History of Science Museum: Collection Database Search


Meteorological Maps by W. & A. K. Johnston

These five meteorological maps (13487 to 13491) are from the 'Physical Atlas' prepared by the Scottish geographer and cartographic engraver Alexander Keith Johnston (1804-1871), first issued in 1848, with a second expanded edition in 1856, for which these new maps were engraved in 1854. The Atlas, and versions of its maps issued as wall-charts for schools, played an important part in reinstating geography as a core subject in both school curricula and academic scholarship after a period when it was not a fashionable subject of study.

Inspired by German travellers and geographers such as Humboldt and August Petermann (see 13486), and perhaps also by American pioneers such as William C. Woodbridge (see 13484), Johnston demonstrated the 'physical' potential of cartography -- that climate, vegetation, geology, hydrography, the earth's magnetism, etc. as well as topographical and political information can be effectively communicated by maps. He also constructed a 'physical' globe (1851). His maps incorporated the findings of scientists such as Humboldt and Brewster (see 13490), and were engraved and colour-printed by his own firm, in partnership with his older brother Sir William Johnston (1802-1888).

Both brothers were originally trained as engravers. William, who started the business in 1825, was the businessman and became Provost of Edinburgh, while Keith was the scholar and became Geographer Royal for Scotland. The firm W. & A. K. Johnston of Edinburgh was one of the most technically advanced British printers during the 19th century (many advances in printing, especially colour printing, being driven by the needs of map and atlas printing), and also a pioneer of the folding map which first became popular in the era of railway travel.

Related Objects: