This is an early edition of a missionary map published by the Basel Evangelical Mission (Der evangelischen Missions-Anstalt Basel) in Switzerland. It was issued in multiple states for over fifty years, all in German. Our map and the associated booklet date to 1844; newer editions of this particular map were printed well into the 1890s. Our example maintains its original linen backing and, unlike most later editions, folds into a bound case that includes a 29-page description of the map in German (printed in Gothic lettering).
The mapmaker divides the world into three distinct spheres. With the oceans rendered in a contrasting blue, swathes of black color indicate the many regions still requiring exposure to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Uncolored or white areas demarcate the world of Christendom, while the Islamic world is colored grey and plainly labeled ‘Arabien.’ The geography is not only indicative of the time in which the map was produced – with era-specific labels such as New Holland and Greater India maintained – but it is also clearly a map that focuses on its fundamental message: see the darkness that must be expelled by light.
The most impressive element of this chart is undoubtedly the many semi-allegorical illustrations surrounding the double hemisphere. While the map’s message is unequivocal, these images are meant to engage viewers’ imagination and emotions. Moving clockwise from the upper left corner, we find a depiction of Native Americans adorned with the attire, weaponry, and wigwams that European audiences had come to expect. In the upper right corner, we find the Chinese Emperor donned in magnificent silken robes and seated on his throne, flanked by courtiers. Below this image, as below the Native American scene, is an artistic composition of exotic weapons and shields forming a heraldic vignette.
In the lower right corner of the map, we see the Indian Maharajah in a splendid four-person litter followed by a regally draped elephant. In the center of the bottom panel is a disturbing image of a shackled African whose face expresses the unimaginable fear and confusion associated with his condition. And finally, in the lower left corner, we see a scene representing the wild peoples of the Polar regions, seemingly represented by Sami or Siberian peoples. Floating above it all is an ornate title cartouche, under which is depicted a radiant book with the Biblical call to mission:
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.“