A large and striking map purporting to depict the predominant religions around the world as well as the global distribution of Protestant missionary activities. Though it was well reviewed at the time of publication, to modern eyes the Missionary Map is a work of flagrant, multi-faceted and uncritical bigotry, useless as a work of geography but interesting as a portal into the early-Victorian worldview.
Per the label on the slipcase, the countries of the world are color coded “to shew the prevailing state of religion” whether Protestant, Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, “Mahometan”, “Decayed Christian” or “Heathen”. Roman type is used to indicate the cities and towns where Protestant missions are located (The map was issued with The Missionary Guide Book, not present here, which was intended as a comprehensive guide to Protestant missionary activities worldwide.) Larger-scale inset maps at the corners, each set against a trompe-l’oeil border, depict British North America, India South Africa, and Guiana and the West Indies—all regions with large numbers of missions.
It is no accident that the mapmaker has chosen to shade the purportedly “heathen” regions black, a not-so-subtle reference to their non-Caucasian inhabitants, with connotations of darkness, ignorance and even evil. This strategy of using meaning-laden coloring is frequently seen on persuasive maps. Consider for example this Civil War-era map charting the distribution of slaveholding in Virginia, or this much later map documenting the progress of suffrage for women in the United States.
Tooley’s Dictionary of Mapmakers describes Edward Gover as a “draughtsman, engraver and publisher” active between at least 1840 and 1854. During those years he was a prolific producer of maps and atlases covering a wide range of subjects, both contemporary and historical, and secular and religious.