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1817 Thomson Map of Burma and Thailand

Birman Empire. - Main View

1817 Thomson Map of Burma and Thailand


Thomson's map of modern day Burma and Thailand during a period of Burmese ascendency.


Birman Empire.
  1817 (undated)     25 x 20.5 in (63.5 x 52.07 cm)     1 : 3700000


An attractive and uncommon 1817 map of Burma and Thailand (Siam). Centered on Rangoon, this map covers from Bhutan and Assam, eastward as far as Vietnam and the Gulf of Tonkin (Vietnam), and south ward as far as Junkseylon Island (Modern day Phuket). Today these lands are more or less evenly divided between Thailand and Burma, but when this map was drawn Burma, then under loose British control, was enjoying a period of ascendency and included much of modern day Thailand within its borders. Here Burma controls most of the peninsula west of the Gulf of Siam all the way to the Bangkok and the Chao Phraya River. The capital of Thailand, then Ayutthaya, it itself remarkably close to the Burmese border. Still, the map offers much of geographical interest including a detailed and uncommon treatment of the inland river systems and topography.

This map was engraved by John Moffett and his partner Smellie. It was published in the 1817 edition of John Thomson's 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. More by this mapmaker...


Thomson, J. A New General Atlas, (Edinburgh) 1817.     Thomson's New General Atlas was first published in 1817 and continued to be published until about 1821. This is the first of Thomson's major cartographic works and the atlas for which is most celebrated. The New General Atlas follows in the Edinburgh School, which eschews excessive decoration in favor of a more minimalistic fact-based cartographic vision, as established by John Pinkerton, Laurie and Whittle, John Cary, and others in the previous decades. The maps are notable for their massive scale, heavy stock, elegant color work, and easy-to-read typefaces. Although the atlas stopped being published after 1821, Thomson continued to offer 'supplementary' maps that could be tipped into the atlas as late as 1830, when he declared bankruptcy. The maps in the Thomson Atlas were engraved by Thomas Clerk, William Dassauville, Nathaniel Rogers Hewitt, James Kirkwood, Robert Kirkwood, John Menzies, George Menzies, Edward Mitchell, John Moffatt, Samuel John Neele, Robert Scott, and James Wyld.


Good. Some centerfold discoloration and acid transference.


Rumsey 1007.047.