This hand colored map is a steel plate engraving, dating to 1814 by the important English mapmaker John Thomson. It depicts France divided into its color coded provinces. Until 1790 France was divided into 40 provinces based on local loyalities and feudal histories. On March 4th of 1790 the National Constituent Assembly reorganized the Provinces into 101 departments, but old habits being what they are, many maps, including Thomson's, continued to depict the provinces of France well into the 20th century. 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. Engraved in 1814 by James Kirkwood and issued as plate no. 18 in Edinburgh cartographer John Thomson's 1817 edition of the New General Atlas.
John Thomson (1777 - c. 1841) 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 segueing into maps and Abraham Thomson taking over the bookbinding portion of the business. Thomson is generally one of the leading publishers in 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 sequestered by the court. The firm partially recovered in the subsequent year allowing Thomson to reclaim 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. There is some suggestion that he continued to work as a bookbinder until 1841. Today, Thomson maps are becoming increasingly rare as they are highly admired for their impressive size, vivid hand coloration, and superb detail.
Thomson, J. A New General Atlas, (Edinburgh) 1814.
Very good condition. Original centerfold exhibits some light toning . Light soiling to outer margins. Original platemark visible. Blank on verso.
Rumsey 1007.023. Phillips (Atlases) 731. Newberry Library: Ayer 135 T4 1817.