The first attempt at economic mapping

A[ugust] F[riedrich] W[ilhelm] Crome / F.A. Pingeling Sculpsit Hamburg, NEUE CARTE VON EUROPA welch die merkwürdigsten Producte und vernehmsten Handelsplätze dem Flächen-Inhalt aller Europäischen Länder…. Dessau, 1782.
Engraving and etching on laid paper, 21 ¼”h x 28”w at neat line plus margins, outline color. Mended edge tears at top and some worm holes, primarily confined to margins.

A detailed thematic map illustrating European agricultural, extractive and manufacturing activity at the end of the 18th century. Thought to be the earliest example of economic mapping.

Crome’s map illustrates the distribution across Europe of the production of 56 commodities and other products, including gold, copper, wine, fruit, salt, hemp, silk, horses, and so on. The symbols for each are identified in an “Explanation” at the base of the map, which also describes a clever system of underlining used to differentiate whether a product is consumed domestically, processed domestically then consumed or exported, or exported outright. The map is flanked with tables listing each European country, its main products, and its land mass in square meters. The whole is adorned by a large and decorative dedicatory cartouche.

“One quasi-thematic map on an economic subject was published during the eighteenth century by A. F. W. Crome in 1782. It is generally considered to be the first of its kind. Crome, a teacher of geography and history at Dessau at the time, became professor of statistics and political economy… at Giessen. His “Neue Carte[…],” published in Dessau, contains a variety of symbols to show the occurrence of fifty-six commodities, along with others to show cities, ports, and such…. Crome’s map was very well received and was issued in several editions during the two decades following its first publication.” (Robinson, p. 55)

BRM2497 Crome portrait
A.F.W. Crome

Though trained as a priest, Crome (1753-1833) dedicated his career to secular education and scholarship, with a particular focus on economics, geography and history. His Neue Carte von Europa brought him a certain amount of renown and financial success, which apparently emboldened him to set his sights farther afield: Soon afterwards he wrote to Benjamin Franklin expressing his intention to publish a work on the United States economy accompanied by “an accurate map drawn on two large sheets attached, engraved in the same way as the map of the products of Europe, which… I have the honor to present you very humbly.” (unpublished letter, from the Benjamin Franklin Papers)

Robinson, Early Thematic Mapping, pp. 54-55, 141 (illus. p. 56).