Rare and charming Fielding Lucas atlas of the United States, in a fantastic “scroll” format

Fielding Lucas, Jr., [Untitled atlas of the United States, with binding title "United States Atlas"] [Baltimore, ca. 1824.]
39 engraved maps and plates printed on bank-note paper, various sizes, all with original hand color. The maps affixed to a wooden dowel along the short edge, then rolled, with blue paper outer wrapper. The whole housed in the original telescoping, red straight-grain morocco tube, with title “United States Atlas” embossed in gilt. Mostly minor foxing and offsetting, but better than very good.

An unusual, charming and very rare atlas of the United States assembled as a “travelling” atlas. One of only four known examples.

The atlas contains 39 sheets in all, including maps of North America, the United States, 28 states and territories, Mexico, South America, and five South-American countries, as well as two sheets bearing comparative charts of the world’s “principal” mountains and rivers. For portability, the sheets are rolled around a wooden dowel and housed in a most attractive telescoping tube covers in red straight-grain morocco. Of the four known examples of the atlas, this has the largest number of sheets: the three institutional examples are all recorded with only 31 maps and plates (although the evident duplication between catalog entries requires some caution making a definitive conclusion). While this “scroll” format is encountered in English map publishing, I have not seen any other American atlas assembled on this format. 

This atlas was originally planned as a constituent part of Fielding Lucas’ New Cabinet Atlas, as it was first advertised, although the completed atlas was actually titled General Atlas Containing Distinct Maps of all the known Countries in the World. The atlas contained 104 sheets (the title and contents included in this count) and broadly combined a classical atlas, an atlas of the West Indies, an atlas of the American continent and an atlas of the rest of the world.

It seems that Lucas never intended to market the American section separately as a regular atlas, hence the absence of its own engraved title page or advertisements for it in the contemporary press. Similar compilations are also known with the maps on bank-note paper, but folded into a small “pocket” format with leather covers and flap.

The New Cabinet Atlas
Lucas first solicited subscriptions for his New Cabinet Atlas in Baltimore papers in November 1823:

“New Universal Cabinet Atlas. F. LUCAS, Jr. PROPOSES to publish by subscription a new and beautiful UNIVERSAL CABINET ATLAS, comprised in one hundred and four sheets, … TERMS OF SUBSCRIPTION. For the complete Set of Maps, engraved in handsome style, printed on paper of the first quality, elegantly colored in the most appropriate manner, half bound in Russia, calf, or morocco backs and corners, the price, delivered to subscribers, will be twenty-five dollars….


Persons desirous of patronising the work, may see specimens of it, bound in various styles, by calling at the store of the publisher” (Baltimore Patriot, Vol. XXII, issue 123, page 3, for November 25, 1823).

Review copies of the atlas were evidently available in December, although the trade seem not to have been supplied until 1824. One editor noted,

“ELEGANT AND USEFUL ATLAS. The most cheap, convenient and useful collection of Maps, and the best executed in point of engraving, printing, paper, &c. that we have yet seen, is contained in the Atlas recently completed and offered for sale by Mr. F. Lucas, Jr. of this city. The scientific and geographical knowledge of Mr. Lucas, acquired by a long and devoted attention to the subject, his well known taste and assiduity, with very extensive means of information, has enabled him to furnish the American public with the most valuable compilation of geographical knowledge to be found in our country, while the price is more moderate than any book requiring equal labor and expense has ever been sold for by the publisher.” (Baltimore Patriot, Vol. XXII, issue 145, page 2, for December 20, 1823).

Fielding Lucas jr. (1781-1854)
Lucas was born at Fredericksburg, Virginia. He was in Philadelphia in 1798, perhaps serving an apprenticeship in the book-trade before moving to Baltimore, where he opened a stationery business in 1804. In 1807 he formed a partnership with the Philadelphia publishers John & Michael Conrad, to operate their Baltimore branch as “Conrad, Lucas & Co.” The partnership terminated in 1810, with Lucas taking over the business. Lucas became an active cartographic bookseller, advertising wall maps, atlases, and globes.

He published his first atlas in 1813, A New and Elegant General Atlas: Containing maps of each of the United States, with a subscription announcement made in September 1812. After publication of the New Cabinet Atlas (aka General Atlas), in 1825 he printed and published Robert Mills’ atlas of South Carolina. From the late 1820s / early 1830s, he moved away from atlas production, although he continued to issue separate maps, many in pocket format.

In all, a rare and delightful survival of an interesting experiment in early American atlas production.

Rarity and references
OCLC 42602600, giving holdings at the Library of Congress and Osher Map Library (Another is held by the Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library.) Not in Phillips and Le Gear, Atlases, but see #742 for the complete General Atlas.