Click main image below to view enlargements and captions.

Map, Various Continents, from Mitchell’s New Universal Atlas, New York, 1850


United States & Continents
United States
North of America
South America

from Mitchell’s New Universal Atlas
S. Augustus Mitchell, Philadelphia: 1850
Hand-colored engravings
17.25 x 13.75 inches each
$250 each

Various continent maps from Mitchell’s 1850 edition of the New Universal Atlas. This was one of the earliest editions of Mitchell’s atlas, rarer and generally considered more desirable among collectors of his maps and atlases.

Product description continues below.


Brief descriptions of each map from set are as follows:

United States Map shows the country as far west as Missouri, Iowa, and Arkansas. Locates states, cities, railroads, canals, forts, etc.

Africa Map shows countries, cities, possessions of European Powers, deserts, routes of exploration, etc. Inset of Liberia and Monrovia in the lower left corner.

Asia European possessions are color coded. There is an inset of Australia in the lower left corner.

Europe European cities and countries, from Iceland in the west, to Russia in the east.

South America Cities, countries and topographical features, partly overlapping the decorative border at the top and bottom.

North America North America and Central America. Locates states, cities, territories, rivers, “Indian” tribes, etc.

Samuel Augustus Mitchell and his son and successor, S. Augustus Mitchell Jr., were successful Philadelphia-based map publishers.  According to the map historian Walter W. Ristow, “[b]etween 1831 and 1890, general map and atlas publishing in the United States was dominated by the companies founded by S. Augustus Mitchell in Philadelphia and Joseph H. Colton in New York City.”  Neither Mitchell nor Colton had formal training in geography or cartography; “[t]heir principal contributions to the success of their respective firms, therefore, was in administration, management, and distribution.” (Ristow, 303, 315).

Samuel Augustus Mitchell Sr. began his career as a teacher.  He thought American geography books were not of sufficient quality, so he decided to publish better ones by starting his own business.  He had no training in cartography; thus he purchased engravings from other cartographers and atlas publishers such as Anthony Finley and Henry Tanner.  Mitchell hired Finley’s chief engraver, J.H. Young, to improve and update the plates to show changes in American geography, such as those that regularly occurred with the expansion of the American west.  Mitchell was a shrewd marketer and distributor.  In addition to providing updated maps, he made them more desirable by adding aesthetic elements such as decorative borders.  He also adopted lithography rather than engraving which allowed for greater printings at lesser costs, though the maps continued to be hand-colored.  S. Augustus Mitchell Jr. took over the business upon his father’s retirement in 1860, and continued the family tradition with prolific map and atlas publishing.

The Mitchell family’s famous annual atlas, the New Universal Atlas, was first published by Henry Tanner starting in 1836. Mitchell published it under his own name starting in 1846, and he continued publishing it until 1849. In 1850, the copyright to Mitchell’s atlas was first acquired by Thomas, Cowperthwait & Co., and then in 1856 by Charles DeSilver, both Philadelphia publishers. Thomas, Cowperthwait added five maps for their 1853 edition. DeSilver still owned the copyright in 1859, when another edition came out published by Cushings & Bailey, Baltimore, which added 23 more maps. In 1860, when S. Augustus Mitchell, Jr. succeeded his father, the Mitchells published the atlas again, and the name of the atlas was changed to the New General Atlas.

Condition: Generally very good, with the usual overall light toning, soiling, wear, soft creases.


David Rumsey Map Collection. 2003. (9 November 2006).

Ristow, Walter. American Maps and Mapmakers. Detroit, Michigan: Wayne State University Press, 1985.  pp. 303, 315.

Additional information


19th Century