Alvin Jewett Johnson (1827 - 1884)
Was a prolific American map publisher active from 1856 to the mid-1880s. Johnson was born into a poor family in Wallingford, Vermont where he received only a based public education. He is known to have worked as school teacher for several years before moving to Richmond, Virginia. Johnson got his first taste of the map business and a salesman and book canvasser for J. H. Colton and company. The earliest Johnson maps were published with D. Griffing Johnson (no clear relation) and date to the mid-1850s, however it was not until 1860 that the Johnson firm published its first significant work, the Johnson's New Illustrated (Steel Plate) Family Atlas. The publication of the Family Atlas followed a somewhat mysterious 1859 deal with the well-established but financially strapped J. H. Colton cartographic publishing firm.
Although map historian Water Ristow speculates that Colton sold his copyrights to Johnson and his business partner, another Vermonter named Ross C. Browning (1832 - 1899), a more likely theory is that Johnson and Browning financially supported the Colton firm in exchange for the right to use Colton's existing copyrighted map plates. Regardless of which scenario actually occurred it is indisputable that the first Johnson atlas maps were mostly reissues of earlier Colton maps.
Early on Johnson described his firm as the "Successors to J. H. Colton and Company". Johnson's business strategy involved transferring the original Colton steel plate engravings to cheaper lithographic stones, allowing his firm to produce more maps at a lower price point. In 1861, following the outbreak of the American Civil War the Johnson and Browning firm moved their office from Richmond, Virginia to New York City. Johnson and Browning published two editions of the Johnson Atlas in 1860 and 1861. Sometime in 1861 Browning's portion of the firm was purchased by Benjamin P. Ward, whose name subsequently replaced Browning's on the imprint.
The 1863 issue of the Family Atlas was one of the most unusual, it being a compilation of older Johnson and Browning maps, updated 1862 Johnson and Ward map issues, and newer 1863 maps with a revised border design. The 1864 issue of the Family Atlas is the first true Johnson and Ward atlas. Johnson published one more edition of the atlas in partnership with Ward in 1865, after which Johnson seems to have bought out Ward's share the firm. The next issue of the Atlas, 1866, is the first purely "Johnson" atlas with all new map plates, updated imprints, and copyrights. The Family Atlas went through roughly 27 years of publication, from 1860 to 1887, outliving Johnson himself who died in 1884. Johnson maps from the Family Atlasare notable for their unique borders, of which there are four different designs, the "strapwork borer" from 1860 to 1863, the "fretwork border" from 1863 to 1869 and the "spirograph border" in 1870 – 1882, and a more elaborate version of the same from 1880-1887. In addition to the Family Atlas Johnson issued numerous wall maps, pocket maps, and in the 1880s the Cyclopedia.
Johnson maps are known for their size, accuracy, detail, and stunning, vivid hand coloring. Johnson maps, purely American in their style and execution, chronicle some of the most important and periods in American history including the Civil War, the Westward Expansion, and the Indian Wars. Today Johnson's maps, especially those of the American west, are highly sought after by map collectors and historians
Alvin Jewett Johnson (1)
- Title : Johnson's Illinois by Johnson & Browning
- Ref #: 50671
- Size: 17 1/2in x 13in (450mm x 330mm)
- Date : 1860
- Condition: (A) Very Good Condition
This finely engraved beautifully hand coloured original 1st edition map of the State of Illinois was published by A J Johnson in the 1860 edition ofJohnson's New Illustrated Family Atlas.
1st Edition, 1st issue. Most of the maps in this atlas come from Colton's 1859 edition of the General Atlas, published by Johnson and Browning, indicating the Johnson connection; some do not come from this atlas, and their sources are: the New England maps (scale 1" = 9 miles) come from Colton's map of New England and then the sub-maps of Vermont and New Hampshire, Mass/Conn/R.I.; the Ohio/Indiana is still a mystery; all the 1" = 24 miles maps (Iowa, Kentucky, etc.) come from Colton's Map of the United States and the Canadas, originally published by J. Calvin Smith in 1843 (see W. Heckrotte's copies and his list of editions); and the Colton General Atlas maps used by Johnson come from Colton's Travellers Series of maps - see our copies of Penn., Indiana. Colton mentions "The National Atlas of the United States, constructed from the Public Surveys..large Folio" as in preparation in his 1855 catalogue; this may be the embryonic Johnson Atlas. Colton used his wall maps "cut up" for pocket maps and Atlases. Johnson's maps of S. America, Europe, Africa, and (in the first edition, first issue, only) China, East Indies etc., all come from D. Griffing Johnson's Map of the World, 1847. These atlas maps are updated (esp. Africa). Colton took over the publication of the World Map in 1849, issued editions to 1868 (Ristow p318). Also, Johnson's N. America map is the inset N. America in Smith's Map of the U.S., the Canadas, etc. This first issue of Johnson's Family Atlas differs from the later 1860 edition in a small N.Y. (from the Colton U.S. map), small Texas, and many of the maps have fewer views or no views or different configurations. Clearly, this was a first attempt that was refined later in the year. Another issue of this same edition was published in Richmond, Virginia, the home town of Browning (I.L.). The California map originates with Johnson's New Illustrated and Embellished County
Paper thickness and quality: - Heavy & stable
Paper color: - White
Age of map color: - Original
Colors used: - Pink green yellow
General color appearance: - Authentic
Paper size: - 17 1/2in x 13in (450mm x 330mm)
Plate size: - 17 1/2in x 13in (450mm x 330mm)
Margins: - Min 1/4in 312mm)
Margins: - Uniform age toning, light chipping to margin edges
Plate area: - None
Verso: - Uniform age toning