Map of Turkey in Asia, Persia, Arabia, etc. by Johnson, 1861.
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Map of Turkey in Asia, Persia, Arabia, etc. by Johnson, 1861.

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Turkey in Asia, Persia, Arabia, etc. published by Alvin Jewitt Johnson and Ross C. Browning, 1861.

This map is of western Asia, as bounded by the Mediterranean and Black Seas in the North East and the Arabian Sean and Indian Ocean in the South West. Today we refer to this region as the Middle East, but at the time the Map was created it was more commonly called the Near East, indicating its proximity to Europe. The exact definitions of these terms have changed over time as the political make-up of the area has shifted. Several modern day countries are absent from the map, which is perhaps one of its most fascinating features. At the time, this region was caught between the world powers of the Nineteenth Century, as they fought for domination of Asia. Control of this region was important to the expansion of the colonial empires of Britain and Russia. Meanwhile, the Ottoman Empire was trying to reform to prevent its continued decline. Other dynasties were also emerging, beginning to form what would become the countries we know today.

As is common with Johnson maps, only the regions that are the topic of the map received any color. This emphasized the maps subject while providing the viewer with a better sense of location by including the bordering countries. Therefore only Turkey, Arabia, Persia, Afghanistan, and Beloochistan are in color, since they are the intended subject of the map. However, along their outer borders slices of other countries such as India, Egypt, and Russia are visible. The map also includes three vignettes for the cities of Muscat, Trebisond, and Smyrna, which were important ports at the time.

Turkey in Asia was a term used to distinguish between the Ottoman Empire’s European and Asian territories. The empire was in steady decline by the nineteenth century. Growing nationalist sentiment was causing internal conflict as the Ottomans struggled to maintain their control. External pressure from the Austro-Hungarian, British, and Russian Empires further weakened the Ottoman Empire and several conflicts with these other nations led to territorial losses and debt increases. In 1861, the Empire was fighting the final stages of the Caucasian War with Russia. The war had begun in 1817 when Russia began to invade. The Ottomans were unable to push the Russians out of the area, resulting in the boundary with Russian Georgia and Turkish Armenia on the map.  The territory bounded as being part of Turkey on this map includes the present day countries of Turkey, Iraq, Armenia, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, and Jordan, as well as the Palestinian Territories. It was not until the break-up of the Ottoman Empire, after World War one that these countries began to emerge.

The use of Arabia on this map serves as a geographic term rather than indicating a political unit. While segments of the peninsula were under official Ottoman jurisdiction, pressure from followers of Wahhabi Islam weakened their control. The interior had never been incorporated into the empire and was instead inhabited by numerous tribes. During the nineteenth century, the rise of a Saudi state in the Nejd region threatened Ottoman suzerainty. From 1801-1818 the two groups struggled against each other for control of the holy cities of Mecca and Medina. Despite an Ottoman victory, the Saudis remained a threat causing the Ottomans to reorganize their Arabian territories. The shifts that take place on the peninsula set the stage for the development of the modern Arabian countries, which emerged in the twentieth century.  Politically the peninsula currently consists of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Oman, and Yemen. However, the island Kingdom of Bahrain is considered to be part of Arabia, despite not being on the peninsula.

Persia had culturally dominated western Asia for centuries. The expansion of several Persian Empires had spread their culture throughout the region. Known as Greater Iran, or sometimes Greater Persia, the area of influence reached beyond modern Iran’s political borders. At the beginning of the 1800s, Persia’s sphere of influence included Afghanistan, Baloochistan, part of Iraq, and an area in the Caucasus. However, during the nineteenth century, encroaching British and Russian imperial interests threatened the stability of the country. Caught between the competing nations, Persia struggled to maintain its position as a regional power. The rise of the Afghan Hotaki and Durrani dynasties during the previous century had asserted independence from the control of the Persian Shah. Persian attempts to reassert control over the area was complicated by Britain and Russia which saw Afghanistan as a useful buffer state between their Empires. Therefore both sides tried to eliminate the influence of Persia, by sending diplomats to sway internal Persian politics in favor of their respective countries’ interests. Persia fought several wars throughout the century. During the twentieth century the nation adopted the ancient Iran, as the country’s official name. However, both terms are still used today.

Modern Afghanistan had begun to form in the eighteenth century.  In 1709, Mirwais Hotaki led an army against the Persian appointed government in Kandahar and successfully prevented the Safavids from reclaiming the area. After his death, his son Mahmud was able to capture the Persian capital of Isfahan and for a brief period the dynasty ruled Persia as well. Unfortunately internal conflict resulted in Hotaki rule being short lived, falling to Nader Shah in 1738. However, in 1747, following the assassination of Nader Shah, Ahmad Shah Durrani became the new head of state. From his base in Kandahar, he was able to unite all of the Pashtun tribes and conquer all of Afghanistan and several neighboring areas to form the Afghan Empire. In 1826, the Emirate of Afghanistan was formed after the Durranis fell due to internal strife. It was under the Emirate that the Great Game had the greatest impact on the Afghan people.  Afghanistan was situated between British India and Russian Turkestan and these empires hoped to keep the country neutral by influencing its policy makers. Several Anglo-Afghan wars occurred, with the first lasting from 1839 to 1842, during the century as Britain tried to prevent Russia from expanding into the country.

The region of Beloochistan, as it is spelled on the map, is currently divided between Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Like its neighbors, Baluchistan has been a part of the successive empires and states that have come to power over the centuries. During the nineteenth century Iran and Great Britain began to divide the region into many smaller parts. The western portions would become part of Iran at the beginning of the twentieth century and is part of the province of Sistan and Baluchestan. The British controlled Baluchistan would become part of Pakistan following the division of India and Pakistan in 1948. However, a small portion of the region had been given to Afghanistan by the British, in an attempt to divide the Baloch nation and weaken resistance. Today the region is economically poor and unstable.

Alvin Jewett Johnson (1827-1884) was an active and successful map publisher. In his youth he had received only a basic education. After briefly teaching, he went to work for J. H. Colton & Company as a book canvasser and salesman. In the mid-1850s Johnson began to publish maps with D. Griffing Johnson and in 1859 the firm negotiated a deal with J. H. Colton & Company. The exact terms of the agreement are uncertain, however, Johnson and his partner Ross C. Browning (1832-1899) obtained the right to publish Colton. To extend the life of the steel plates and decrease production costs, Johnson had the maps engraved onto lithographic stones to be used in printing. Johnson and Browning's first successful atlas was the New Illustrated Family Atlas, which was first published in 1860. Benjamin Ward bought out Browning's share in the company sometime in 1861 becoming Johnson's new partner. However, it wasn't until the 1864 edition of the New Illustrated Family Atlas that all of the Browning material was completely phased out. Johnson bought out Ward the following year, finally being the sole owner of the company. His Family Atlas enjoyed twenty-seven years of publication. In addition to atlases Johnson also began publishing cyclopedias in the 1880s. His son carried on the business for a few years following his death.


Plate size: 12.25" x 16.25"

Sheet size: 14" x 18"

Condition: Excellent.

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