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1823 Tanner Map of Africa

Africa. - Main View

1823 Tanner Map of Africa


A first edition!


  1823 (undated)     20.25 x 22.5 in (51.435 x 57.15 cm)     1 : 19700000


This is an 1823 first edition Henry Schenck Tanner map of Africa. Depicting the entire continent, Tanner's map visually represents the extent of Western knowledge of the dark continent - called so because of the general lack of knowledge about it in European mapmaking circles. The regions along the coast exhibit a high level of detail, with different nations and regions illustrated in different colors. The Nile and Niger river systems, both of which had been extensively explored and mapped, are depicted in detail. Other important aspects of African geography are depicted, including Lake Malawi (L. Maravi), Zanzibar, and Pemba Island. At this point in history Zanzibar was very wealthy and a valuable property under the Sultanate of Oman as it was the main slave market for the Swahili Coast during the 1830s. The interior of the continent, however, displays much less detail. Cities along the Niger, such as Timbuktu, are identified, but the Sahara (Zaara) is rather blank, and the interior of sub-Saharan Africa is labeled simply as 'unknown parts'.
The Mountains of the Moon and the Mountains of Kong
Even though most of the interior is 'unknown', Tanner maps the mythical 'Mountains of Kong' extending eastward to join the 'Mountains of the Moon. According to Ptolemy, the Mountains of the Moon lay near two great lakes that were the source of the White Nile. Today, some regard this range and its lakes as speculative, but these two the Mountains of the Moon more likely represent Ptolemy's very real knowledge of Lake Victoria and the Rwenzori Mountains. Tanner elects to forego the Ptolemaic Lakes, but does include the Mountains of the Moon, and includes a note that reads 'Source of the Nile'. West of the Mountains of the Moon are the Mountains of Kong, a speculative mountain range proposed by the explorations of Mungo Parks. They were presumed to be the southern barrier of the Niger River Valley.
Publication History and Census
This map was created and published by Henry Schenck Tanner in 1823 in his iconic New American Atlas. This map, like all maps from the New American Atlas, is today rarely seen on the market.


Henry Schenck Tanner (1786 - May 18, 1858) was one of the preeminent American map engravers and publishers of the early 19th century - what is considered to be the "Golden Age of American Map Publishing". Born in New York City but based in Philadelphia, Tanner's forty plus year career was almost entirely focused on cartographic work. His earliest map work appears in conjunction with another important map publisher, John Melish. Early in his career, Tanner partnered with his brother Benjamin, to engrave extensively for Melish as well as other Philadelphia publishers including Lucas Fielding (Baltimore), A. Bourne, Jason Torey, Samuel Harrison, and Samuel Lewis, among others. In 1818 Tanner convinced his fellow publishers and partners to finance the compilation of a New American Atlas. The atlas was sold by subscription and slowly emerged between 1819 and 1823. The New American Atlas, possibly the pinnacle of 19th century American cartography and was commended in its day as "one of the most splendid works of the kind ever executed in this country". It was subsequently republished in several updated editions until about 1839. Tanner had by this time become the most active and influential map publisher in the United States. Around 1832, recognizing the market for a less cost prohibitive atlas, Tanner began work on the smaller format New Universal Atlas. This popular and important atlas went through numerous editions before being bought out by Carey and Hart, and then, in 1846, by S. A. Mitchell, who would rise to become the preeminent publisher of the next generation. In addition to these important atlases, Tanner also issued numerous extremely important and influential travelers guides, state maps, wall maps, and pocket maps. He should not be confused with his brother, also an America map engraver, the New Yorker Benjamin Tanner. More by this mapmaker...


Tanner, H.S. A New American Atlas (Philadelphia: Tanner) 1823.     Tanner's New American Atlas is regarding as the largest and most beautiful early American atlas, truly a landmark achievement from the Golden Age of American Cartography. The atlas was initially published in five parts between 1819 and 1823, after which collected editions were issued in 1823, 1825, 1833, and 1839. It terms of size, format, printing quality, paper quality, cartographic accuracy, and elegance of engraving, the New American Atlas was unparalleled. As noted by map historian Walter Ristow, 'Tanner's atlas raised U.S. commercial map production to a new level of excellence.' His contemporaries were also duly impressed. The American educator and historian Jared Sparks, as quoted by Ristow, describes the atlas as thus:
on the whole as an American Atlas, we believe Mr. Tanner’s work to hold a rank far above any other, which has been published. The authentic documents, to which he had access, the abundance of his materials, the apparent fidelity, with which they are compiled, the accurate construction of his maps, and the elegance with which they are executed, all these afford ample proofs of the high character of the work, of its usefulness as a means of extending the geographic knowledge of our own country, and of its claims to public patronage. (Ristow, p. 197)


Good. Map exhibits some discoloration and staining to outer margins. Centerfold exhibits some wear and verso reinforcement.


Rumsey 2589.017.