John Thomson West Indian Islands Map, Ca. 1820

Thomson map jpg.jpg
Thomson map jpg.jpg

John Thomson West Indian Islands Map, Ca. 1820


Measurements: Sight size: 21.25 x 28.5 in. (54 x 72.4 cm)

Date: 1820

Condition:  Very good. Original outline color.


West Indies map showing four Caribbean islands: Curacao, Grenada, Tobago, and Trinidad.

Map taken from:  “New General Atlas”

Cartographer: John Thomson (1777- Ca. 1840)

John Thomson (1777-ca. 1840) was a groundbreaking Scottish cartographer active in Edinburgh in the early part of the 19th century. Known as one of the leading proponents of the so-called “Edinburgh School of Cartography” — which flourished in Scotland between 1800 and 1830 — Thomson dispensed with the highly decorative features of earlier maps and replaced them with a style that highlighted detail and accuracy, an evolutionary shift whose methodology was shared by important contemporaries such as John Cary (ca. 1754-1835) and John Pinkerton (1758-1826). Thomson’s first major work, A New General Atlas of the World, was published in 1817 and heralded as a breakthrough in British cartography, distinguished from other atlases of the period by the clarity and size of its copperplate engravings and the level of detailing. Thomson’s other major works were the New Classical and Historical Atlas (1829) and The Atlas of Scotland (1830), with the latter considered a milestone in the history of mapmaking by virtue of the accuracy of its surveys and authenticity of its information. The Atlas of Scotland was the first large-scale atlas of that country organized by county, and consisted of 58 large format, double-page maps of the mainland, the Western Isles, Orkney, and Shetland, along with beautiful drawings of the mountains and rivers. Despite his early commercial success, and the level of respect accorded his work, Thomson’s determination to, in his words, “ensure greater accuracy than is to be found in any book of the kind published in this or any other Country,” eventually bankrupted his firm. His increasingly rare maps are today highly admired for their theretofore unseen levels of accuracy and detail, as well as their impressive size and vivid hand coloration.

Contemporary academic references cited relating to this map: