British Book Dealer Discovers Rare Maps of Houston That Predate the City

When looking through old books, it is a good idea to pay attention and know something of cartography. In the case of Daniel Crouch, a book dealer in England, he was both attentive and knowledgeable when he found a handful of rare maps of Texas drawn by scientist Jean Louis Berlandier in the early 1800s. The maps depict the Texas Gulf Coast, specifically Brazos Santiago, a town destroyed by hurricanes in the area near Galveston Bay. This was well before any urban development and about five years before the Allen Brothers hoodwinked a bunch of people into settling in Houston.

The maps will be for sale if you have $400,000 lying around and really dig Texas history. In explaining the maps’ provenance, Crouch says that they were purchased from a British antiques dealer who has since passed away. The maps were identified because Berlandier clearly marked them. “The maps were easily identifiable as they are signed and dated, and many of the place names are easily recognizable — ‘San Jacinto River,’ ‘Buffalo Bayou’ and ‘Brazos Santiago,'” Crouch said in an e-mail.

Berlandier was a pretty famous dude. According to Crouch, the scientist has documents in the Library of Congress and at Yale, Harvard, the Smithsonian and the University of Texas at Austin. “They were sold by Berlandier’s widow in 1853 to Darius Nash Couch, who, in turn, sold to the English firm of Bernard Quaritch,” Crouch said. “Quaritch sold nearly everything then to the collector Sir Thomas Phillipps, and the material was finally dispersed at the Phillips auctions of 1913 and 1919.”

Wherever they came from, they offer a fascinating glimpse into southeast Texas well before it was settled. More maps after the break.

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