Mammoth League of Nations map from 1927

Laura H. Martin, THE LEAGUE OF NATIONS 1927. Washington, DC, 1925/1927.
Lithographic map in colors on three unjoined sheets, ca. 4’h x 8’w at neat line plus margins if joined. Sheets somewhat unevenly toned, some minor soiling and edge wear. Very good.

A mammoth 32-square-foot thematic map of the League of Nations, published in 1927 by Dr. Laura H. Martin.

The League of Nations was formed in 1920 as a response to the horrors of the First World War and was the first global body dedicated to the preservation of peace. Its charter committed members to arms reduction, collective security and a set of procedures for the peaceful resolution of disputes.  Though at its height it had 58 member nations, the United States never joined, its organizational structure hindered decisive action, and it ultimately proved incapable of preventing Axis aggression and the outbreak of the Second World War.

Using as a base map an equal-area projection map of the world, map maker Laura Martin compiled this mammoth wall map describing the state of the League of Nations as of 1927. The most significant feature is her use of color and shading to differentiate different nations’ relationship to the organization. She distinguishes five levels of status: member nations, areas under League mandate (former German colonies and certain Ottoman provinces), nations not in the League (including the United States), those not in the League but cooperating unofficially (again, including the United States), and those that have signed but not ratified the League Convenant (the United States again). The map is complemented by several tables, including one listing member and non-member nations and comparing their relative populations.

Martin’s choice of red to indicate member nations was probably ill advised, in light of the growing anti-Communist sentiment in the United States at the time.  

Publication history
Map maker Laura Martin (1884-1956) was an expert on legal issues relating to sovereignty in Antarctica, at a time when explorers from Europe, the United States and even Japan were pushing ever further into the interior of that continent.  She was married to Lt. Col. Lawrence Martin (1880-1955), the first Chief of the Geography and Map Division of the Library of Congress.

The map was first issued in a small-format version in 1925 by the University of Chicago Press and advertised in the International Journal of Ethics (vol. 35, no. 4 (Jul., 1925)).The ad read in part:

“A new map in color that will be of much service to all interested in current affairs…. This map is drawn on Dr. J. Paul Goode’s homolosine or equal-area projection. It is 20 ½ inches x 10 ½ inches in size, suitable for desk and office use….  A larger size for lecture use (8 X 4 feet, to sell at about $3 a copy) is contemplated for later publication.


“8 cents each, postpaid 10 cents. Special prices on quantities.”

Offered here is the large-format version, sold for $3 a copy. No image of the small map of 1925 appears on line, and I cannot say for certain whether the 1927 map differs in anything other than size.  However, the large-format map was presumably updated to reflect the accession of Germany to the League in 1926.

OCLC 253593097 (Deutsche Zentralbibliothek), 316514769 (National Library of Scotland), and 785747185(Univ. of Chicago) only.  OCLC also locates several holdings of the small-format map issued in 1925. (May 2019)