Restored 1775 map shows amazing detail

Preston Cooley, with Magnolia Gardens, explains how a 1775 map of North and South Carolina by Henry Mouzon was restored. There are only 15 known to exist.

Let's say you were trying to find your way around the Carolinas in the 1780s.

Of course you'd want to use Henry Mouzon's map, "An Accurate Map of North and South Carolina with their Indian Frontiers, Shewing (sic) in a distinct manner all the Mountains, Rivers, Swamps, Marshes, Bays, Creeks, Harbours, Sandbanks and Soundings on the Coasts; with The Roads and Indian Paths; as well as The Boundary or Provincial Lines, The Several Townships and other divisions of the Land In Both the Provinces."

"I think he called it that because there were two maps that didn't agree prior to that and he set out to correct them," said Casey Freed, house museum manager at Magnolia Plantation and Gardens.

The Drayton family, which founded Magnolia in 1676, has owned a 3-foot by 4-foot original engraving of Mouzon's 1775 map for generations.

It was recently restored by Charleston's Audubon Gallery during a year-long project and now hangs in the Rev. John Drayton's study in the main house at Magnolia.

The map, previously displayed in the room that now serves as the foyer, was often overlooked by tour groups.

"We knew it was an important piece, but it was varnished and stuck to a board," said Preston Cooley, Magnolia's historian. "It had turned a dark brown and you could barely see the features on it."

Cooley said he "didn't have much hope for it" when the Drayton family decided to restore it two years ago.

"I was surprised by how well it turned out," he said. "It doesn't look like the same map."

Mouzon (1741-1807), who was also a civil engineer, was the grandson of a Huguenot immigrant to South Carolina. He was sent to France in 1749 for his education, and is thought to have learned his map-making skills there.

His map was considered the best of the time. Copies were carried by George Washington and Lord Charles Cornwallis, and it was used by American, British and French forces during the American Revolution, according to Magnolia historians.

"The map was extremely accurate if you take into consideration that Mouzon conducted the surveys on horseback and canoes," Cooley said. "We got out a magnifying glass and looked up the Ashley River and the Draytons are on there. It amazes me that he has not only the land features but the family names. It was an astounding accomplishment, especially when you consider it was before the advent of satellite."

Cooley declined to say how much the restoration cost.

"It was not cheap, but it was worth it," he said. "When you have something rare and valuable, it's worth it to spend extra to preserve for it generations. We won't have to go back and reconserve this. We did everything we could possibly do to keep it from turning brown again."

Burton Moore III, manager of the gallery, said the map, which was in four pieces, "was in very bad condition" when it arrived.

The work was done in the lab of Audubon's sister gallery, Joel Oppenheimer Inc. in Chicago.

The finished project is reinforced with Japanese mulberry tissue, has been mold-proofed and encased behind anti-reflective, shatter-proof, UV-blocking acrylic in a period- correct but museum-quality gold-leaf frame.

Magnolia's map is one of 15 originals known to exist in the world, according to the WorldCat database, a subscriber-based catalog of archive and library holdings worldwide. Moore said the gallery also recently restored a Mouzon map for the Charleston Library Society, and the WorldCat database shows that other owners include the College of Charleston, Charleston Southern University, the S.C. Historical Society and the University of North Carolina.