Catalog Archive
Auction 184, Lot 796

Cowperthwait's Desirable Atlas Emphasizing the American Continent

"A New Universal Atlas Containing Maps of the Various Empires, Kingdoms, States and Republics of the World...", Cowperthwait, Desilver & Butler

Subject: Atlases

Period: 1855 (dated)


Color: Hand Color

14 x 17.5 inches
35.6 x 44.5 cm
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The title continues "With a special map of each of the United States, Plans of Cities &c. Comprehended in seventy five sheets and forming a series of one hundred and twenty two Maps Plans and Sections." This is an attractive example of this famous and highly sought after atlas, complete with 75 maps of the world, North America and the other continents, Oceanica, the United States and its territories, and numerous city plans. The atlas concentrates mainly on the American continent, and features many important and desirable maps including several double-page maps.

The map of Texas is one of the most influential atlas maps of the period. It depicts the new boundaries that were determined by the Compromise of 1850. The organized counties extend only to Cooke in the north and Kinney in the southwest. The western edge of the frontier is marked with a line of army forts separating the settled region from the vast area noted as rolling table lands and desolate plains Destitute of Timber. This area is largely the range of Apache, Kiowa, Comanche and Lipan Indians. Wagon roads, springs, and trails are identified, including the Comanche War Trail, Connelly's Trail and the Emigrant's Route. Tiny flags locate important battlefields in both the Texas war for independence and the Mexican American war. Descriptive explanations and notes make this map an interesting study. A table provides statistics according to the Census of 1850 including the population by ethnic groups, e.g. "Free Colored males" is given as 171. There are insets of Northern Texas, noting the northern boundary at Lat. 36° 30', as resolved in the Compromise of 1850 and the vicinity of Galveston City.

The spectacular map of the West has Oregon and Washington extending to the Continental Divide, the huge Utah Territory extends from California to Indian Territory, and New Mexico occupies all of the Southwest with a pre-Gadsden Purchase border. The double-page map of the United States features the same borders in the West, plus a large inset map of the "Gold Region of California." The map of Minnesota features the large territories of Pembina and Blue Earth extending to the Missouri River. The frontispiece is a hand colored, engraved diagram showing the lengths of rivers and heights of mountains. The title page includes a fine chromolithographic image titled "First Landing of Columbus in the New World." The atlas includes three double-page maps: the United States, New York, and Europe.

Folio, frontis, chromolithographed pictorial title page depicting Columbus' arrival in the New World, table of contents printed in red and gilt color, 75 map sheets comprising three double-page and 71 single-page maps and the thematic plate. Rebound in black cloth boards with gilt title on spine and original gilt black leather label on front cover. Published by Cowperthwait, Desilver & Butler at. No. 253 Market Street, Philadelphia.


Condition: B+

The maps are nearly all clean and bright with contemporary color and light toning along the edges of the sheets. A few maps have minor soiling or damp stains along the edges of the sheet. The last map in the atlas, Oceania, is in poor condition with heavy staining and soiling. The title page and frontispiece have moderate to heavy dampstaining and soiling with a few chips along the edges. The rebound covers are in excellent condition.

Estimate: $2,750 - $3,500

Sold for: $2,000

Closed on 9/15/2021