Atlas Stanford's London Atlas of Universal Geography (1884 - 1920s)

Folio Edition


After the death of John Arrowsmith in 1873, his stock, plates and copyright were purchased by Edward Stanford sr, another London map publisher, in July 1874.

Edward Stanford, now owner of the Arrowsmith copyright, followed his illustrious predecessor John Arrowsmith with an updated version of the atlas which he named Stanford's London Atlas of Universal Geography in 1887. This Atlas included both Arrowsmith and Stanford plates as the Preface to the 1887 edition states. Herbert quotes from a review of Stanford's 1887 Atlas, that it 'was known to be preparing for publication for many years'. Herbert also tells us that A Catalogue of maps and other geographical publications sold by Edward Stanford (1 March 1885) lists maps for sale such as 'Stanford's New London Atlas Map of South America', a suggestion that a new Atlas was in the making. Herbert (1989, p. 106-123).
Stanford like Arrowsmith also sold loose maps which he updated from time to time.

Again, as with Arrowsmith, Stanford's understanding of what comprised an 'edition' is at odds with the bibliographic norm. In the case of the Stanford Atlas an edition is solely controlled by the number of maps in an issue. It bears no relation whatsoever to revision or reissue of plates which is signaled by the use of the expression 'Issue'. Consequently there are many issues of the Stanford Atlas but only three editions, namely 1887 with 90 maps, 1894 with 100 maps and 1904 with 110 maps (Herbert, 1989, p.110). Herbert mentions four issues for the first 'edition' dated 1896, early and late, 1898, and 1901 and a further 12 variant issues of the third 'edition'. The Atlas continued to be published into the second decade of the twentieth century although the planned fourth edition of 1920 never eventuated even though advertised as being 'in active preparation' in the March 1920 issue of the Geographical Journal (Herbert, 1989, pp.120-121).
Before finishing with this outline sketch of the Stanford Atlas the reader's attention must be drawn to the existence of two issues of 'Printed For Private Circulation', Folio Edition Atlases, dated 1884 and 1885 which preceded the first edition of 1887. Between then and the actual publication date of the first edition a further twenty maps were added to the volume.
The Preliminary Folio Edition as it was called appeared with 70 maps, amongst which are two Arrowsmith maps of Australia namely, Australia from surveys made by order of the British Government … and the Eastern Portion of Australia.
Two copies of the Preliminary Folio Edition of 1884, belonging to the George Philip Archive, are held in the Map Room of the Royal Geographical Society with the Institute of British Geographers (IBG) in London. The two maps mentioned above appeared in the 1884 and in the 1885 'Printed for private circulation' copies and in the 1887 issues of the Stanford Atlas but thereafter only the east sheet continued to be used. Readers should consult Herbert's article on the London Atlas of Universal Geography for full details of this publishing venture (Herbert, 1989).

Published resources


  • Whitfield, Peter, The mapmakers : a history of Stanfords, Compendium, London, 2003, 128 pp. Details

Journal Articles

  • Herbert, Francis, 'The 'London Atlas of Universal Geography' from John Arrowsmith to Edward Stanford: Origin, Development and Dissolution of a British World Atlas from the 1830s to the 1930s', Imago Mundi, vol. 41, 1989, pp. 98-123. Details

Dorothy F. Prescott