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BURMA – TAVOY (DAWEI) MAP WITH MSS. ADDITIONS OF MINING CONCESSIONS: Map of the Tavoy District / Scale 1 inch = 2 miles.


Extremely rare – seemingly unrecorded – a large, separately-issued map of the Tavoy (Dawei) District of Tenasserim, Burma made by the engineer J.V. Griffin and published in 1914 by the government press in Rangoon – a unique example with extensive contemporary manuscript additions showcasing numerous named mining concessions and the routes of proposed roads.

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Lithograph in 3 colours with extensive contemporary manuscript additions in red pen and coloured wash (Fair, some fraying and tears along original folds and in margins, most tears closed from verso with archival tape, some creasing, some minor loss in upper centre and upper left), 100.5 x 68.5 cm (39.5 x 27 inches).


This is a large, separately-issued topographical survey map of the Tavoy District (today Dawei) of Tenasserim, southern Burma, made during the early months of World War I.  It is predicated upon surveys by J.V. Griffin, a senior engineer with the Burmese Public Works Department, and was published in Rangoon by the ‘G.B.C.P.O.’ (as noted in the lower-left corner of the map, meaning the Government of Burma Colonial Printing Office, or simply Government of Burma Printing Office).

The map is highly detailed and accurate, labelling the city of Tavoy and the district’s numerous small villages; delineating the area’s embryonic road system; labelling key sites, such as rubber plantations; as well as carefully charting the coastlines, rivers and creeks, while points of elevation are marked by tan-coloured hachures.  The nature of the lithography is relatively crude, compared to maps printed in Calcutta at the time, indicative of the ‘workshop-like’ atmosphere at the G.B.C.P.O.  The print runs of maps made in Rangoon tended to be small and their survival rate very low – we cannot trace even a reference to the present map, let alone the location of another example.

Importantly, the present example of the map is unique in that it features extensive contemporary manuscript additions, outlining and labelling numerous mining concessions, plus delineating the routes of the proposed new roads that were to be constructed to service the operations.  The manuscript ‘Reference’, in the lower left quadrant, labels concessions that are ‘1. Sanctioned and Pending Mining Leases’ (outlined in Pink); areas subject to ‘2. Mining Licenses’ (outlined in orange); ‘3. Proposed Roads’ (red intermittent lines); ‘4. Serial Nos [of roads]’; ‘5. Mileage [between points along proposed roads]’.  Most of the concessions would concern the mining of tin, but also of iron ore and tungsten.  Tenasserim was long known to be rich in these minerals, but it was only during the early 20th Century that technical and economic conditions permitted their large-scale exploitation.  The present map was made during a mining boom fuelled by the commencement of World War I, whereupon the British Empire’s military machine was in desperate need of such minerals, especially those found in areas that were securely under British-Entente control, such a Burma.  Indeed, ore from Burma would be quickly sent to refineries in India and Australia, with the resulting metal serving munitions works and shipyards.  It is interesting to note that the named proprietors of the mining concessions reflected the ethnic diversity of the Rangoon business community which was the main investor in the Tavoy mines; the properties are variously labelled with Burmese, Chinese and English names (including female proprietors).  The identity of the individual who added the manuscript information to the map is not known.

The surveyor responsible for the printed map, J.V. Griffin, was active as an engineer with the Burmese Public Works Department roughly between 1900 and 1920.  In addition to conducting trigonometrical surveys and infrastructure projects, he oversaw several important archaeological digs across Burma.  When he executed the survey for the present map, in November 1914, he was the Superintending Engineer of the ‘Maritime Circle’, a division of the Public Works Department which concerned Burma’s coastal districts, including Tavoy.

References: N / A – Seemingly Unrecorded.  Cf. [re: mining in the Tavoy District:] Nicholas J. Gardiner, John P. Sykes, Allan Trench and Laurence J. Robb, ‘Tin Mining in Myanmar: Production and Potential’, Resources Policy, no. 46 (2015), pp. 219-33.

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