1815 Thomson Map of the British Isles with Shetland & Orkney Islands

British Isles.

1815 Thomson Map of the British Isles with Shetland & Orkney Islands


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British Isles.
  1815 (dated)    24.25 x 20.25 in (61.595 x 51.435 cm)


This lovely hand-colored 1815 map of the British Isles is beautifully engraved in the minimalist English style pioneered in the early part of the 19th century. This map was issued just as United Kingdom and its allies had just defeated the Napoleon's French Empire. Sadly, the costly war caused United Kingdom began to slide into a post-war economic depression that would trouble the isles for the subsequent decade. Thomson maps are known for their stunning color, awe inspiring size, and magnificent detail. Thomson's work, including this map, represents some of the finest cartographic art of the 19th century. Relief is shown by hachure with towns, cities, and major topographical features identified. Issued in 1814 as plate no. 11 for Edinburgh cartographer John Thomson's 1817 New General Atlas.


John Thomson (1777 - 1837) was a Scottish cartographer, publisher and bookbinder active in Edinburgh during the early part of the 19th century. Thomson apprenticed under Edinburgh bookbinder Robert Alison. After his apprenticeship he briefly went into business with Abraham Thomson. Later the two parted ways, John Thomson seguing into maps and Abraham Thomson taking over the bookbinding portion of the business. Thomson is generally one of the leading masters of the Edinburgh school of cartography which flourished from roughly 1800 to 1830. Thomson and his contemporaries (Pinkerton and Cary) redefined European cartography by abandoning typical 18th century decorative elements such as elaborate title cartouches and fantastic beasts in favor of detail and accuracy. Thomson's principle works include Thomson's New General Atlas, published from 1814 to 1821, the New Classical and Historical Atlas of 1829, and his 1830 Atlas of Scotland. The Atlas of Scotland, a work of groundbreaking detail and dedication would eventually bankrupt the Thomson firm in 1830, at which time their plates were sized.. The firm momentarily recovered in the subsequent years allowing Thomson to recover his printing plates in 1831, but filed again for bankruptcy in 1835, at which time most of his printing plates were sold to A. K. Johnston and company. Today Thomson maps are becoming increasingly rare as they are highly admired for their monumental size, vivid hand coloration, and superb detail.


Thomson, J. A New General Atlas, (Edinburgh) 1815.    


Good condition. Original centerfold exhibits some light toning . Some ink marks - see image. Original platemark visible. Blank on verso.


Rumsey 1007.010. Phillips (Atlases) 731. Newberry Library: Ayer 135 T4 1817.