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Goa, India: Carta do Territorio Portuguez de Goa correcta por J.F. d’Assa Castel Branco, Tenente d’Engenheiros em 1890.



A very rare, large-format separately issued map of the Portuguese Territory of Goa, India; being the finest general map of the colony issued during the second half of the 19th Century, with the present edition being the first major map to depict the entire completed line of the Mormugao Railway, Goa’s first railroad; predicated upon the stellar surveys of the Goa-born engineer Lieutenant José Frederico d’Assa Castel Branco.


Lithograph with original full hand colour, dissected into 32 sections and mounted upon original linen and folding loose into original red pebbled cloth covers bearing short title debossed in gilt (Good, toned, especially along section edges, linen splitting along some folds with some recent archival reinforcements, covers with light wear and mild staining especially to spine), 97 x 67 cm (38 x 26 inches).


1 in stock


This impressive map is the finest survey of the Portuguese Territory of Goa, India, produced during the second half of the 19th Century.  It is based upon advanced trigonometric surveys conducted by Lieutenant José Frederico d’Assa Castel Branco, a Goa-born military engineer, and represents a breakthrough in the scientific cartography of the colony.  The map was commissioned by the Goa bookseller, A. Mathias Gomes & Filhos, and was published in Paris by A. Chaix & Cie, a lithographer that specialized in railway maps and plans.


The map embraces all the Territory of Goa, a Portuguese enclave along the Arabian Sea, entirely bordered by British India.  The map showcases Goa’s topography in grand fashion, noting every river, coastal headland and estuary, while the ranges of hills are expressed though subtle hachures.  The territory is divided into 14 provinces which are each outlined in their own resplendent original colours.


The ‘Convenções’, in the lower right, identifies the symbols used for ‘Caminhos’ (large / post roads); ‘Estradas’ (smaller / country roads); ‘Igrejas’ (churches); ‘Pagodes’ (Hindu temples); ‘Aldeas’ (villages); and ‘Fortes’ (forts), which are marked throughout the map.  Panjim (today Panaji), the territorial capital, appears prominently in the north-west.


A key feature of map is the prominent depiction of the West of India Portuguese Railway (popularly known as the Mormugao Railway), the first railroad in Goa.  During the mid-19th century, Goa’s economy suffered from bureaucratic inertia, leading to the emigration of many Goans, mostly to Bombay.  To re-boot the economy, the Portuguese colonial authorities and the British Raj signed the Anglo-Portuguese Treaty of 1878, whereby the British would finance massive development projects in Goa, in return for free trade and extensive commercial privileges.  The cornerstone of this agreement was the transformation of the stellar natural harbour of Mormugoa into a modern commercial port, which was to be connected to British India by railroad.  This arrangement would give the British a monopoly on Goa’s lucrative salt industry, as well as a new nexus for trade connecting the Deccan to global markets.  Meanwhile, Goa would benefit from new, first-class infrastructure, and the creation of thousands of relatively high-paying jobs, while the colonial treasury would gain increased tax receipts.


Construction on the Mormugao Railway commenced in 1882, with the first section of track from Mormugoa to Sanvordem, totaling 43 km, inaugurated in December 1887.  The following year, this was extended to Castle Rock, in British India (today in Karnataka), whereupon Goa became connected to the British Indian general network.  In time, the Mormugao Railway was extended to run 457 km from Mormugoa to Guntakal (today in Andhra Pradesh).


The railway is shown on the present map to snake across Goa, as a bold black line, with the various stations clearly marked and named.


The chart in the lower left, features the latest statistics for the territory and each of its provinces.  It distinguishes between the provinces which are ‘Velhas Conquistas’, lands taken by the Portuguese during the 16th Century (5 provinces), with the ‘Novas Conquistas’ (10 provinces), lands that had been acquired since.  It notes the land area for each province (the entire territory embraces 3,370 km sq.); as well as the number of ‘Freguezias’ (parishes); and ‘Aldeas’ (villages).  Also noted are the populations of each province including the number of Roman Catholics (both male and female) and non-Catholics (both male and female).  Due to its over 350 years of Portuguese domination, Goa was one of the few majority Christian regions in India; there were 245,785 Catholics versus 144,745 non-Catholics (mostly Hindus), out of a total population of 390,500.


Goa was conquered for Portugal by Alfonso de Albuquerque in 1510, and quickly became one of the most important centres in Asia, the capital of a vast Lusitanian maritime empire, which included outposts ranging from Mozambique to Japan.  Through the 16th Century, Goa was the World’s largest entrpôt for spices and the epicentre for the spread of Catholicism in Asia.  From the 17th Century onward, Goa, and the Portugal Empire in general declined in economic power.  However, Goa remained an important regional centre, benefiting from the protection of Britain, Portugal’s ancient ally.


The territory was traditionally centred upon the city of Velha Goa (marked here as ‘Gôa’), located a way up the Goa River.  However, the site proved unhealthful and the capital was formally moved to Panjim, near the coast, in 1843.


As for cartography, the territory was first generally mapped to scientific standards by the British military surveyor James Garling in 1814.  This survey was viewed at the time to be one of the finest regional surveys conducted in India, executed as part of the Great Trigonometric Survey of India, a grand British project to map the entire subcontinent that lasted from 1802 to 1870.  Portugal allowed Garling to map Goa, as the territory relied upon British military protection during the period of the Napoleonic Wars.  For the next 60 years or so, all general maps of Goa were predicated upon Garling’s template, with aspects merely being updated by Portuguese cartographers.


In the 1870s, José Frederico d’Assa Castel Branco, a military surveyor who was a senior member of the colonial public works department, was charged by Goa’s governor with re-mapping the entire territory to high trigonometrical standards, benefitting from equipment that had been greatly improved since Garling’s time.  The result was the first edition of the present stellar map, which was published in 1878, which was importantly the first general map of Goa to definitively break past the Garling template.


Assa Castel Branco’s map remained the base map of the colony for many years.  The present second edition was issued in 1890 and is largely faithful to the first issue except for some updates, notably the critical addition of the Mormugao Railway.  The map was subsequently copied by several other Portuguese official cartographers.  It is worth noting that Assa Castel Branco created a large school map of the colony, Carta do Territorio de Goa para Uso das Escolas Primarias (1878), which is today very rare.


José Frederico d’Assa Castel Branco: Leading Goan Engineer-Cartographer


José Frederico d’Assa Castel Branco (1836 – 1912) was the most important cartographer and civil engineer in Portuguese India during the later 19th Century.  He was born in Goa and studied at the Escola Mathemática e Militar de Goa in 1850, whereupon he entered the Portuguese military.  He joined the State Engineering department of Portuguese India in 1860, while retaining his military rank.  Over the next several years, he oversaw many civil engineering projects and conducted trigonometrical surveys of the Goan countryside, leading the publication of the present map.  In 1879, in part as recognition of his stellar cartographic activities, Assa Castel Branco was promoted to become the Deputy Director of the State Engineers.  He was then responsible for building several of the major public edifices of Panjim, including the Public Works headquarters, Post Office, Archbishop’s Palace and the Meteorological Observatory.  In 1887, Assa Castel Branco became a professor of engineering at the Escola Profissional e no Liceu de Goa and was promoted to become the Director General of Public Works of Portuguese India the following year.  In addition to his maps, he published a work on weights and measures, Pesos e medidas portuguezes, inglezes, indianos e portuguez-indianos comparados com os do systema metrico decimal (Nova Goa: Imprensa Nacional, 1898).  In 1901, he retired from the army with the rank of General but continued to work as an engineer until his 70th birthday in 1906.


A Note on Rarity


Both the 1878 and the 1890 editions of Assa Castel Branco’s map of Goa are very rare, with the latter issue being even scarcer than the former.  We can trace only 2 institutional examples of the 1890 edition, held by the Biblioteca Nacional de Portugal and the Arquivo Histórico Ultramarino (Lisbon).  We are aware of as many as 10 institutional examples of the 1878 edition as appearing in libraries worldwide.  Moreover, we aware of only a single example of either of the editions as being offered on the market in the last 25 years, being an 1878 edition that we sold in 2018.


References: Biblioteca Nacional de Portugal: C.C.d. 147 R.; Arquivo Histórico Ultramarino (Lisbon): PT/AHU/CARTI/058/00784: Avelino TEIXEIRA DA MOTA, Cartas antigas da India existentes em Portugal, (Lisbon, 1980), no. 176 (p. 77-8).



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