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1851 Black Map or Chart of Comparative Mountains and Rivers


Physical Geography.
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Title:    Physical Geography.

Description:    This is a fine example of Adam and Charles Black's 1851 comparative mountains and rivers of the world chart. Charts of this type were first introduced in england around 1823 and became a common feature in atlases throughout the 19th century. The present example is admired as one of the more attractive British examples of the style.

The comparative mountains section, occupying the lower right half of this chart, details the principle mountains of the world. Ranges are color coded to show different continents. There are also extensive notations on volcanic activity, much of which is no doubt influenced by Humboldt. even the Directors' House of Leadhills, the highest inhabited place in Scotland is marked. It is interesting to note that while the style is international, Black has tooled this map to appeal to his British and Scottish client base. Sites of exceptionally interest to the British Islanders, including the 'highest inhabited place in Scotland' and the Convent of St. Gothard, are specifically identified.

The upper left portion of this chart is dominated by the world's greatest rivers. Black attempt not only to express the lengths of the various rivers, but also details regarding their course and sources. Here the Mississippi is identified as the world's greatest river at some 3610 miles, followed by the Amazon at 3130 miles. The Nile comes up a sad fifth at just 2700 miles, though admittedly its full length had yet to be explored.

This map was engraved by George Aikman as plate no. IV for issue in the 1851 edition of Black's General Atlas of the World.


Date:    1851 (undated)

Source:    Black, A. and C., General Atlas Of The World, (Edinburgh) 1851.    

References:    Rumsey 2305.008 (1854 edition). Philips (atlases) 4334.

Cartographer:    Charles and his uncle Adam Black of Edinburgh, Scotland, founded their publishing firm in 1807. They published a series of maps and atlases throughout the 19th century. In addition to an array of atlases, the Black firm is known for their editions of the Encyclopedia Britannica (1817 - 1826) and the first publishing of Sir Walter Scott's novels in 1854. In 1889 the A. & C. Black publishing house moved to London where it remains in operation to this day. Click here for a list of rare maps by Charles & Adam Black.

Cartographer:    George Aikman (December 28, 1788 - October 16, 1865) was a Scottish printer, lithographer, and engraver active in the early 19th century. Aikman most likely apprenticed with his father of the same name, also an engraver, before joining the Edinburgh map and atlas firm of William Lizars. Several years later Aikman established himself independently as "George Aikman and Sons, Engravers and Lithographers", publishing numerous maps and prints in conjunction with the larger firm of William and Charles Black, and others. George Aikman's son, also George (1830 - 1905), became an apprentice with the firm around 1842, and eventually a journeyman engraver in Manchester and London, before returning to Edinburgh to take up a full partnership in the family business. Upon the elder Aikman's death in 1865, George became the sole proprietor of the firm and continued to publish until 1876 when he sold the business to pursue a passion for landscape painting. Click here for a list of rare maps by George Aikman.

Size:   Printed area measures 15.5 x 11 inches (39.37 x 27.94 centimeters)

Condition:    Very good. Minor overall toning. Blank on verso.

Code:   MountainsRivers-black-1851 (to order by phone call: 646-320-8650)


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