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1828 Tanner Pocket Map of Gran Colombia

A New Map of Gran Colombia with its departments and Provinces:  Compiled principally from the manuscript maps drawn by the order of the Colombia Government and other authentic information.

1828 Tanner Pocket Map of Gran Colombia


The best and most detailed map of Colombia from the first Republic of Colombia Period.



A New Map of Gran Colombia with its departments and Provinces:  Compiled principally from the manuscript maps drawn by the order of the Colombia Government and other authentic information.
  1828 (dated)    25 x 34.5 in (63.5 x 87.63 cm)     1 : 1810000


A rare and important 1828 separate issue map of the Republic of Colombia or 'Gran Colombia' prepared by Henry Schenk Tanner.   This is the largest and most detailed specific map of Colombia we have been able to identify from the first Republic of Colombia or Gran Colombia period (1819 – 1830) surpassing in detail and scale the two other known separate issue contemporary maps, Zea (London, 1822) and Restrepo (Paris, 1827).  Although the map is in English, Tanner's access to original manuscript source material controlled by the Colombia government, suggests an official context to the map.  As printing technology was limited in the fledgling republic, it is not surprising that the three known maps of Gran Colombia were published outside the country, in London, Paris, and as here, Philadelphia.  

Gran Colombia

Gran Colombia, or the first República de Colombia, as distinguished from the modern-day Republic of Colombia, was a short-lived (1819 – 1830) state under the presidency of Simón Bolívar, occupying, as illustrated here, the territories of present-day Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Panama, northern Peru, western Guyana and northwest Brazil.  Tanner's map, according to the title, was drawn from 'manuscript surveys' ordered and executed by the Colombian government.

Legitimacy and Solidarity Cartography

The early 1820s were a period of enthusiasm for the Republic of Colombia.  Like many European and American powers before them, the new independent Colombian government sought legitimacy and national solidarity through cartographic discourse.  Believing a sound cartographic understanding of the vast new country essential to state administration, Bolívar instituted a series of national surveys.  Few if any of these surveys were individually published and remained in manuscript form, likely due to lack of an advanced commercial engraving and publishing industry within the republic.  

An Official Map?

It is possible, as would later happen with Colton in Bolivia, that Tanner was contracted by the Colombian government to compile, engrave, and publish their newly completed surveys into a single map of the country, suitable for both commercial and administrative use.  This would explain Tanner's access to manuscript survey maps ordered by the Colombia Government, which is named prominently in the title.  

Surpassing other Maps of the Period

The result is this, the largest and most detailed specific printed map of Colombia to be published during the first República de Colombia, or Gran Colombia, period.   Tanner's map is considerably advanced cartographically over the Arrowsmith general South America wall map of 1811.  It is furthermore far more detailed than either the Francisco Antionio Zea (London) map of 1822 or the José Manuel Restrepo (Paris) map of 1827, both of which are considerably smaller with less information regarding roads, cities and towns, and topography.

Dissolution of the República

Unfortunately for Gran Colombia, Tanner's wonderful completed map would only emerge in its final years.  As this map was being engraved in Philadelphia, the South American Republic was slowly breaking apart in due federalist vs regionalist ideological infighting. One year after this map was issued, in 1829, Venezuela would break away; two years later Bolívar would resign in disgust, signaling the formal end of the first República de>
This map was published by Henry Schenk Tanner and engraved by William Chapin.  The title engraving and lettering is the work of E. B. Dawson.  This map is exceedingly rare.  The only other example we have been able to identify is in the Bibliothèque Nationale de France.


Henry Schenck Tanner (1786 - May 18, 1858) was one of the preeminent American map engravers and publishers of the early 19th century - what is considered to be the "Golden Age of American Map Publishing". Born in New York City but based in Philadelphia, Tanner's forty plus year career was almost entirely focused on cartographic work. His earliest map work appears in conjunction with another important map publisher, John Melish. Early in his career, Tanner partnered with his brother Benjamin, to engrave extensively for Melish as well as other Philadelphia publishers including Lucas Fielding (Baltimore), A. Bourne, Jason Torey, Samuel Harrison, and Samuel Lewis, among others. In 1818 Tanner convinced his fellow publishers and partners to finance the compilation of a New American Atlas. The atlas was sold by subscription and slowly emerged between 1819 and 1823. The New American Atlas, possibly the pinnacle of 19th century American cartography and was commended in its day as "one of the most splendid works of the kind ever executed in this country". It was subsequently republished in several updated editions until about 1839. Tanner had by this time become the most active and influential map publisher in the United States. Around 1832, recognizing the market for a less cost prohibitive atlas, Tanner began work on the smaller format New Universal Atlas. This popular and important atlas went through numerous editions before being bought out by Carey and Hart, and then, in 1846, by S. A. Mitchell, who would rise to become the preeminent publisher of the next generation. In addition to these important atlases, Tanner also issued numerous extremely important and influential travelers guides, state maps, wall maps, and pocket maps. He should not be confused with his brother, also an America map engraver, the New Yorker Benjamin Tanner.

William Chapin (1802 - 1888) was a prominent New York and Philadelphia based engraver active in the early part of the 19th century. Although we know little of Chapin's early years, he seems to have been an apprenticed from 1817, at the age of 15, to John Vallance in the Philadelphia firm Tanner, Vallance, Kearny & Company. This firm, which is responsible for Tanner's early maps and atlases, had a substantial cartographic corpus. There are records to indicate that Chapin purchased his freedom from Vallance for 125 USD in 1822. In time, he established a significant engraving business under his own name, and with a heavy focus on cartographic material, in both Pennsylvania and New York. Fielding suggests that Chapin's large map of the United States is in fact the first American published map to be engraved steel. Around 1839, Chapin seems to have changed careers when he accepted a position as Commissioner of Public Schools in New York. In this capacity, Chapin developed an interest in working with and teaching blind children. Chapin served as headmaster of several schools for the blind in Ohio and New York. His most significant work with the blind took place at Overbrook School for the Blind, where he developed contemporary techniques for teaching and published the first dictionary for the blind. (Fielding, M. & Carr, J. Dictionary of American Painters, Sculptors, and Engravers, p. 61.)


Good. Some buckling and fold reinforcement on verso.  Minor verso repairs at fold intersections.  Accompanied by original leather binder.


Kapp, K. S., 'The Early Maps of Colombia up to 1850', The Map Collectors’ Circle, issue. 77, 1971; #142.   OCLC 556939926. 
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