1884 Colton Map of Northeast Africa During the Mahdist War

Map of the Seat of War in Africa. Africa North Eastern Sheet. - Main View

1884 Colton Map of Northeast Africa During the Mahdist War


Dates from the Anglo-Egyptian War and the American Egyptian Expedition.


Map of the Seat of War in Africa. Africa North Eastern Sheet.
  1884 (dated)     17 x 13.5 in (43.18 x 34.29 cm)     1 : 14000000


This is an extremely rare 1884 George Woolworth and Charles B. Colton broadsheet map of Northwest Africa during the Mahdist War, which lasted from 1881 until 1899. The map depicts the region from Italy and Libya to Iran, the Strait of Hormuz, and the Arabian Peninsula and from Greece, the Black Sea, and the Caspian Sea to Lake Victoria. Entitled Map of the Seat of War in Africa, several concurrent conflicts are being illustrated here. Overall, the entire conflict is known as the Mahdist War, which lasted from 1881 – 1899. Campaigns within the Mahdist War that had occurred by 1884 include the Anglo-Egyptian War (1882) and the Egyptian Expedition (1882) was the United States' response to the Anglo-Egyptian War.
The Anglo-Egyptian War and the Egyptian Expedition of the United States
The Anglo-Egyptian War, instigated by a coup attempt against Twefik Pasha, the Khedive of Egypt and Sudan, in 1878. A few years later, in January 1882, the British and French sent a 'Joint Note' to the Egyptian government which declared their recognition of the Khedive's government. By May, a joint British and French fleet had arrived at Alexandria, but they did not open fire on the city. It was not until July 11, 1882, after a British ultimatum had been rejected, that British warships (the French navy had been recalled to France) opened fire on Alexandria. Land battles between British and Egyptian forces did not occur until August, but, ultimately, the British restored the power of the Khedive.
American Involvement in the Egypt
The United States decided that it needed to be involved in order to protect American citizens and property in Alexandria, before the British bombardment. A squadron of three American ships arrived off Alexandria in late June and early July and operated as observers to the unfolding drama. Forewarned about the impending British bombardment of July 11th, American Rear Admiral James W. Nicholson alerted American citizens and opened the American ships to any and all refugees from the city who needed shelter or medical care. American marines and sailors were also the first foreign troops to land at Alexandria on July 14th, with orders to protect the American consulate, aid American citizens, and help put out the many fires ravaging the city.
A Closer Look at the Map
A highly detailed depiction of the region, myriad cities and towns are labeled from Greece to Lake Victoria, especially along the Nile River. Several of the larger cities are labeled in bold and highlighted, including Cairo, Alexandria, and Khartoum. Regions in Africa are shaded different colors, creating the impression of solid territorial boundaries, and some of these are labeled, including Nubia, Egypt, and Darfur. An inset map of the Nile River Delta is situated in the upper right corner and depicts the region from the Mediterranean Sea to Medinet el Fayouin. Several railroad lines are illustrated, one of the important innovations of the Mahdi War. As a large amount of the fighting took place south of Cairo and into Sudan, railroads played a vital role in supplying British forces.

This map was published by George Woolworth and Charles B. Colton in 1884. While cartographically based on Colton's earlier atlas map of the same region, this is in fact a very rare map, with revised borders and updated content. We have only been able to locate one example in institutional collections. We are aware of no other positively identifiable examples.


Joseph Hutchins Colton (July 5, 1800 - July 29, 1893), often publishing as J. H. Colton, was an important American map and atlas publisher active from 1833 to 1897. Colton's firm arose from humble beginnings when he moved to New York in 1831 and befriended the established engraver Samuel Stiles. He worked under Stiles as the 'Co.' in Stiles and Co. from 1833 to 1836. Colton quickly recognized an emerging market in railroad maps and immigrant guides. Not a cartographer or engraver himself, Colton's initial business practice mostly involved purchasing the copyrights of other cartographers, most notably David H. Burr, and reissuing them with updated engraving and border work. His first maps, produced in 1833, were based on earlier Burr maps and depicted New York State and New York City. Between 1833 and 1855 Colton would proceed to publish a large corpus of guidebooks and railroad maps which proved popular. In the early 1850s Colton brought his two sons, George Woolworth Colton (1827 - 1901) and Charles B. Colton (1832 - 1916), into the map business. G. W. Colton, trained as a cartographer and engraver, was particularly inspired by the idea of creating a large and detailed world atlas to compete established European firms for the U.S. market. In 1855, G.W. Colton issued volume one the impressive two volume Colton's Atlas of the World. Volume two followed a year later. Possibly because of the expense of purchasing a two-volume atlas set, the sales of the Atlas of the World did not meet Colton's expectations and so, in 1856, the firm also issued the atlas as a single volume. The maps contained in this superb work were all original engravings and most bear an 1855 copyright. All of the maps were surrounded by an attractive spiral motif border that would become a hallmark of Colton's atlas maps well into the 1880s. In 1857, the slightly smaller Colton's General Atlas replaced the Atlas of the World, which lacked the border. Most early editions of the General Atlas published from 1857 to 1859 do not have the trademark Colton spiral border, which was removed to allow the maps to fit into a smaller format volume. Their customers must have missed the border because it was reinstated in 1860 and remained in all subsequent publications of the atlas. There were also darker times ahead, in 1858 Colton was commissioned at sum of 25,000 USD by the government of Bolivia to produce and deliver 10,000 copies a large format map of that country. Although Colton completed the contract in good faith, delivering the maps at his own expense, he was never paid by Bolivia, which was at the time in the midst of a series national revolutions. Colton would spend the remainder of his days fighting with the Bolivian and Peruvian governments over this payment and in the end, after a congressional intervention, received as much as 100,000 USD in compensation. Nonetheless, at the time it must have been a disastrous blow. J. H. Colton and Company is listed as one of New York's failed companies in the postal record of 1859. It must have been this that led Colton into the arms of Alvin Jewett Johnson and Ross C. Browning. The 1859 edition of Colton's General Atlas lists Johnson and Browning as the 'Successor's to J. H. Colton' suggesting an outright buyout, but given that both companies continued to publish separately, the reality is likely more complex. Whatever the case may have been, this arrangement gave Johnson and Browning access to many of Colton's map plates and gave birth to Johnson's New Illustrated (Steel Plate) Family Atlas. The Johnson's Atlas was published parallel to Colton's atlas well in to the 1880s. The Colton firm itself subsequently published several other atlases including an Atlas of America, the Illustrated Cabinet Atlas, the Octavo Atlas of the Union, and Colton's Quarto Atlas of the World. They also published a large corpus of wall maps, pocket maps, and guides. The last known publications of the Colton firm date to 1897 and include a map and a view, both issued in association with the Merchant's Association of New York. Alice M. Colton married August R. Ohman (May 3, 1859 - April 22, 1934) on January 5, 1897. In 1898, Ohman joined the Colton firm, which continued to publish as Colton, Ohman & Co. until 1901. Learn More...


Very good. Even overall toning. Blank on verso.


OCLC 367856009.