1835 (undated) 21 x 17 in (53.34 x 43.18 cm)
1 : 18432000
This is a beautiful map of Africa from Sidney Hall's extremely scarce 1835 New General Atlas. It is an early 19th century and historically important representation of the continent of Africa. Nineteenth century mapmakers were particularly challenged by the difficult task of deciphering Africa. Despite a fairly constant flow of information about the continent dating to the Middle Ages, much of the interior remained speculative at best. Hall chooses to leave most of the interior blank and instead focuses known areas, or more precisely, areas perceived to be known. These include Mediterranean North Africa, Egypt, Abyssinia, the western Niger valley, the Congo, South Africa, and the lands of Mozambique and Monomotapa (Zimbabwe).
Each of these regions have their own unique history of European contact. Egypt, along the Nile, had been well mapped even in antiquity. The same is true of Christian Abyssinia which, through regular contact with the Coptic mother church in Egypt and Portuguese missionaries, was well known, if mostly unexplored by Europeans. The tale of European incursion and occupation of South Africa could easily encompass volumes and explains Hall's sophisticated mapping of this region. The Niger Valley and the Congo had been simultaneously exploited and explored by Portugal and later Belgium since the 1300s.
Monomotapa, opposite the island of Madagascar, was a major stopping point on the Portuguese trade routes to India. Curiously this region has also been associated with King Solomon's Mines and Biblical legends of the Land of Ophir. Hall identifies Monomotapa, or Mutapa, which by this time had long fallen into decline. He also identifies several of its constituent states including Manica, Sabia, and Sofala.
The remaining parts of the map are frequently quite vague. Hall does note several important and recognizable African tribal groups including the Bushman of the Kalahari (Bosjesmans), the Tibboos, the Tuaricks, and others. North of the Monomotapa region we can find Lake Maravi, a long narrow lake oriented on a north-south axis. This lake, with its northern extension speculatively ghosted, most likely represents Lake Malawi or Lake Tanganyika, or both. The White Nile is shown originating from the Donga Mountains. It is a curious decision on the part of Hall to name the Donga Mountains as a source of the White Nile, but abandon the associated lake theory that ultimately proved to have some relation to reality.
At the time this map was made, the slave trade, thriving since the 5th century was rapidly diminishing due to decreased demand for slaves in the New World, the British outlawing of slavery in 1808, and subsequent diplomatic efforts including treaties with over 50 African rulers outlawing the practice. Many African economies adapted by shifting to the export of mineral and agricultural resources, which led to the European scramble for territory, occupying most of the continent by the end of the 19th century. Europe's colonial interests in Africa haphazardly carved up the continent into unnatural territories, often forcing historic enemies into close proximity and leading to social problems that remain to this day.
Sidney Hall's New General Atlas was published from 1830 to 1857, the first edition being the most common, with all subsequent editions appearing only rarely. Most of the maps included in the first edition of this atlas were drawn between 1827 and 1828 and are most likely steel plate engravings, making it among the first cartographic work to employ this technique. Each of the maps in this large and impressive atlas feature elegant engraving and an elaborate keyboard style border. Though this is hardly the first map to employ this type of border, it is possibly the earliest to use it on such a large scale. Both the choice to use steel plate engraving and the addition of the attractive keyboard boarder are evolutions of anti-forgery efforts. Copper plates, which were commonly used for printing bank notes in the early 19th century, proved largely unsuitable due to their overall fragility and the ease with which they could be duplicated. In 1819 the Bank of England introduced a £20,000 prize for anyone who could devise a means to print unforgeable notes. The American inventors Jacob Perkins and Asa Spencer responded to the call. Perkins discovered a process for economically softening and engraving steel plates while Spencer invented an engraving lathe capable of producing complex patters repetitively - such as this keyboard border. Though Perkins and Spenser did not win the prize, their steel plate engraving technique was quickly adopted by map publishers in England, who immediately recognized its value. Among early steel plate cartographic productions, this atlas, published in 1830 by Longman Rees, Orme, Brown & Green stands out as perhaps the finest. This map was issued by Sidney Hall and published by Longman Rees, Orme, Brown & Green of Paternoster Row, London, in the 1835 edition of the Sidney Hall New General Atlas.
Sidney Hall (1788 - 1831) was an English engraver and map publisher active in London during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. His earliest imprints, dating to about 1814, suggest a partnership with Michael Thomson, another prominent English map engraver. Hall engraved for most of the prominent London map publishers of his day, including Aaron Arrowsmith, William Faden, William Harwood, and John Thomson, among others. Hall is credited as being one of the earliest adopters of steel plate engraving, a technique that allowed for finer detail and larger print runs due to the exceptional hardness of the medium. Upon his early death - he was only in his 40s - Hall's business was inherited by his wife, Selina Hall, who continued to publish under the imprint, "S. Hall", presumably for continuity. The business eventually passed to Sidney and Selina's nephew Edward Weller, who became extremely prominent in his own right.
Hall, S., A New General Atlas, with the Divisions and Boundaries, 1835.
Very good. Original platemark visible. Minor wear along original centerfold. Some offsetting. Blank on verso.
Rumsey 4224.038 (1830 edition). Tooley, R.V., The mapping of Australia and Antarctica, 2nd ed., p. 92-93, no 687. Philips (Atlases) 758. National Library of Australia, 2113921; MAP F 514; MAP NK 10750/1; MAP RM 741; MAP T 687. Ristow, W., American Maps and Mapmakers: Commercial Cartography in the Nineteenth Century, p. 303-09.