Like many of his peers, James Madison collected and referenced a wide range of maps. In an August 1822 letter to William Taylor Barry, Madison wrote: “A knowledge of the Globe & its various inhabitants, however slight, might moreover create a taste for Books of Travels and Voyages, out of which might grow a general taste for history, an inexhaustible fund of entertainment & instruction.” Madison emphasized a familiarity with geography, “such as can easily be conveyed by a Globe & Maps, and a concise Geographical Grammar.” Research has identified many of the maps in Madison’s collection, including atlases, dissected or segmented maps mounted on linen, and maps on rollers, intended to be displayed.
Hanging above the mantel is a map of Virginia published in Richmond in 1807. Commonly referred to as “Bishop Madison’s Map,” it was the first map to be compiled, engraved, and published in the Commonwealth; all prior maps of the colony were printed in England. As president of the College of William and Mary, President Madison’s cousin, Bishop James Madison was tasked with selecting Virginia’s Surveyor General, and he recognized the need for an updated map to improve upon the 1753 work of Peter Jefferson and Joshua Fry.