Date: 1840
Place: Gotha
Dimensions: 76 x 84 cm (30 x 33 in)
Condition Rating: VG

In stock

Von Sydow’s geophysical wall map of North America.


A lovely 1840 lithographed wall map of North and Central America by Prussian military officer and cartographer Emil von Sydow, published by Justus Perthes in Gotha.

The North American continent is displayed in beautiful detail from the Polar region (well-defined but reflecting remnant uncertainties) down to the northern part of South America. Eschewing national borders, von Sydow highlights mountains, rivers, and other natural features. Many cities are subtly noted with abbreviations (N.Y. for New York, M.X. for Mexico City, and so on). As explorations of the western part of North America were still ongoing, von Sydow records several rivers in Alta California, including those flowing into the San Francisco Bay, as tentative by employing dashed lines. Swooping lines corresponding to letters in the margins almost certainly correspond to climatological information, such as isothermal lines, information on mean temperatures by season, and precipitation.

This map was prepared by Emil von Sydow, edited by J. L. Uckermann, and printed (lithographed) by Justus Perthes in Gotha in 1840. It appears to have been printed in multiple editions (OCLC 54849003, 58528139, 1003294161). However, this edition is early, very likely the first, and also especially rare. We locate no other examples in the OCLC or on the market.


Justus Perthes

Justus Perthes was a prominent German publishing firm that specialized in the production of maps, atlases, and geographical publications. The firm was founded in 1785 by Johann Georg Justus Perthes in Gotha, Germany. It became particularly well-known for its “Almanach de Gotha,” an annual directory that detailed the various royal and noble houses of Europe, as well as its significant contributions to cartography and geography through the publication of atlases such as the “Stielers Handatlas” and the “Gothaer Kartenwerke” (Gotha Cartographic Works).

Theodor Emil von Sydow

Theodor Emil von Sydow (July 15, 1812 – October 13, 1873) was a Prussian military officer, geographer, and cartographer born in Freiberg. His parents, Friedrich von Sydow and Wilhelmine von Criegern were esteemed figures in literature after his father retired from the military.

As a teacher at the Cadet School in Erfurt from 1832 to 1843, von Sydow pioneered the use of color lithography for wall maps, introducing a color scheme indicating terrain features. This scheme was later adopted in physical maps worldwide.

Von Sydow’s pedagogical expertise led to his appointment to the Ober-Militär-Examinations-Commission in Berlin in 1843. In 1855, he joined a publishing house, producing his works in multiple languages, including Swedish, Russian, and Italian. His legacy includes the renowned Sydow-Wagners Methodischer Schulatlas, which remained in publication until 1944.

Despite his success, Von Sydow’s personal life was filled with tragedy, including the loss of his sons in battle and his death from cholera.

Condition Description

Dissected and laid on linen. Some toning of linen between dissected portions. Light foxing. Sporadic creasing.