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1817 Thomson Map of the Southeastern United States: Georgia, Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky

Southern Provinces of the United States. - Main View

1817 Thomson Map of the Southeastern United States: Georgia, Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky




Southern Provinces of the United States.
  1817 (dated)     20 x 23.5 in (50.8 x 59.69 cm)     1 : 3000000


A scarce first edition of John Thomson's 1817 map of the southeastern part of the United States. The map covers from the Mississippi River eastward to the Atlantic, extending north as far as Lake Erie, and south to northern Florida and the Mississippi River Delta. The states of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia are illustrated in full while Ohio, Illinois, Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi have yet to appear as either states or territories. Florida was not yet part of the United States but would join 3 years after this map was printed in 1819. Thomson prepared this map during a transitional period of expansion shortly following the American Revolutionary War and is among most thorough treatments of this region prior to the U.S. Government Surveys. One oddity worth noting is the peculiar mountain range in northern Ohio - an area that is in reality quite flat. An inset in the upper left corner declares itself typical of the Hudson River and bears some resemblance to the Palisades.

This map is particularly interesting for its detailed treatment of American Indian activity between the Mississippi and the Appalachian Mountains. American Indian nations are noted throughout, including the Creek, Seminole, Apache, Choctaw and Chickasaw, among others. Hunting grounds, villages and fortifications are also identified, sometimes accompanied by the date on which they were destroyed. Thomson additionally identifies the Wabash Company, the Jersey Company and the Illinois Company - joint stock ventures formed during the colonial period to acquire, sell, and colonize American Indian lands. Along these commercial lines, some coal mines are also noted on the Illinois River.

This is the first edition of Thomson's southeastern United States map from the 1817 edition of the General Atlas. Though the first edition of Thomson's General Atlas was published in 1814, it did not contain this map, which was initially issued in the 1817 edition. A subsequent edition appeared in 1826.


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. Learn More...


Thomson, J. A New General Atlas, (Edinburgh) 1817.    


Very good. Some offsetting. A couple of minor discolorations.


Rumsey 1007.063. Newberry Library: Ayer 135 T4 1817 no. 57. New York Public Library, Map Division, Map Div. 00-373.