This is an 1814 John Thomson map of the Russian Empire. The map depicts the region from the Baltic Sea, Prussia, and Sweden to the Aleutian Islands and from the Arctic Ocean to the Yellow River. Highly detailed, myriad cities, towns, and villages are labeled throughout, including St. Petersburg, Moscow, Minsk, Kiev, and Kharkov. Rivers and mountain ranges are also identified, as are islands and numerous locations along the coastlines. It is important to note that the long-disputed sea between Korea and Japan is identified as the 'Sea of Japan.
Historical ContextIn 1815, Tsarist Russia emerged from the Napoleonic Wars economically insolvent and politically fearful of the Revolutionary fervor that had just swept through Europe. In order to shore up Russia's economic position, the Tsars began an aggressive series of expansions into the Caucuses and Central Asia that would vastly increase the landmass of the Russian Empire.
Publication HistoryThomson maps are known for their stunning color, awe inspiring size, and magnificent detail. Thomson's work, including this map, represents some of the finest cartographic art of the 19th century. Engraved by N.R. Hewitt, 10 Broad Street, London, and issued as plate no. 36 in Edinburgh cartographer John Thomson's 1814 edition of the 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.
Nathaniel Rogers Hewitt (July 19, 1783 - 1841) was a British engraver active in London during the first half of the 19th century. Hewitt was born in London in 19th of July 1785. His map engraving work appears as early as 1804 although is most commonly associated with the 1812 - 1817 atlas maps of publisher John Thomson. Hewitt also worked with James Wyld, Samuel William Fores, and other map publishes of the period. In 1824 Hewitt announced plans to independently publish a series of Parish maps by subscription and a beautifully engraved map of St. Giles in the Fields followed. The map series must not have been able to attract many followers, as Hewitt declared bankruptcy shortly after in 1826.
Thomson, J., A New General Atlas, (Edinburgh) 1814.
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.
Very good. Light wear and toning along original centerfold. Closed margin tears professionally repaired on verso. Blank on verso. Original platemark visible.
Rumsey 1007.039. Phillips (Atlases) 731. Newberry Library: Ayer 135 T4 1817.