This fine, large format (relative for its context) map was published by the major Calcutta stationer and newspaper publisher Samuel Smith & Co. It is one of the earliest lithographed general maps of the Indian Subcontinent created in India, coming within a first few years of that printing medium being introduced to India, and some time before map publishing on the Subcontinent became relatively widespread in the 1830s and ’40s.
The map embraces the great majority of India, and adjacent areas, and extends from the Indus, in the northwest, down to the Gulf of Siam, in the southeast, and from the Himalayas in the north, down to Ceylon, in the south. Regions and countries (ex. The ‘Birman Empire’) are labelled, while the coasts are carefully delineated, major rivers are depicted and mountains are shown by lines of hachures, while swamps areas are represented by wavy lies.
The map showcases India at a critical juncture, shortly after the East India Company (EIC), the corporate entity that managed Britain’s interests in South and Southeast Asia, gained domination over most of the Subcontinent following its victory during the Third Anglo-Maratha War (1817-8). The areas under British control are shown divided into labelled military districts, plus some princely states (sovereign states under British protection, ex. the ‘Nizam’s Dominions’), each coloured in their own attractive hue of watercolour. It shows that only the northwest of India was yet to be conquered by Britain, which would occur during the 1840s. The map also depicts the scene immediately before the First Anglo-Burmese War (1824-6), whereupon Britain conquered the southern part of Burma.
All major cities are labelled, while all key roads are delineated. Additionally, as described in the ‘Remarks’, it is noted that ‘Those names written in common print are all Military Stations containing more than five Companies & those places that contain less are distinguished thus ‘[symbol of a four-petalled flower]’ / ‘[Black Dots]’ show the Civil Stations in Bengal’.
The present map is an ‘incunable’ of Indian lithography, having been made barely two years after the introduction of the medium to the Subcontinent, in 1822. Copper engraving, which had previously often been used to publish maps in India was extremely ill-suited to the climate and environment of the region and, as such, only a small number of maps, generally of a small format, were published in India during the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
James Nathaniel Rind introduced lithography to India, in August 1822, whereupon he opened the Asiatic Lithographic Company Press in Calcutta. Lithography was very well-suited to India, as printing stones could be sourced domestically, it worked well in humid, tropical climates, and local artists were adept at working in the medium, in part due to their experience printing textiles (many of the greatest early lithographers in India were Bengalis). Critically, it was much easier and cheaper to print maps by lithography than by copperplate, allowing larger and more detailed works to be issued in India.
The privately owned Asiatic Lithographic Press, which had a bizarre and complicated relationship with the newly established Government Lithographic Press (both presses were initially run by the Rind and his partner, Thomas Black, who were accused of illegally funneling crown resources to their private enterprise), was the pioneer of publishing maps on stone in India. However, the medium spread to other workshops, although the nature of this process had not been well researched. That being said, the print runs of all maps produced in India in the 1820s were very small, and their survival rate very low.
Map publishing in India remained “boutiquey” until the 1830s, when lithographers such as Jean-Baptiste Tassin (who operated in Calcutta between 1830 and 1844), produced larger print runs of multiple titles. The Survey of India, which would become the largest map publisher on the Subcontinent, would not begin to produce works in any significant quantity until the period of the First Anglo-Afghan War (1839-42).
The present map is the earliest general map of India lithographed on the Subcontinent of which we are aware. Its crude technical production, which attempts to mimic copperplate engraving in its style, is indicative of the pioneering nature of the technique.
The map was created by Samuel Smith & Co., a leading Calcutta stationer and publisher. Its proprietor, Samuel Smith, became a heavyweight in the Indian print world in 1821, when he bought the Bengal Harkuru Press, a leading Calcutta daily English language newspaper that operated between 1795 and 1866 (from 1827 it was known as The Bengal Hurkaru and Chronicle, after it took over one of its main rivals). In addition to newsprint, Smith specialized in making almanacs, guides and directories, which while popular in their time, today survive in only a handful of examples.
We gather that the present map was published within the New Annual Bengal Directory and Calcutta Kalendar for the Year 1824 (Calcutta: Samuel Smith & Co. at the Bengal Harkuru Press, 1824). A line on page i of this work reads:
A Map of Hindoostan. This map has been compiled from the best authorities at very considerable trouble and expense, expressly for their Work. The Publishers beg to assure the Public it may be full relied on and they challenge the discovery of an error of an importance in tit: it had been dived into Military Divisions, and all the Civil and Military Stations and public roads are accurately laid down. The Publishers hope in another year to be able to present their Subscribers with a complete Map of Calcutta.
A Note on Rarity
As with all early lithographed maps made in India, the present work is extremely rare. We are aware of only a single other example as having appeared on the market. Moreover, we cannot definitively trace any institutional examples of the map. While we can locate 2 institutional examples of the New Annual Bengal Directory and Calcutta Kalendar for the Year 1824, we know that one of these copies lacks the map, while we have not been able to consult the remaining example, held by the British Library.
References: N/A – Map not recorded in literature or in online catalogues.