1815 Thomson Map of Scandinavia (Denmark, Norway, Sweden)

Scandinavia, or Sweden, Denmark and Norway. - Main View

1815 Thomson Map of Scandinavia (Denmark, Norway, Sweden)


Europe's Icy North.


Scandinavia, or Sweden, Denmark and Norway.
  1815 (undated)     18.5 x 22 in (46.99 x 55.88 cm)     1 : 3300000


A fascinating hand colored c. 1815 map by John Thomson depicting Sweden, Denmark, and Norway. Modern day Finland, though included, was then part of the Kingdom of Sweden.
A Closer Look
Relief is shown by hachure with towns, cities, and major topographical features identified. The legendary and semi-mythical whirlpool known as the Maelstrom in northwestern Norway is noted. This legendary whirlpool was an inspiration for Edgar Allen Poe’s classic tale Descent into the Maelstrom. In reality, it is a periodic and powerful current caused by localized tidal variation. The whole is beautifully engraved in the minimalist English style pioneered in the early part of the 19th century. Thomson 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.
Historical Context
At this time, Scandinavia was in the midst of a prolonged period of peace and prosperity, briefly interrupted by the Napoleonic Wars (1803 - 1815), that led to a cultural and population boost. This was a marked contrast with the near-incessant warfare of the 17th and early 18th centuries. Peace, the spread of literacy, and the rise of liberal ideals helped to foster a shared Scandinavian identity, which even developed into a sort of pan-Scandinavian nationalism called Scandinavianism. The population boom of the 19th century led to increased emigration, including to Canada and the U.S. Upper Midwest.
Publication History and Census
This map was prepared by John Thomson and engraved by Nathaniel Rogers Hewitt for inclusion in Thomson's New General Atlas, which went through multiple printings in both Dublin and Edinburgh. Examples of the map display different pagination (or none at all) and other minor details (such as the inclusion of Hewitt's name below the title here) depending on the printing, with the plate number here (No. 16) seemingly added separately from the main plate, different from another example previously sold by us as well as that held by the David Rumsey Historical Map Collection.


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...

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. Learn More...


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. Offsetting. Light foxing.


Rumsey 1007.017.