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First Site of Stanford's Rare Map of the Polar Regions

Fine example of Edward Stanford's map of the North Polar Regions, featuring the furthest most points reached by numerous exploring expeditions.

Published on December 2, 1878, the map notes the names and dates of explorers, from the earliest time up to Julius von Payer's Austro-Hungarian Expedition (1872-74), which resulted in the discovery of Franz-Josef Land, along with other discoveries by the same expedition in 1873.

Centered on the North Pole, Stanford's map reaches as far south as 50° North Latitude. All countries are distinguished by their own colors, and major geographic and oceanic features are labeled.

Most interesting, is the labeling of the furthest-most points of literally dozens of expeditions of discovery, along with the corresponding dates (printed in red). These extend chronologically from Sebastian Cabot's supposed visit to northern Newfoundland in 1497 to the Austro-Hungarian expedition of 1872-74. All the great names are mentioned, including Frobisher, Davis, Hudson, Baffin, Barents, Bering, Franklin, Nordenskjold, Ross and Peary, amongst many others. The amount of information featured on the map is truly extraordinary, and is unrivalled by any Arctic map of comparable size.

The map was issued Edward Stanford, then Britain's leading map publisher, in an effort to capitalize on the great contemporary interest in Polar expeditions, seen as the 'last frontier' in global exploration. Stanford had good connections with academic institutions such as the Royal Geographical Society and government bodies such as the Admiralty, so was always able to gain the most accurate information. The present map was one of Stanford's series of progressively updated maps of the Arctic Regions, the first of which was published around 1875, and the last issued in the 1930s.


This is the first example of the 1875 edition we have seen on the market (dealer catalogs and auctions listed by Rare Book Hub) since a Francis Edwards Catalog entry in 1982.

Condition Description
Dissected and laid on linen, with original covers. Minor soiling.
Edward Stanford Biography

Edward Stanford (1827-1904) was a prominent British mapmaker and publisher. A native of Holborn in the heart of London, Edward was apprenticed to a printer and stationer at the age of 14. After his first master died, he worked with several others, including Trelawny W. Saunders of Charing Cross. Saunders oversaw young Edward’s early career, ensuring that he became a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. Associations with the Society eventually brought Sanders much business and gave him a reputation as a publisher of explorers. As testament to this reputation, the Stanford Range in British Columbia was named for him by John Palliser.

Stanford briefly partnered with Saunders in 1852 before striking out on his own in 1853. He was an agent for the Ordnance Survey, the Admiralty, the Geological Survey, the Trigonometrical Survey of India, and the India Office. He also controlled the maps of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, another lucrative source of income. In 1857, Stanford founded his namesake Geographical Establishment, with Saunders and A. K. Johnston as engravers. Thereafter, Stanford was known for his “library maps”, particularly those of Africa and Asia.

Although he had authored many maps, the Harrow Atlas of Modern Geography and a similar volume on classical geography, Stanford is better remembered today as the leader of a successful map business. Ever in search of more inventory, he acquired the plates and stock of John Arrowsmith, heir of the Arrowmsith family firm, in 1874. By 1881 he employed 87 people at his premises at 6 Charing Cross Road, Saunders’ old address. As he aged, he phased in his son Edward Jr. to run the business. He died in 1904. The business survived him, and the Stanford’s shop is still a prominent London landmark today.