Although the American map and atlas publishing industry was centered in Philadelphia and New York during the 19th century, Boston also developed a thriving map trade aimed primarily at the educational market. One of the first Bostonians to engage in atlas compilation was Thomas Bradford, who published a number of World and United States atlases during the 1830s.
Bradford entered the atlas trade after first working as an assistant editor of the America Encyclopedia. Using a similar encyclopedic format, his atlas publications were some of the first American atlases where the maps were supplemented with lengthy geographical descriptions and statistical tables. Another distinguishing feature of his publications was the innovative design of the frontispieces and title pages. In the example shown here, rather than personifying the continents with the classical icons that were used so frequently during the Renaissance and Baroque periods, he illustrated "five varieties of the human race" with their native costume-- American, African, Caucasian, Malay, and Mongol.
In departing from the traditional European approach to atlas compilation where maps of European countries dominated the publication, the contents and arrangement of maps in this atlas reflect a decidedly American bias. Almost half of the maps pertain to North America, starting with maps of Maine, New Hampshire-Vermont, and Massachusetts, proceeding south to Florida and west to the Mississippi, followed by Canada and Mexico