Copper engraving (Very Good, some minor professional reinforcement to paper thinness along verso of centrefold with a few pinholes, not affecting print quality; strong, dark engraving impression; some very faint and neat contemporary manuscript notes in pen to lower-right blank margin), 33.5 x 74 cm (13 x 29 inches) plus very wide blank margins.
This fine and very rare work is the first issue of the first large-format printed sea chart to focus on the south coast of Hainan, the great tropical island that lies off of China’s southernmost shores. It was printed by the leading London firm of Sayer & Bennett, and is directly based on the manuscript chart made by John Haldane, a mariner working for the British East India Company (EIC), who surveyed the coast in 1776-7.
The chart embraces much of the south coast of Hainan, which owing to its verdant, tropical landscape and fabulous beaches, is today one of East Asia’s most popular recreation areas. Travelling from the west (left) to the east (right), we start at the castellated fort labelled ‘Guichou’, which is located at today’s Gangmen Harbour / Yazhou area. Further on, we come to ‘Samouy’, the site of modern Sanya, Southern Hainan’s largest city. Next, is ‘Galoon Bay’, or Yalong Bay, today Hainan’s premier resort area with its famous 7.5-kilometre long beach and luxury hotels. To the northeast, is a fort labelled ‘Tonckeu’, at the site of Tengquiogang, on Tufu Bay; while further along is a fort labelled ‘Tongsoy’, which guards the mouth of the ‘Salt Water Lake’ (Xincun Harbour). Travelling further east one finds ‘Linksuey’ (Lingshui) and the island of ‘Tinhosa’ (Dazhou Island), an important navigational marker. All along the coastline, the waters feature copious bathymetric soundings, notes on the nature of the benthos, and the locations of hazards; while throughout traversed by rhumb lines.
The Story behind the Creation of Haldane’s Chart
The story behind the creation of the present chart is intriguing. The south coast of Hainan was long a popular stopover for European vessels on their way to and from the Strait of Malacca to Canton (Guangzhou), China’s greatest international trading port. However, vessels tended to stay only briefly along the Hainan coast, just pausing to re-victual, without making any attempt to map the island’s coastlines. Crucially, the winds and currents which provided commodious passage through the South China Sea were seasonal and if one arrived in the area at the wrong time, the journey ahead could prove extremely difficult.
In the autumn of 1776, the Earl of Sandwich, a vessel in the service of the British East India Company (EIC), commanded by Captain Charles Deane, endeavoured to make the voyage from India to Canton, but arrived too late in the season to take advantage of the seasonal conditions. Deane brought the Sandwich into Yalong Bay, deciding to remain there for most the winter until sailing conditions improved. The layover mustn’t have seemed an imposition, as the crew enjoyed a tropical paradise, augmented by hospitality of the local Hainanese who generally welcomed polite Westerners.
Importantly, the Master of the Sandwich, John Haldane had the occasion to survey the south coast of Hainan. Although Haldane’s work did not meet the standards of a scientific systematic survey, it marked a vast improvement over the contemporary European knowledge of the coast, being of a practically useful, general planimetric accuracy. While little is known of James Haldane, he hailed from Scotland, and appears in records as a mariner sailing throughout the Indian Ocean and the Far East, variously in the employ of the EIC and a merchant Mungo Haldane (supposedly a relative), from 1762 until the early 1780s. It seems that by the time that the present map was published, Haldane had been promoted to captain in the EIC service, so being identified with that rank on the map.
It seems that at some point by 1780, Captain Deane had made his way to London, where he made Haldane’s charts available to chart makers, including the firm of Robert Sayer & John Bennett and Alexander Dalrymple, the Hydrographer of the EIC.
Sayer & Bennett promptly published the first printing of Haldane’s chart (the present map) at the beginning of 1781. Additionally, for the same atlas, they issued another of Haldane’s charts, that specifically focussed on Yalong Bay, Plan of Galloon Bay on the Island of Hay-Nan where the Ship Earl of Sandwich Capt. Charles Deane wintered in 1776 and 77 Having lost her Passage to China Survey’d by Capt. John Haldane (1781).
Haldane’s general chart of the south coast of Hainan was also issued (albeit in a reduced form) by Alexander Dalrymple, under the title: Chart of the South Coast of Hainan from Observations in the Ship Earl Sandwich 1776. Communicated by Capt. Charles Deane (London, 1786), published on the same sheet with another chart featuring a different rendering of the same coastline, based on the mapping done in 1742 by the Swedish mariner, Captain Karl Gustav Ekeberg.
Sayer & Bennett’s ‘The East-India Pilot, or Oriental Navigator’
The present sea chart was issued as part of the magnificent sea atlas of Asian and African waters issued by the leading London map publishers Robert Sayer & John Bennett, The East-India Pilot, or Oriental Navigator, 2 vols. (London, 1777-82), a very rare work which Rodney Shirley describes as their “most substantial compilation,” as is consisted of 124 charts on 111 sheets (the present map appears in the 2nd volume). Importantly, the work generally superseded William Herbert’s atlas, A New Directory for the East Indies (first issued: London, 1758), as the authoritative guide to African and Asian navigation during the late 18th and early 19th Centuries, a critical period which saw Britain attain naval dominance over the Indian Ocean and Asian Pacific regions.
Sayer & Bennett relied on the best sources for their charts, including: Johannes van Keulen II’s Nieuwe Lichtende Zee-Fakkel, volume 6 (Amsterdam 1753), otherwise known as the “Secret Atlas” of the VOC; Herbert’s New Directory; and, most interestingly, fresh, original sources, namely manuscripts supplied by agents of the East India Company (such as Haldane’s charts of Hainan).
Sayer & Bennett’s successors, Laurie & Whittle, reissued the The East-India Pilot, or Oriental Navigator (1797), prolonging its influence into the new century that followed.
The original Sayer & Bennett edition of the The East-India Pilot, or Oriental Navigator is a great rarity, and its constituent charts appear very infrequently.
The present chart of the South Coast of Hainan was issued in 3 states:
The First (being of the present example) – bears the imprint: ‘Printed for Robt. Sayer & J. Bennett, Chart-seller, No. 53 Fleet Street as the Act directs 1 Jany. 1781.’
The Second – bears the imprint: ‘Printed for Robt. Sayer, Print, Map & Chart-seller, No. 53 Fleet Street.’ [Not dated, but issued in the mid to late-1780s, after Sayer dissolved his partnership with Bennett]
The Third – bears the imprint of Sayer’s successor, Robert Laurie & James Whittle, dated 1794.
The present chart is very rare – We can trace no record of another example of the 1781 first edition appearing separately on the market since 1992: and we can trace only a single example of the 1794 Laurie & Whittle edition being offered on the market in the last generation.
References: Rodney Shirley, Maps in the Atlases of the British Library, vol. 2, (p. 1281), M.SAY-3a, nos. 89.