A map of China after the First Opium War
By JOHNSTON, A[lexander] K[eith] , 1844


  • Author: JOHNSTON, A[lexander] K[eith]
  • Publication place: Edinburgh
  • Publisher: W. & A.K. Johnston
  • Publication date: 1844
  • Physical description: Engraved map with one inset, with original hand-colour in outline.
  • Dimensions: 530 by 645mm. (20.75 by 25.5 inches).
  • Inventory reference: 16433


W. and A.K. Johnston was one of the UK’s major publishing houses during the 19th century. Brothers William and Alexander Keith Johnston learned their trade working f or the Scottish globe maker James Kirkwood. Subsequently they set up their own publishing business in Edinburgh. Their initial master stroke was to buy the the established Scottish publishing company, William Lizars. Lizars had expertise in making finely detailed engravings of natural history. As they gained expertise and scale, the Johnstons expanded into maps, atlases, globes and more.
The Johnston firm became well known for high quality, accurate maps and atlases. In 1844, they published ‘The national atlas of historical, commercial, and political geography’, which contained 47 maps of countries and regions across the globe. This included the present map of China, against whom Britain had recently finished fighting the First Opium War (1839-1842). Anglicised toponyms appear across the map, as well as rivers, bodies of water and mountains, with relief is shown in hachures. In the upper left-hand corner is a larger-scale inset map showing the Canton River, now known as the Pearl River, with its many small islands and “shallow waters”. The surrounding lands of Tibet, Mongolia (“or Chinese Tartary”), Burma (“Birmah”), Vietnam (“Anam”) and Korea (“Corea”) are also identified on the map.