New Map of Germany, 1850, Mitchell
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New Map of Germany, 1850, Mitchell

Regular price $150.00

A New Map of Germany by James Hamilton Young, engraved by J. L. Hazzard, for Mitchell’s A New Universal Atlas Containing Maps of the Various Empires, Kingdoms, States, and Republics of the World, published by Thomas, Cowperthwait, & Company, 1850.

Germany is an important player on the world stage, with a long and rich history.  But the nation we know today is quite different from the Germany depicted on this map. From 1850, this map is actually comprised of several different states and does not depict a single centralized nation. The title “Germany” is therefore used in a more cultural, rather than political, sense. However, all of the states included on the map were part of the German Confederation, which was a decentralized organization aimed at coordinating the German-speaking components formerly of the Holy Roman Empire. The map offers a number of ways to distinguish between the different German states. Different styles of type face and careful hand-coloring make the boundaries between each entity easier to see. A key, in the bottom right corner of the map, explains the meaning of certain symbols and references on it. But the most obvious and useful tool offered by the mapmaker is the inclusion of a table listing each state with its rank and its capital city. 

Careful attention to detail was taken in the drawing of this map, as evidenced by the addition of historic and contemporary information. For example, the population of major cities is placed by the city name on the map and explained in the key. The map shows existing and proposed railroad lines, as well as steam boat routes. Another fascinating aspect of the map is that notable battlefields are marked with a flag icon and the year of occurrence. In cases where an area has changed possession the name of the new overlord is shown under the state’s name. Luxembourg is a perfect example of this. It was divided between Belgium and The Netherlands, in 1839, following the creation of Belgium. The western half of the duchy therefore says “To Belgium.” Another important detail on the map is the treatment of longitude. Along the top border the degrees are measured from Washington, D.C., which it clearly states. However, they are measured from Greenwich along the bottom, but unspecified as such. Indicating the important of Washington as a reference for American, since Greenwich had not yet been adopted as the universal Prime Meridian.

The nineteenth century was a tumultuous time for Europe. While the continent was no stranger to war, the 1800s ushered in a change in the status quo that had existed for centuries. Napoleon’s rise to power in France did not bode well for the rest of Europe. In 1803, Britain declared war and within two years had formed the Third Coalition with Austria and Russia. The Battle of Austerlitz, which took place on December 2, 1805, resulted in a humiliating defeat for the coalition. This lead to the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire which had existed for over eight hundred years. Napoleon organized several of the German states into the Confederation of the Rhine, gaining extensive territory. More and more of Europe came under his control until 1814, when the Sixth Coalition was finally able to remove him from power. However, the reforms enacted under Napoleon and the process of German mediatization made it impossible to return Europe to its previous political divisions. The allies therefore set about to establish a more balanced and stable Europe.

Beginning in September of 1814, the Congress of Vienna was convened to discuss the fate of the continent, with the main objective being long term peace. The participants were ambassadors of the major European powers. The four dominant participants were Great Britain, Austria, Russia, and Prussia. France was allowed to participate after some debate. Other nations such as Denmark, Sweden, and Spain also sent delegates. The Final Act of the Congress was signed on June 9, 1815, and it established a new Europe. Many of the territorial changes brought about through mediatization were recognized as legitimate, and several others were elevated in status from their former designations under the Holy Roman Empire. It was the Congress of Vienna which stabled the new German Confederation.

At the time of its establishment, in 1815, thirty-five states were included. By 1820, five more states had joined. Not all of the Austrian Empire was considered part of the Confederation, just the possessions with a connection to the former Holy Roman Empire. Similarly not all of Prussia was incorporated either. This was done to balance the rival German powers and preserve the organization of the defunct Empire. Several more changes occurred within the Confederation between 1820 and 1850, when the map was drawn. These alterations modified the number of Confederation members resulting in the thirty-six states we see in the table. Some states which were listed as independent participants in the 1815 Treaty were incorporated into other, large member states. For example, the Lands of the Bohemian Crown are here part of the Austrian Empire and the two Hohenzollern states have been incorporated into Prussia. Another contributing factor is the lack of primogeniture laws in several of the smaller duchies. In these areas, a duke’s possessions were divided between all of his surviving sons. The practice had been quite common during the years of the Holy Roman Empire. That is why several states have names with multiple components. The first part indicates the main duchy and the subsequent parts identify the family line, which usually adopted the name of their resident city. The Ernestine Duchies, or the Saxes, experienced a series of fragmentations and new consolidations as family lines died out further changing the number of Confederation members.

Due to the decentralized and fragmented nature of the German Confederation, it was short lived. Tensions between Prussia and Austria came to a head in 1866, in a dispute over Lauenburg and Schleswig-Holstein. Prussia and its allies emerged victorious and annexed several of its opponent states, such as Hanover and Hesse-Kassel. It briefly organized the North German Confederation, which excluded Austria, before forming the German Empire in 1871. Following the dissolution of the German Confederation, Austria formed the Austro-Hungarian Empire with the Kingdom of Hungary. Both of these empires would continue to exist until the 1918, following the end of World War I.  

Samuel Augustus Mitchell (1792-1868) turned his attention to mapmaking in the 1830s, due to his dissatisfaction with available school maps. He developed a map publishing business that would make him and later his son the most prominent American map publishers of the nineteenth century. By collaborating with prominent mapmakers and engravers of the day, such as James H. Young and Henry S. Tanner, Mitchell ensured that the maps he published were of the highest quality. During the 1850s, he partnered with Thomas, Cowperthwait, & Company to publish his A New Universal Atlas and his General Atlas. In 1860, his son Samuel Augustus, Jr, joined the company and he ensured that the Mitchell name remained an important one well into the 1880s.

Thomas, Cowperthwait, and Company was founded sometime in the early 1800s by Joseph Thomas and Hulings Cowperthwait. It operated under this name until 1853. The following year the company name changed to Cowperthwait, Desilver, and Butler. However, this configuration only lasted for about a year, before it became H. Cowperthwait & Company in 1856. After 1860, it appears the company experienced several more alterations, before ceasing publication at the end of the century.

- Naomi Bean

Plate:  12. 125” x 15.875”

Sheet: 13.5” x 16.75”

Condition: Excellent, with some minor discoloration in the margins.


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