Search This Blog & Get A Rife

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

1853 Map of Japan

Take a look at this beautiful 1853 map of Japan. 

I often begin writing these things with just a shred of information... which is fine, because sometimes all I want to do is just post a photo and a cutline and call it a day... but I just can't.

I hate visiting a website or blog or newspaper and reading something that has me at the conclusion of my read asking more questions than I had going in.

For a quickie blog on my Friday night, I was a tad burned out having driven for five hours to interview a couple of delightful companies and folks for my work - yes... I write for my day job, too... only in that one I get paid.

So... I wanted to simply publish the above map on Japan that was sent to me by my friend Vinny who had recently purchased it.

Two things that stopped me: One... I had deleted the e-mail it was originally sent to me in, and while I had the map on my computer, I no longer recalled its publishing date. Two... I neglected to ask Vinny if it was okay for me to use.

It usually is, when it comes to Vinny, but he paid money for the privilege of owning this beautiful map... and I didn't want to assume digital rights over it simply because he wanted to show it to me.

Anyhow... I figured I would ask Vinny for both bits of information and would simply publish the map when I was too burned out to write... but before all that... I tried to find the publication date of that map myself by looking at various maps by the publisher... and while I found many maps by this publisher... I never did find the exact same map.


This map is known as a Colton's Map of Japan. This map of Japan was published... well... dammit...I'm still not sure. Vinny says it has a copyright of of 1853, but he says it probably came from an atlas printed in 1859 or 1860.

I agree with Vinny regarding the 1853 date... that is a gimmie. But... there are other maps by the same company with a 1855 date on them... why would anyone use the older map in an 1859 or 1860 atlas?  It's possible, though.

The point is... this map depicts an earlier time in Japan... 1853 and earlier.

But Vinny is correct... just below the title of the map... there is a curious line of print: "Published by Johnson & Browning, 172 William St. New York."

This is a Colton's map... but that line of print indicates that Colton was no longer in control of the company... something that happened in 1858... meaning that this old 1853 map was reissued in 1860... and you'll have to wait a few paragraphs to see why.

I found the following wonderful write-up on Colton at, with the majority of it published below:

Joseph Hutchins Colton (July 5, 1800 - July 29, 1893), often publishing as J. H. Colton, was an important American map and atlas publisher active from 1833 to 1893 (though the firm continued to published in 1897). Colton's firm arose from humble beginnings when he moved to New York in 1831 and befriended the established engraver Samuel Stiles. Colton recognized an emerging market in railroad maps and immigrant guides. Not a cartographer or engraver himself, Colton's initial business practice mostly involved purchasing the copyrights of other cartographers, most notably David H. Burr, and reissuing them with updated engraving and border work. His first maps, produced in 1833, were based on earlier Burr maps and depicted New York State and New York City. Between 1833 and 1855 Colton would proceed to publish a large corpus of guidebooks and railroad maps which proved to be very popular. In the early 1850s Colton brought his two sons, George Woolworth Colton (1827 - 1901) and Charles B. Colton (1832 - 1916), into the map business. G. W. Colton, trained as a cartographer and engraver, was particularly inspired by the idea of creating a large and detailed world atlas to compete established European firms for the U.S. market. In 1855 G.W. Colton issued volume one the impressive two volume Colton's Atlas of the World. Volume two followed a year later. Possibly because of the expense of purchasing a two volume atlas set, the sales of the Atlas of the World did not meet Colton's expectations and it was thus that, in 1856, they also issued the Atlas as a single volume. The maps contained in this superb work were all original engravings and most bear an 1855 copyright. All of the maps were surrounded by an attractive spiral motif border that would become a hallmark of Colton's atlas maps well into the 1880s. In 1857 the slightly smaller Colton's General Atlas replaced the Atlas of the World. Most early editions of the General Atlas published from 1857 to 1859 do not have the trademark Colton spiral border, which was removed to allow the maps to fit into a smaller format volume. Their customers must have missed the border because it was reinstated in 1860 and remained in all subsequent publications of the atlas. There were also darker times ahead, in 1857 Colton was commissioned at sum of 25,000 USD by the Government of Bolivia to produce and deliver 2500 copies a large format map of that country. Though Colton completed the contract in good faith, delivering the maps at his own expense, he was never paid by Bolivia, which was at the time in the midst of a national revolution. Colton would spend the remainder of his days fighting with the Bolivian and Peruvian governments over this payment and in the end received over 100,000 USD in compensation. However, at the time, it must have been a disastrous blow. J. H. Colton and Company is listed as one of New York's failed companies in the postal record of 1859. It must have been this event which led Colton into the arms of Alvin Jewett Johnson and Ross C. Browning. The 1859 edition of Colton's Atlas lists Johnson and Browning as the "Successor's to J. H. Colton" suggesting an outright buyout.

Now... the key bit of information for us, is the fact that in 1859 the maps would have used the phrase: "Successor's to J.H. Colton"... but this map does NOT. It just declares Johnson and Browning as publishers implying that it was no longer necessary to introduce themselves to the map-buying public. Vinny says 1859 or 1860... the former is out because of the different "phrase"... therefore - 1860. Unless of course Vinny was just guessing.

But again... why use the older 1853 Map of Japan for print in 1860 when a newer 1855 Map of Japan was available? Perhaps the publishers made a mistake?

Oh well... enjoy the 1853 Map of Japan courtesy of my friend Vinny. And... if you think this was neat... just wait until you see what I found while researching this topic! Next time...

Andrew Joseph

No comments:

Post a Comment