Skip to main content

Cumming Map Collection: Start

A guide to the Cumming Map Collection, one of the finest map collections of the American Southeast.

Old Explorer's Map Cropped as Page Border Pt. 1Old Explorer's Map Cropped as Page Border Pt. 2Old Explorer's Map Cropped as Page Border Pt. 3

William Patterson Cumming: A Collection Begins

William Patterson Cumming Profile PicOne day, William Patterson Cumming stumbled upon a faulty map in a window shop with his wife, fellow English professor Elizabeth Chandler, while on their honeymoon. He wondered why Davidson and Charlotte were shown as underwater on it.  Spotting this peculiar map, which turned out to be the 1676 map of Carolina by arguably the most famous English cartographer, John Speed (now part of the collection), initiated Dr. Cumming's pathway to soon become the leading authority on American maps of the Southeast. He returned from his trip eager to find the answer, but when he discovered how little had been written on early American map conceptions in general, he began the inquiry himself. Graduate of the class of 1921 and Davidson Irving English Professor, Dr. Cumming (1900-1989) was originally born in Nagoya, Japan to missionary parents. He came to the United States in 1914 to further his studies. While remaining a loyal English professor to his students, Dr. Cumming, with due time and growing interest, began to accumulate more maps, publish articles on cartographic history, and later wrote several books on the history of early maps (pre-American Revolution) in North America. He became quite acclaimed-- delivering lectures, winning awards, and becoming a renowned scholar of early mapping history of North America. After retiring, he eventually gifted his map collection to the College. Regarded as the finest collection of early American maps of the Southeast, Davidson Archives invites you make an appointment to learn more.  

Dr. Cumming's Books Available for Checkout:
 Note: In addition to books published by Dr. Cumming, we have an abundance of other related and renowned books acquired by him that form part of the collection. Email us to see them.
Book Cover: John Senex's 1719 Map of American Southeast

The Southeast in Early Maps

Call Number: D081 C971s3  

The original map reprinted on this cover, John Senex's 1715 Map, is part of our collection. 

Book Cover: Painting of animals on savanna plains with trees and some rolling hills overlaying a map

Discovery of North America

Call Number: D081 C971di

A collation of original writings as recorded by European travelers with a handwritten dedication from Dr. Cumming to our library.

Book Cover: Painting of American troops lined up in red and white

The Fate of a Nation

Call Number: D 081 C971f

Dr. Cumming chose and wrote descriptions for all of the illustrations found vividly throughout the book. 

Book Cover: Illustration of beavers working in Canada found on a 1715 North America map by Herman Moll

Exploration of North America

Call number: D 081 C971e

Sometimes called the Beaver Map, our collection also houses the Herman Moll's 1715 map printed on the cover. 

Book Title Page: Images of three maps important in the settlement of North American and North Carolina in particular, From left to right: Diego Ribero's 1529 World Map, Diego Gutierrez's 1562 map of America, John White's 1582 map of Virginia

Mapping the NC Coast

Call Number: D 081 C971ma 

Not available on the book market (verify), this book is dedicated to the Davidsoniana Room by Dr. Cumming in the front title page. 

More About His Map Collection

Whether for a government agency, an airline pilot, or or simply a college student finding her way around campus--maps can be found almost everywhere and are used for all kinds of purposes.

They guide, they teach, they show, and they hide.

GPS Navigation on SmartphoneTechnology today has afforded us maps that can be generated at the click of a button, but the maps in this rare and finely-cultivated scholar's collection take us back centuries before. Dr. Cumming spent the latter half of his lifetime delving into cartographic history and had a good many travels to collect the maps we house in the Smith Rare Book Room. His trips included travel to places like the Windsor Castle in England during his Europe cartographic tour from 1958-59 or to Rome to negotiate the purchasing of Sebastian Munster's 1540 map of the New World-- the oldest in the collection.

The collection is a master compendium from an expert himself, with supplemental reference books, exhibition pamphlets, map dealer's catalogues, other scholarly and related books, and other resources. Whether interested in European colonial history, attitudes toward Native Americans, voyages to the New World, cartouche drawings, or anything in between, these maps may be a helpful resource for you. While most of the maps cover the Southeastern region, there are some from a few other regions like Spain, Mexico, and Italy. 

Furthermore, we also have a detailed print catalog of all of the 48 maps in the collection with a description of the special features of each map as elucidated by Dr. Cumming. If you are interested in seeing this catalog, please contact us.

On the Cumming Map Collection, Dr. Helen Wallis, former Map Librarian of the British Library, very well-known in map circles, and longtime friend of the Cumming's, has called it, "The finest collection of American maps of the Southeast in private hands." She also said,

For a scholar, this collection is a paradise. The maps of the Southeast preserved in the great libraries of Europe and America are dispersed. Here at a stretch of a hand, the scholar can pick out maps and books, all well documented. These record the evolution of a great country in what were to European eyes the wilderness of territories of the New World.

Dr. Cumming was knocked down in Russia when he didn't take off his hat for the patriots, a sign of disrespect.
True: 3 votes (100%)
False: 0 votes (0%)
Total Votes: 3
After WWII, he worked in U.S. Govt. to restore post-Nazi German universities and libraries. (Want the answers? Email us.)
True: 0 votes (0%)
False: 2 votes (100%)
Total Votes: 2
 In this Guide:
Cumming Map Collection

Map on Scroll Clipart IconBrowse some maps available in the collection and learn about other map resources we house. 

 

Map Idiosyncracies

Person Drawing on Desk Clipart IconFind more on the mapmakers, their cartouches and some early mistaken notions they had of America! 

 

Imagining the Possibilities

Half Lightbulb Half Brain Clipart IconConsider the academic and intellectual possibilities possible with our map collection.

 

Visit

Walking Stick Person Clipart IconCome visit the collection in person! Anyone is welcome to schedule an appointment. 

 

 

Note: All images used in this LibGuide are in the Public Domain unless otherwise noted.

Research or Visit

 consultation

Schedule a consultation with a librarian or archivist by:

call_text

Call: 704-894-2158
email

Send an Email:
archives@davidson.edu
 
   
 
 
info_desk

Stop by the information desk.
Questions? Need help? Ask Us
Davidson College Library, Box 7200, 209 Ridge Rd., Davidson, NC 28035-7200
Creative Commons license logo for CC by-sa 4.0
This Davidson College Library Research Guides are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
All box-title icons from Entypo pictograms by Daniel Bruce — www.entypo.com