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A Map of the Island of Matrimony by John Thomson

  • Author: THOMSON, John
  • Date: c1815
  • Dimensions: 20.4 x 16.8 cms


Early 19th Century Scottish cartographer John Thomson’s rarely seen imaginary “Map of the Island of Matrimony”

About this piece:

A Map of the Island of Matrimony by John Thomson

Original wash colouring. Good margins. Overall fine condition. Additional imprint: [L c] Published as the Act directs by John Thomson.

Scottish cartographer, John Thomson, is perhaps best known for the important large folio World Atlas, ANew General Atlas, published in Edinburgh in 1814 and a subsequent Atlas of Scotland published in 1827.

This unusual map of the Island of Matrimony appears to be a rare separately published map of Thomson’s own design. It varies from other contemporary models and templates insofar as it reverts to the earlier 18th Century outline of the land of Matrimony as an Island, following Le Noble, but uses more classically-based mythical Greek references for the designation and division of the Island’s different regions and territories. The Island of Matrimony is surrounded on three sides by waters labelled with positive titles such as Ocean of Love and Happiness, Ocean of Delights, and Ocean of Peace and Plenty. Off its southern shores, adjacent to Stormy Head and Discord Bay, lies the Turbulent Ocean. In the upper left of the island, the weary voyager approaches the shores of the Province of Solemnisation, having negotiated the offshore Dangerous Shoals between Cupid’s Arrow and Cupid’s Head, and makes landfall at Welcome Port. Inland can be found the Temple of Hymen, designated by a small church, and situated on the shores of the Gulf of Elysium. Each of the additional Provinces of the Island is designated by a term identified with a particular stage in a couple’s progression towards the state of Matrimony or a particular human sensibility or emotion connected with matrimony or the fall-out of unsuccessful union. In addition, each of the fifteen Provinces has a principal settlement, a Temple, whose name is drawn from the rich lexicon of Greek mythology. So it is that we have the Provinces of Rumination, Alteration and Separation, associated with the Temples of the Three Fates, Clotho, Atropos and Lachesis. Equally the bleaker more negatively named southern Provinces of Desperation, Irritation and Disputation are linked to the three Erinyes or Eumenides of Greek mythology, the Three Furies, Tisiphone (Vengeance), Megaera (Jealousy) and Alecto (Anger).Additionally Thomson labels the following further nine Provinces with their associated Temples : Acceptation (Temple of Cecrops); Agitation (Temple of Euphorsyne); Approbation (Temple of Psyche); Hesitation (Temple of Erato); Declaration (Temple of Cupid); Admiration (Temple of Narcissus); Flirtation (Temple of Momus); Possession (Temple of Venus); and Destruction (Temple of Nox). Two large inland lakes, Lake Folly and Lake Content are shown as also numerous rivers including, in the south, the Selimnas, Lethe (one of the rivers of the Greek underworld) and the Acheron (another of Hades’ rivers) and in the north, the Maeander, Pensus, Naiades and Permessus. Coastal features, such as coves, bays, points and promontories, generally reflect the sensibilities and emotions of the Provinces in which they are located, becoming increasingly negative and bleak along the Island’s southern shorelines, with for example such landmarks as Quarrelsome Head, Unhappy Town, Stormy Head, Snake Harbour and Cape Dissension. A scale is provided lower left, indicating a basic measurement of 80 Love links to a Mile. To the lower right a stylized compass spur takes the form of a bow and arrow with a small emblematic heart (above the arrow tip) corresponding to North.

In all a most unusual and exceedingly scarce matrimonial map that probably merits more detailed academic study. Certainly a most interesting and barely-known adjunct to Scotsman John Thomson’s better-known mainstream cartographic publications of the early 19th Century.