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1864 Johnson's World Mountains and Rivers Map or Chart

Johnson's Chart of Comparative Heights of Mountains, and Lengths of Rivers of Africa. Johnson's Chart of Comparative Heights of Mountains, and Lengths of Rivers of Asia.  Johnson's Chart of Comparative Heights of Mountains, and Lengths of Rivers of Europe.  Johnson's Chart of Comparative Heights of Mountains, and Lengths of Rivers of South America.  Johnson's Chart of Comparative Heights of Mountains, and Lengths of Rivers of North America.

1864 Johnson's World Mountains and Rivers Map or Chart


A significant reimagining and re-engraving of Johnson's Comparative Mountains and Rivers Chart.



Johnson's Chart of Comparative Heights of Mountains, and Lengths of Rivers of Africa. Johnson's Chart of Comparative Heights of Mountains, and Lengths of Rivers of Asia. Johnson's Chart of Comparative Heights of Mountains, and Lengths of Rivers of Europe. Johnson's Chart of Comparative Heights of Mountains, and Lengths of Rivers of South America. Johnson's Chart of Comparative Heights of Mountains, and Lengths of Rivers of North America.
  1864 (dated)    23.25 x 17.25 in (59.055 x 43.815 cm)


This is the 1864 edition of Johnson's Mountains and Rivers Chart. This chart, printed in 1864, represents a significant reimagining and re-engraving of Johnson's pre-1864 mountains and rivers charts. Johnson first introduced a mountains and rivers chart in the second edition of his atlas, published in 1861. That chart, based on a related 1855 chart engraved by J. H. Colton, was very similar to other topical charts common in European atlases of the period in that it presented all of the great mountains and rivers of the world in a single panoramic view. Johnson, perhaps recognizing that the traditional chart, which necessarily highlighted the primacy of the great mountains and rivers of Asia, was difficult to read with regard to the regions that interested his constituent readers - North Americans and Europeans. Thus Johnson re-engraved his chart, taking the bold step of dividing the world's great mountains and rivers by continent. This curious move made the map more accessible on a continental level. Johnson's 1864 mountains and rivers chart can also be read from a political perspective, for by dividing the mountains according to continents, each continent's mountains appear equally great. While Johnson is not the first to focus his mountains and rivers chart on particular continent, this is the first example we are aware of that consolidate the mountains and rivers all of the continents, each represented individually, on a single chart.

The chart is ordered roughly alphabetically in five sections, with Africa at the top, followed by Asia, Europe, South America and North America. Curiously Johnson chooses to place North America below South America - a clear break his is alphabetical sequence. This unusual move is possibly in deference to the perceived greater importance of North America relative to its southerly cousin. In the Africa section, Kilimanjaro is identified as the highest mountain, and the Nile its longest river. This chart also includes the Great Pyramid. In the Asia second, Everest, at 29,000 feet is recognized as the highest mountain and the Yangtze as the longest river. In the Europe section, the highest mountain is Mont Blanc and the Volga is recognized as the longest River. IN South America, Tupungato (Tupungata), at 22, 450 feet is identified as the highest mountain (Aconcagua is a sad no. 2) and the Amazon is the greatest River. North America, still not fully explored when this map was published lists Mt. St. Elias, of the Canadian Yukon, as the highest mountain, followed by the Popocatepetl and Orizaba volcanoes of Mexico. This is in fact somewhat reversed from actuality, with Orizaba being the highest at 18,504 feet, followed by Elias at 18,009 feet, and Popocatepetl at 17,930. At this time, neither Mount McKinley (Denali) nor Mount Logan, the true highest peaks of North America, had been measured. Even so, Johnson does correctly recognized the Mississippi as the continent's longest river.

Published by A. J. Johnson as plate nos. 2-3 for issue in the 1864 edition of Johnson's Family Atlas. Dated an copyrighted, 1864.


Alvin Jewett Johnson (September 23, 1827 - April 22, 1884) was a prolific American map publisher active from 1856 to the mid-1880s. Johnson was born into a poor family in Wallingford, Vermont where he received only a based public education. He is known to have worked as school teacher for several years before moving to Richmond, Virginia. Johnson got his first taste of the map business and a salesman and book canvasser for J. H. Colton and company. The earliest Johnson maps were published with D. Griffing Johnson (no clear relation) and date to the mid-1850s, however it was not until 1860 that the Johnson firm published its first significant work, the Johnson's New Illustrated (Steel Plate) Family Atlas. The publication of the Family Atlas followed a somewhat mysterious 1859 deal with the well-established but financially strapped J. H. Colton cartographic publishing firm. Although map historian Water Ristow speculates that Colton sold his copyrights to Johnson and his business partner, another Vermonter named Ross C. Browning (1832 - 1899), a more likely theory is that Johnson and Browning financially supported the Colton firm in exchange for the right to use Colton's existing copyrighted map plates. Regardless of which scenario actually occurred it is indisputable that the first Johnson atlas maps were mostly reissues of earlier Colton maps. Early on Johnson described his firm as the "Successors to J. H. Colton and Company". Johnson's business strategy involved transferring the original Colton steel plate engravings to cheaper lithographic stones, allowing his firm to produce more maps at a lower price point. In 1861, following the outbreak of the American Civil War the Johnson and Browning firm moved their office from Richmond, Virginia to New York City. Johnson and Browning published two editions of the Johnson Atlas in 1860 and 1861. Sometime in 1861 Browning's portion of the firm was purchased by Benjamin P. Ward, whose name subsequently replaced Browning's on the imprint. The 1863 issue of the Family Atlas was one of the most unusual, it being a compilation of older Johnson and Browning maps, updated 1862 Johnson and Ward map issues, and newer 1863 maps with a revised border design. The 1864 issue of the Family Atlas is the first true Johnson and Ward atlas. Johnson published one more edition of the atlas in partnership with Ward in 1865, after which Johnson seems to have bought out Ward's share the firm. The next issue of the Atlas, 1866, is the first purely "Johnson" atlas with all new map plates, updated imprints, and copyrights. The Family Atlas went through roughly 27 years of publication, from 1860 to 1887, outliving Johnson himself who died in 1884. Johnson maps from the Family Atlas are notable for their unique borders, of which there are four different designs, the "strapwork border" from 1860 to 1863, the "fretwork border" from 1863 to 1869 and the "spirograph border" in 1870 – 1882, and a more elaborate version of the same from 1880-1887. In addition to the Family Atlas Johnson issued numerous wall maps, pocket maps, and in the 1880s the Cyclopedia. Johnson maps are known for their size, accuracy, detail, and stunning, vivid hand coloring. Johnson maps, purely American in their style and execution, chronicle some of the most important and periods in American history including the Civil War, the Westward Expansion, and the Indian Wars. Today Johnson's maps, especially those of the American west, are highly sought after by map collectors and historians.


Johnson's New Illustrated (Steel Plate) Family Atlas, (1864 edition).     Johnson's New Illustrated Family Atlas was produced in numerous editions from about 1860 to 1887. Johnson's first atlas was mostly likely the 1859 edition of Colton's General Atlas which both aesthetically and comprehensively very similar to the 1860 first edition of the New Illustrated Family Atlas. Johnson's atlas was noteworthy in its day as one of the few commercially produced American atlases that could compete with more established European Atlases. Although he called the atlas 'Steel Plate' on the title page for marketing purposes, Johnson in fact incorporated modern lithographic printing techniques and lower quality woven wood pulp paper to economically produce large format maps in quantity. He also began publishing the New Illustrated Family Atlas on the cusp of the American Civil War, a decision that proved fortuitous, as the war corresponded to a general increased interested in cartography. For the most part, Johnson's Atlas was sold by subscription; nonetheless it became so popular that for at time he was considered the largest publisher in the world. Other than the first edition, the atlas itself has no true editions. Rather, Johnson incorporated updated maps as they became available, so each example of the Johnson atlas might well contain unexpected and scarce individual maps. Johnson's map of the American Southwest, for example, appeared in more than 17 different states, each illustrating minor variations to the rapidly chasing geography of that region. Moreover, Johnson's offered a service whereby he would mail updated map pages that could be tipped into older atlases to keep them current. Generally speaking, Johnson's atlas was issued in four periods - each defined by a distinctive decorative border. The earliest edition featured a strapwork border that appears as rolled and decoratively cut leather. This border work remained in use until 1863. In 1864 Johnson started using an updated fretwork or grillwork border that resembles worked iron - as in a decorative fence. This border was in use from 1863 to 1869. The 1863 edition of Johnson's atlas used both borders and is considered transitional. From 1870 to 1882, Johnson introduced a new border that featured elaborate Spirograph style geometric designs, which was used from 1870 to 1882. After 1880 a new border different but aesthetically similar to the Spirograph border began appearing. Certain editions of the atlas issued from 1880 - 1882 were transitional.


Very good. Typical wear and verso repair along original centerfold. Texto on verso. Some foxing and overall toning.


Rumsey, 4574I.
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