ernest Toy as they built the collection. In addition to its core of original maps, there are several dozen facsimiles printed in the 20th century.
Some of the most talented and prolific cartographers are well represented in the Boswell Collection, including the Flemish masters Abraham Ortelius (29 maps) and Gerardus Mercator (10). Italian cartography is represented by Coronelli (19), Gastaldi (16), Rossi (16), and Zatta (29); French by Anville (18), Bellin (33), Chatelain (15), Fer (10), L’Isle (23), Robert and Gilles deVaugondy (22), and Sanson (24); German by Homann (12), Moll (30), Munster (11), and Seuter (19); Dutch by Willem and Joan Blau (24), Hendrick and Jodocus Hondius (19), and Jansson (18); and English by Bowen (13), Jefferys (21), Kitchin (17), Ogilby (18), Senex (32), and Speed (11). Other well known cartographers such as deWet, Faden, LaPerouse, Jaillot, Ramusio, Schenk, Vancouver, and Visscher are represented by smaller numbers of maps.
Regionally, the greatest strength of the collection is North America (562 maps), comprising maps of Mexico, Canada, and the United States from their colonial Spanish, French, and British beginnings into the 19th century. There are 359 maps of Europe, in which the evolution of major nations and cities may be traced. Delineations of the world as a whole over the course of 400 years represent the third largest group--145 maps. Asia is portrayed in 129 maps, South America in 99, the Mediterranean in 66, Africa in 58, Australia in 53, and the Pacific Ocean in 35. Finally, there are some 85 maps of the hemispheres, northern and southern, eastern and western. A notable curiosity of many early maps, California as an island, is represented in 70 maps.
The Boswell Collection, enhanced by its digital availability, offers splendid new opportunities to advance the educational mission of the Pollak Library and Cal State Fullerton.
Annette Andeson-Ma, Cataloguer
Farron Brougher, Technical Advisor
Jane Olsen, Photographer
Albert R. Vogeler, Curator