Chatting soon after their Thanksgiving feast, Patrick Martin learned one of his guests had strong family ties to Texas. Pushing the wine glasses and butter dish to one side, Martin opened a small black book and unfolded n early, hand-colored map of the Republic of Texas, complete with the short-lived Santa Fe County. It wasn't until he took the map to an appraisal event that he learned it was none other than an 1849 first edition Map of Texas, hand signed by Jewish settler Jacob De Cordova, which is expected to sell for $150,000 in Heritage Auctions
' Texana Signature® Auction March 15 in Dallas.
"By the time it got to my hands it was sheer luck it hadn't been damaged," Martin said of the map's long history in his family. "I remember looking it over when I was younger, 8, 10, 12 years old, unfolding it in my parents' basement. The map shows Indian territories and I thought Indians were cool."
De Cordova's Map of Texas was first issued in 1849 and published by Texas' General Land Office as the first official map of Texas. It measures 32" x 35 1/4", is hand-colored with West Texas virtually entirely absent and only a portion of the Panhandle (noted as the Fannin Land District) shown as settled. Only a few copies of the map are known to exist. Among them are at least two being held by institutions: one in Special Collections at the University of Texas at Arlington and the other at the Rosenburg Library in Galveston.
"The accuracy of this map, and its importance to understanding the development of Texas cannot be overstated," said Joe Fay, Manager of Rare Books at Heritage Auctions. "Sam Houston himself called it 'the most correct and authentic map of Texas ever compiled.' The hand-colored map shows the state of Texas at a critical point, most noticeable when comparing it to subsequent revisions, reflecting big changes from the Texas of this map to the Texas of just a few years later. When I saw this walk into the appraisal event in Birmingham, and Mr. Martin and I unfolded it, I was floored. It's one of the most desirable high points in the field of Texana, and few collectors or dealers ever get the opportunity to see it in the wild."
Martin's family traces their copy to his great-great-grandfather Nicholas Martin and his son, Hudson. Nicholas was colonel in a Virginia militia that fought in Texas during the Mexican-American War and Hudson was a Virginia attorney who helped settlers secure land grants across the Lone Star State.
"So it could have been Hudson or it could have been Nicholas, we're not really sure," Martin said. "We were a family of savers, we didn't throw things out. The map spent its life in an outbuilding on the family farm that was used as a law office and when my grandfather died no one wanted it."
When it came time for the family to clean out the homestead, Patrick's father grabbed a box of legal documents on a whim, not knowing the book was tucked safely inside. Patrick discovered the map as a boy and it sparked his imagination and a lifelong passion for history. He spent hours examining early cities and towns, roads, rivers, Indian villages and even De Cordova's own signature.
"My parents didn't have any objection to me playing with it and I could have easily done some damage," he said. "Until recently, I was still pulling it out and showing it to guests if they were history buffs. We moved the butter and the wine glasses and started taking it out. At that point it could have been a disaster."
Now that the map is headed to auction, Martin is eager to see how the public will react to its discovery. He intends to split the proceeds with his sister.