A NEW AND ELEGANT IMPERIAL SHEET ATLAS; COMPREHENDING GENERAL AND PARTICULAR MAPS OF EVERY PART OF THE WORLD . . . FORMING THE COMPLETEST COLLECTION OF SINGLE SHEET MAPS HITHERTO PUBLISHED . . . ENGRAVED ON FIFTY-FIVE MAPS, BEAUTIFULLY COLOURED.
(London: James Whittle and Richard Holmes Laurie, 1814). 540 x 405 mm. (21 1/4 x 15 7/8"). 2 p.l., followed by maps.
Attractive modern dark blue half morocco over blue-gray paper boards, raised bands, spine densely gilt in compartments with central pomegranate ornament surrounded by swirls of foliage, gilt lettering, marbled endpapers. WITH 55 HAND-COLORED ENGRAVED MAPS, 46 of these double-page, eight folding. Mounted on guards throughout. Letterpress title and contents leaf, otherwise entirely engraved. Phillips I, 720 (recording the date on the title as 1813). Just a hint of soiling to boards, but the decorative period-style binding with no others signs of use. Three maps with faint dampstains to fore margins (in one case just entering the map image, but scarcely noticeable), three maps with short reinforcements on verso at fold intersections, other trivial imperfections, but A VERY FINE COPY, clean and fresh internally with pleasing coloring.
This handsome collection of maps provides a detailed guide to the world as known to Europeans at the turn of the 19th century, "rendered particularly convenient by opening without folds," as the extended title notes. Engravers Robert Laurie (1755? – 1836) and James Whittle (1757-1818) met as apprentices to Robert Sayer (1724–94), a Fleet Street publisher of prints, maps, and charts. They took over their master's business on his 1794 retirement, and thus acquired a large stock of maps and maritime charts that would form the profitable core of their business. Their first Imperial Sheet Atlas was issued in 1796 and reprised in 1797 with 50 maps "principally compiled from the great French atlas and others of the most distinguished geographers in Europe," according to the title page. New editions with more and updated maps appeared in 1798 (51 maps), 1800 (53 maps), and 1805 (55 maps); our edition was the work's final iteration. It is highlighted by the presence of an important suite of maps documenting the United States' early years of nationhood. Among these are a general map of the "United States of America" (#48), which shows the Mississippi River as the country's western border, as well as two regional maps (#50 and #51), showing the original 13 colonies plus the neighboring unsettled regions of the Mid-South and the Ohio Valley. There are also excellent maps of China and Japan, maps showing much of Africa as unexplored, and a fine double-hemisphere world map. (Lhi21064)