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Auction 14: Americana
Early American Pocket Atlas
[ATLAS]. Gibson, John.
Atlas Minimus; or, A New Set of Pocket Maps, of Various Empires,
Kingdoms, and States, with Geographical Extracts Relative to Each.
Drawn and Engraved by J. Gibson, from the Best Authorities, a New
Edition, Revised, Corrected, and Improved. Philadelphia: Mathew
Carey, April 14, 1798.  pp., 36 copper-engraved maps. 24mo (13.2
x 9.7 cm; 5-1/8 x 3-3/4 inches), nineteenth-century full dark brown
calf, covers stamped with elaborate floral motif, gilt-lettered black
calf spine label (upper cover neatly reattached). Title page with
two minor losses in upper blank margin where former ink inscription
was abraded, uniform light to moderate foxing and offsetting, first
few leaves lightly stained, generally very good, maps fine. Contemporary
ink ownership inscription in ink on title.
First American edition (originally published at London, ca. 1758; see Phillips, Atlases 621). Evans 33794. Phillips, Atlases 691. Walsh, Maps Contained in the Publications of the American Bibliography, 1639-1819 #E33794 (p. 52). Wheat & Brun, Maps & Charts Published in America before 1800, p. 169: “Maps have been re-engraved from the 1792 (English) edition except for the map of France. The descriptive notes have been omitted on the American maps.”
It would appear that the present Atlas Minimus is the first
24mo-format pocket atlas published in the U.S. Small-format pocket
atlases were conceived early; the first such atlas created to address
the needs of travelers is thought to be Ptolemy’s La Geografia
(Venice: Niccolo Bascarini for Giovanni Battista Pedrezano, 1548).
Others are well-known, such as John Seller’s 1679 Atlas Minimus
in London. In the early decades of U.S. printing there are a few 24mo-format
geographies containing a few maps, such as those of Benjamin Workman
(1789) and Charles Smith (1795). Mathew Carey published the American
Pocket Atlas in 1795, but it was 12mo in format. Publisher Carey
states in the preface that this petite atlas forms a good companion
piece to his large atlas of the United States published earlier that
same year. He also states that the atlas is “intended to give young
gentlemen and ladies a general idea of geography” (p. ). This atlas
is an early (if not the first) atlas published in the U.S. meant for
In the present copy, the Index calls for 38 leaves of maps; this copy does not have the maps of Africa, North & South America, and Asia; however, it has maps of Brazil, Paraguay, and Peru that are not called for but clearly issued with this copy. It also lacks Explanations 3 through 6, which would seem to be the ones meant to accompany the absent maps; however, it has present Explanations 39 through 41, meant to accompany the South American maps here present. This volume is probably complete, therefore, as sold to the original purchaser.
Most of the maps were engraved by Joseph T. Scott of Philadelphia; France and Egypt by William Barker; Denmark by Francis Shallus; Turkey in Europe, Naples & Sicily, Brazil, Paraguay, and Peru by J. Roche; five are unattributed. See Groce & Wallace and Stauffer, Fielding & Gage, American Engravers upon Copper and Steel for more information on these engravers.
4. [ATLAS]. JOHNSON, [Alvin Jewett]. Johnson’s New Illustrated (Steel Plate) Family Atlas, with Physical Geography, and with Descriptions Geographical, Statistical, and Historical, and Including the Latest Federal Census, a Geographical Index, and a Chronological History of the Civil War in America. By Richard Swainson Fisher, M.D.,...Maps Compiled, Drawn, and Engraved under the Supervision of J. H. Colton and A. J. Johnson. New York: Johnson and Ward, Successors to Johnson and Browning (Successors to J. H. Colton and Company), 1864. 105 [1, terminal ad for Johnson’s firm] pp., 67 engraved plates as follows: 2 single-sheet plates (American Atlas [uncolored pictorial title] and A Diagram Exhibiting the Difference of the Time between the Places Shown & Washington [colored]); 2 double-sheet colored plates: Mountains and Rivers and Johnson’s New Chart of National Emblems; 63 plates of maps with original hand coloring to states and regions (31 double-sheet maps and 28 single-sheet maps; 3 of the single-sheets with 2 maps per sheet; maps with ornate borders, many maps with views and inset detail maps and plans); numerous text engravings (6 colored spheres, numerous uncolored detail maps, views, indigenous peoples, diagrams, etc.). Folio, original three-quarter black roan over embossed olive green cloth, upper cover with large gilt-embossed title and seal of national symbol of eagle clutching arrows and olive branch, large stars flanking the seal (design repeated, blind embossed, on lower cover), original marbled endpapers and edges. Roan binding chipped and worn (especially at extremities, joints, and lower corners, which are bumped). The interior and maps are fine and bright with only occasional foxing and spots, two old tape repairs to versos of 2 plates. Laid in is publisher’s printed notice, which assists in understanding the varying complement of maps found in the Johnson atlases of that era: “To the Subscribers to our New Atlas” stating, “In order to avoid the expense of purchasing any other Map or Atlas for Many Years, we, the undersigned...have gone to the cost and trouble of having inserted Extra Guards between the maps in the Atlas, so that any person with a little Mucilage or Paste can easily introduce new Maps from time to time, without the least detriment to the work. Should there be important changes made, such as New Territories laid out; New States admitted; a Railroad to the golden shores of the Pacific established, or any other marked change...requiring a few New Maps, they will, of course, be made for our Atlas.”
This is an early intermediate version of A. J. Johnson’s very popular and enduring atlas, which, as can be seen from the imprint above, had a complex publishing history. According to Ristow, the atlas owed its genesis to J. H. Colton’s sale of the copyright to his atlas to Johnson in 1860, the year the atlas was first published in the present format by Johnson. Johnson was a leading atlas publisher during and after the Civil War, and the New Illustrated Family Atlas is considered his foremost work. Various editions are listed by Phillips for several decades commencing in 1860 (see Atlases 837, 840, 843, etc.). The plates were based on Colton’s maps, but the decorative borders were changed. Colton’s maps were engraved on steel plates and transferred to lithographic stones for printing, rather than the cheaper wax-engraving method used by most map publishers of the era.
The present version of the atlas is augmented with information on the progress of the Civil War, in both the maps and the lengthy detailed text entitled “The Chronological History of the Great Rebellion” (pp. 96-105), which terminates with the text of Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. The double-sheet plate of international emblems and flags includes seven flags of the United States, but predictably, not the rogue flag of the Confederates. The ad leaf at the end presents the publishers’ hype (“The Largest, Finest Executed, and Only Illustrated Township Atlas of the World Ever Published”) and endorsements by “distinguished gentlemen,” including inventor Samuel Morse and A. J. Hamilton of Texas. About half the maps focus on the United States and America, including a military map of the U.S. showing forts and posts.
The large, handsome engraved title, first published in J. H. Colton’s
American Atlas (1855), is the work of Carl Emil Doepler (1824-1905),
a Warsaw artist who came to the U.S. in 1849 and worked as an illustrator
for Harper & Brothers and Putnam (see Hamilton, Early American
Book Illustrators and Wood Engravers, pp. 119-120 and Groce &
Wallace, p. 182). Doepler’s grand print “illustrates the potency of
Manifest Destiny in the formation of a national identity for the United
States. It depicts the westward expansion of the U.S. from the East
(background), across the Great Plains (center ground), to the first
settlements hewn from the wooded slopes of the Rockies (foreground).
A group of Native Americans–depicted in a highly romanticized manner,
as befits an image originally prepared by a German artist for a European
audience–witness the inexorable advancement of American civilization,
even as they are excluded from it. Carl Emil Doepler’s image reminds
us that the identity constructed for the United States in the nineteenth
century by maps and atlases was overwhelmingly one of a nation of
Northern European–descended Protestant men” (Edney, Mapping the
Republic: Conflicting Concepts of the Territory and Character of the