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1862 Johnson Map of South America

Rumsey 2905.035 (1860 edition).  Phillips (Atlases) 6140, 52-53. - Main View

1862 Johnson Map of South America



Rumsey 2905.035 (1860 edition). Phillips (Atlases) 6140, 52-53.
  1862 (undated)     25 x 17.5 in (63.5 x 44.45 cm)


A beautiful example of A. J. Johnson's 1862 map of South America. This large and detailed map covers the continent from Mexico, Florida and the Caribbean south to include South Shetland and parts of Antarctica. Offers superb detail on the South American mainland with a noble attempt to map the great continental river systems. Shows a vestigial though unlabeled remnant of the apocryphal Laguna de los Xarayes (a supposed gateway to paradise and El Dorado) at the northern terminus of the Rio Paraguay. Names numerous indigenous groups, many of which may or may not have existed. In the surrounding seas, Johnson notes the routes taken by numerous important explorers including Cook in 1768, Wallis in 1766, Carteret in 1766, the U.S. Ship Vincennes in 1838, Dr. Halley in 1700, Columbus in 1493, the Spanish Sloop L'Atrevida in 1794, M. Bougainville in 1768, Anson, Capt. George Powell in 1821, and others. References some of the notes from these expeditions regarding the sighting of penguins, whales, sea birds, and kelp. Cartographically this map draws heavily on De L'Isle's important c. 1730 map of South America. We find in remarkable that, in the course of over 130 years of exploration, the interior of South America remained largely a mystery. Exhibits the strapwork style border common to Johnson's atlas work from 1860 to 1863. Published by A. J. Johnson and Ward as page nos. 63-64 in the 1862 edition of Johnson's New Illustrated Family Atlas. This is the first edition of the Family Atlas to bear the Johnson and Ward imprint.


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 (1822 - 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 split their firm between two offices. Johnson moved from Richmond, Virginia to New York City. Browning remained in Richmond, where he published at least one more edition of the atlas after the war began, in 1862. Johnson and Browning published two editions of the Johnson Atlas: 1860 (Richmond and New York) and 1861 (Richmond and New York). Sometime in 1861 Browning's portion of the firm (or perhaps the New York portion?) 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, and updated 1862 'Johnson and Ward' maps, and newer 1863 maps with a revised border design. The 1864 issue of the Family Atlas is the first fully '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. More by this mapmaker...


Johnson, A. J., Johnson's New Illustrated (Steel Plate) Family Atlas with Descriptions, Geographical, Statistical, and Historical. (1862 A. J. Johnson & Ward edition)    


Very good. Minor wear and verso reinforcement along original centerfold. Light offsetting. Blank on verso.