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A Rare Louise Jefferson Pictorial Map

Rare pictorial map illustrating the distribution of the bible around the world via Bible Societies and similar organizations, drawn by African American artist Louise E. Jefferson for the National Council of Churches in 1947.

The map provides historical vignettes on important printings and other events in the history of the Bible, such as the first American Bible (1638), first Indian Bible (1661-63), John Wycliffe translation of the Vulgate into English (1380-84), St. Jerome Latin Bible (the Vulgate) translated from the original tongues to at Bethlehem (circa 405), Jonathan Gable tranlation os St. Matthew into Japanese and printed on woodblocks in Yokahama (1871), etc.

For full biography of Louis Jefferson, please see below. The Louise Jefferson papers are held by the Amistad Research Center at Tulane University.


The map is very rare.  This is the first example we have ever seen on the market.

OCLC locates copies at NYPL, Southern Illinois University and University of Kansas.

Laura Bliss:
Louise E. Jefferson Biography

The following Biography is excerpted from the Tulane University website:

Jefferson was born in Washington, D.C. in 1908 . . . the only child of Louise and Paul Jefferson. Her father was a calligrapher for the United States Treasury, and her mother made a living playing piano and singing aboard cruise ships on the Potomac River. . . 

Louise began her training at Hunter College in New York City where she studied fine art, and then on to Columbia University where she studied graphic arts. During her time in New York City, Jefferson became involved with the Harlem Artist’s Guild, and is credited as a founding member. She was an active member of the artistic community during the Harlem Renaissance, and she became close friends with poet Langston Hughes, and shared an apartment with Pauli Murray, who would become an influential activist, lawyer, and priest.

At the start of her career, Jefferson designed posters for the YWCA in New York City, until she was discovered by the Friendship Press, the publishing branch for the National Council of Churches. By 1942, Jefferson was the Artistic Director for the Friendship Press and she had control of every aspect of the Press’s book productions. While working for Friendship Press, Jefferson also accepted freelance work from publishing companies Doubleday, Macmillan, and Viking, and also from the University presses of Columbia, Oxford, Rutgers, and Syracuse. Jefferson would retire from the Friendship press in 1960, but she remained busy designing book jackets and maps for publishing companies and Universities.

Once retired, Jefferson set her sights on the most ambitious project of her life. Over the course of several years, Jefferson made five trips to Africa to do research for what would become her book, The Decorative Arts of Africa. She travelled the continent extensively, visiting Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Sudan, Uganda, and Zimbabwe. Jefferson used her photographs and drawings from her adventures to create The Decorative Arts of Africa, which was published in 1973. Containing over 300 illustrations, Louise describes her book “as a visual sampling of what the spirit and tempo of the African artist’s role has been in the past and what it continues to be today.”

In her later years, Jefferson settled down in the picturesque town of Litchfield Connecticut, where she maintained an art studio and could always be found with her beloved camera, ready to capture a photo at a moment’s notice. She spent the last few years of her life tending to her garden, entertaining friends, and taking snapshots around Litchfield. Louise Jefferson passed away in 2002 at the age of 93.