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Map, Military, Civil War, Mid Atlantic States, Seat of War, Antique Topographical Map, Colton, New York, 1861


J.H. Colton’s Topographical Map of the Seat of War in Virginia, Maryland, &c.
Lang & Cooper, printers
J.H. Colton, New York: c. 1861
Hand-colored lithograph
28 x 20 inches, overall

A rare separately issued topographical map published during the American Civil War of the main battle area, including most of Maryland and Virginia, along with neighboring portions of Pennsylvania, Delaware and North Carolina. Portions of West Virginia are also included, though not labeled as such, because that state was formed during the Civil War by seceding from Virginia and gaining admittance to the Union in 1863. Indeed, according to an inscription lower right, the cartography is based on a map copyrighted by Colton in 1852. Detailed cartography includes cities, towns, counties, major roads, railroad lines, canals and bodies of water. Mountains and hills are labeled and shaded with hachures. It is set within a decorative border of intertwining vines and flowers, with birds in each corner. Counties are colored in faded shades of pink, yellow and green; the Chesapeake Bay in blue; and state borders with heavy red lines. The prime meridian of the map is centered on the District of Columbia.

Product description continues below.


Colton “issued a number of Civil War maps, most of which were adapted from the firm’s standard map series. Several Colton Civil War maps carry the imprint of other publishers such as Lang & Laing, a New York lithographic firm. It is very likely that the Colton maps were transferred to lithographic stones or zinc plates so large runs could be printed” (Ristow, pp. 318-319). This map was printed in a few different editions. The Library of Congress has the same edition as the one offered here, copyrighted 1852 and with printing credited to Lang & Cooper, though theirs lacks hand coloring. The David Rumsey Map Collection has two other editions, both pocket maps folding into cloth covers. One bears the copyright date of 1855 with Lang’s name omitted. Rumsey dates the map as 1861 because the Rumsey Collection has another version where the copyright is given as 1862 and Lang’s name is included.

In 1991, an archivist for the State of Maryland analyzed the map:

This map appears to be a section of a larger map, not yet identified by the writer. Both the eastern and western edge of the map have incomplete names, indicating that the larger map was simply truncated. No references have been found in the literature to this map and it is something of an enigma. The imprint in the right bottom border indicates 1852. Another issue has the imprint 1855. Yet the title indicates some connection with presumably the Civil War. The only references on the map itself to the war are the locations for a number of forts. Since the war did not begin until 1860, the dating seems suspect and probably was the date of the map from which this was truncated and copied.

Between 1831 and 1890, the Colton firm dominated American map publishing and their atlases were the finest produced in the U.S. during the 19th century. The company was founded by Joseph Hutchins Colton (1800-1893), who had no formal training in geography or cartography; he began by purchasing copyrights of maps prepared by other individuals or companies, and his principal role was to manage the production and distribution of the maps. His first maps were drawn by the esteemed cartographer David H. Burr in the 1830s. By the 1850s Colton was also publishing guidebooks, atlases and immigrant and railroad maps. The firm was renamed G.W. & C.B. Colton in the 1860s when Colton was succeeded by his sons — George Woolworth Colton (1827-1901) and Charles B. Colton (c. 1831-1916). It is believed that George Colton compiled the company’s 1855Atlas of the Worldand served thereafter as the firm’s principal map compiler, cartographer and engraver.

Joseph H. Colton sold his atlas plates to Alvin Jewett (A.J.) Johnson in 1860. Johnson, the publisher, is best known for his atlases, issued in many editions in the second half of the 19th century, beginning with the publication of Johnson’s New Illustrated (Steel Plate) Family Atlas. In 1898, the G.W. & C.B. Colton firm became Colton, Ohman & Co. and published under that name until about 1901, when August R. Ohman began publishing under his own name as “successor to the Coltons.”

Lang & Cooper was a publishing firm active about 1852-1855. They printed maps for J.H. Colton and J. Disturnell.

Full publication information in cartouche and in margin lower left and right: J.H. Colton’s Geographical Establishment, No. 172 William St. New York. For more than thirty years the largest Publisher of Maps & Atlases in America, Mr. Colton’s Assortment American & Foreign — for Schools, Offices, Libraries, Travelers &c. In their various styles, is now full and complete. Traveling Agents Supplied with the Most Popular Canvassing Works in This Line. Printed by Lang & Cooper, 117 Fulton St., N.Y. Entered according to Act of Congress in the year 1852 by J.H. Colton, in the Clerks Office of the District Court of the Southern District of New York.

Condition: Generally very good, formerly folded, likely as issued. Now professionally cleaned, flattened, deacidified, and backed with Japanese tissue, thus repairing some marginal tears and chips as well as hard creases and slight openings at folds and fold intersections. Some remaining some minor toning, wear, handling, creases including a few pale minor discolorations in right margin.


“J.H. Colton’s topographical map of the seat of war in Virginia, Maryland &c.” Library of Congress. (6 June 2014).

“Lang & Cooper (Firm), fl. 1852-1855.” Newberry Library Cartographic Catalog. 2004-2010. (6 June 2014).

“Map #: 352C5.” Maryland State Archives. 15 October 1991. (6 June 2014).

Ristow, Walter W.American Maps & Mapmakers: Commercial Cartography in the 19th Century.Detroit, MI: Wayne State University Press, 1985. pp. 316-319, 325, 327.

“Topographical Map of Seat of War in Virginia.” David Rumsey Map Collection. 2010. (6 June 2014).

Additional information


19th Century