‘Asia’ and ‘North America’ in 'An atlas [...] designed to show the stations of the protestant missionaries', 1839

In 1839, James Wyld published a mission atlas showing the locations of Protestant missions around the world. These two maps of North America and Asia, respectively, show a color-coded socio-political division of the world.

Go to the digital version ('Asia')
Go to the digital version ('North America')

The map of North America shows the British overseas territories in pink, which also includes ‘Mosquito Coast’ and Jamaica. The territories of the United States, Greenland, Iceland, Guatemala and Santo Domingo are shown in green on this map, representing independent republics. Only in these pink and green areas can abbreviations be found for the Protestant missions active on the spot. The yellow areas represent (parts of) sovereign empires while the blue areas Texas and Cuba probably represent (former) Spanish areas or areas in transition of political power. In contrast, the map of Asia shows a distribution of areas based on predominant religious affinity. It is remarkable that Hinduism (‘religion of Brahma’) and Buddhism are mentioned separately: during this period they were often classified under ‘heathen religions’. Although the names of regions, countries or empires are depicted on the map, the color coding is focused on religious beliefs. In both maps an eye is depicted in a cloud, surrounded by sun rays and accompanied by a Christian cross: the all-seeing eye of God, symbolizing divine providence.

James Wyld (1812-1887) was a geographer and mapmaker who was ‘Geographer to the Queen’. He was famous for Wyld’s Great Globe, a 20-meter-high globe exhibited in London's Leicester Square in the 1850s that people could climb into. In the intro to the atlas, he wrote that this map was one of the first mission maps: ‘Maps have not hitherto been much used to illustrate the labor of the Christian community’. The atlas is dedicated to ‘Missionaries of the Christian World […] not only spread the religion of truth, but scatter amongst the untaught nations the blessings of civilization’.