1815 Thomson Map of South America

South America.

1815 Thomson Map of South America


Reveals the continent on the cusp of its 50 year struggle for independence.

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South America.
  1814 (dated)    24 x 20 in (60.96 x 50.8 cm)


This is John Thomson's fascinating 1814 map of South America in its first edition. Covering the entire continent from the Caribbean Sea to Tierra del Fuego and the South Georgia Islands, this map reveals the continent on the cusp of its half-century struggle for independence. This map is full of often misleading detail, especially in the Orinoco, Paraguay, and Amazon River basins where many the missions, geographical formation, and indigenous tribes, suggest greater levels of exploration than hand in fact occurred. Though the persistent Laguna de Xarayes has finally been abandoned as a speculative source for the Paraguay River, Lake Parima, supposed site of Eldorado and apocryphal city of Manoa, figures prominently in Guiana. A dotted boundary line between Lake Parima and the coast identifies the limited of French Guiana by the Treaty of 1801. Lost in the dense mapping of rivers and mountain rangers are various annotations such as 'these lands are unknown,' 'these parts have never been explored,' and 'this country is uninhabited.' In general 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. Engraved in 1814 by J. Moffat of Edinburgh for issue as plate no. 54 in the 1817 edition of Thomson's New General Atlas.


Thomson's New General Atlas was first published in 1817 and continued to be published until about 1821. This is the first of Thomson's major cartographic works and the atlas for which is most celebrated. The New General Atlas follows in the Edinburgh School, which eschews excessive decoration in favor of a more minimalized fact -based cartographic vision, as established by John Pinkerton and others in the previous decades. The maps are notable for their massive scale, heavy stock, elegant color work, and easy-to-read typefaces. Although the atlas stopped being published after 1821, Thomson continued to offer 'supplementary' maps that could be tipped into the atlas as late as 1830, when he declared bankruptcy. The maps in the Thomson Atlas were engraved by Thomas Clerk, William Dassauville, Nathaniel Rogers Hewitt, James Kirkwood, Robert Kirkwood, John Menzies, George Menzies, Edward Mitchell, John Moffatt, Samuel John Neele, Robert Scott, and James Wyld.John Thomson (fl. 1804 - 1837) was a Scottish cartographer, publisher and bookbinder active in Edinburgh during the early part of the 19th century. Thomson is generally one of the leading masters of the Edinburgh school of cartography which flourished from roughly 1800 to 1830. Thomson & his contemporaries (Pinkerton & 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 the Thomson's New General Atlas, published from 1814 to 1821 and his Atlas of Scotland. The "Atlas of Scotland, a work of groundbreaking detail and dedication would eventually bankrupt the Thomson firm in 1830. 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) 1814.    


Very good condition. Original centerfold. Some offsetting. Blank on verso. Original platemark visible.


Rumsey 1007.075. Phillips (Atlases) 731. Newberry Library: Ayer 135 T4 1817.