Steel engraving, varnished with original hand colour, remounted during the 20th Century on fresh linen, with old lower wooden roller and modern upper roller (Good, map with varnish evenly toned and lightly cracked but forming a nice patina, the remounting of linen and replacement roller was executed evidently with considerable skill and expense), map: 96 x 68.5, plus rollers approximately 78 cm long.
This fascinating map was perhaps the most influential and practically useful map of all of India produced during the mid-19th Century, a critical period in the history of the Subcontinent. The map is very well designed, with vast amounts of detail clearly expressed, with a wise economy of space. By this time, almost all of India was either directly or indirectly under the control of the British East India Company (EIC), who would govern the subcontinent until 1858. India is shown to be divided into various administrative units: the vast areas outlined in pink are under direct EIC rule, while the various princely states (autonomous Indian nations under British protection) are outlined in a variety of hues.
The present map was issued in 1841, during something of a lull between two especially intense periods of British military activity and conquest in India. Looking back, beginning in the 1790s, the EIC dramatically intensified its designs towards creating an empire spanning India. After decades of intermittent conflict, the British finally crushed the Sultanate of Mysore during the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War (1798-9). The British annexed the Kanara Coast and made what remained of Mysore a puppet state. Hyderabad became a client state of the Company in 1800 and, in 1801, the British assumed practical control over the Carnatic, with the nawab maintaining only nominal authority. The Kingdom of Travancore, occupying the southern part of the Malabar Coast, became an EIC client state around the same time.
The EIC also managed to vanquish the mighty Maratha Confederacy, which during the mid-18th Century had become the dominant force in central and western India. During the three Anglo-Maratha Wars, fought between 1775 and 1818, the power of this great empire was progressively eroded. Upon the conclusion of the Third Anglo-Maratha War (1817-1818), the British acquired practical control of all of India south of the Sutlej River (a major tributary of the Indus), with the areas newly added to its sphere including modern Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. While some of these lands were technically placed under the sovereignty of various Indian rulers as princely states, they were actually under the suzerainty of the EIC.
These general circumstances largely remained in place in India from 1818 through to the time that this map was created. However, within a short time, the EIC would set its sights towards the acquisition of the regions to the northwest, conquering Sindh in 1843 and the Punjab in 1849.
Returning to the map itself, we gain a highly detailed overview of the Subcontinent, as the composition shows every town of consequence, all major roads, and the topography of the landscape with great planimetric accuracy. A large table featuring the distances between numerous locations occupies the upper right corner of the composition. One will notice the even pattern of numbers printed en grisaille over the map – these are index numbers that relate the lists of places located on both sides of the composition.
Referring to the lists, they show India as being divided into the EIC’s three Presidencies: Bombay, Bengal and Madras, as well as the more recently acquired ‘Northwestern Provinces’. The lists note ‘Civil Stations’ (districts of EIC regional government) and ‘Military Stations’ (districts of army command), giving their land areas and locations corresponding the to index numbers on the map. They also list the locations of ‘Collectorates’, taxation jurisdictions (tax rates varied greatly throughout India), with letters denoting the locations of the offices of: C. Collector; D.C. Deputy Collector; S.C. Sub Collector; J. Judge; R. Recorder. The lists also give the statistics for the lands areas and populations of the EIC jurisdictions and the various princely states. As referred to in the coloured key, on the right side of the left list, the military stations of the EIC Army are underlined in different colours within each presidency: Bombay (green), Madras (black) and Bengal (red).
A note at the bottom of the map reads: ‘The map will serve to illustrate the Despatches of the Duke of Wellington’. This refers to the military reports of Arthur Wellesley (1769-1852), the future Duke of Wellington, who served with great triumph in the EIC Army from 1797 to 1805. While almost half a century before this map was issued, the ‘Iron Duke’ was by far and way the most celebrated Briton, and many people still avidly read about every detail of his illustrious career.
The geographic accuracy of the map is largely due the ongoing mega-project called the Great Trigonometric Survey of India (GTS), which from 1802 to 1870, mapped all of the subcontinent to extremely high scientific standards, predicated on systematic trigonometric methods. The GTS was founded by Lieutenant Colonel William Lambton (c. 1753 – 1823) and the first latitudinal baseline was run from Madras to Mangalore, while the first longitudinal line was run from just north of Bangalore to Cape Comorin. Over the coming decades these lines would be extended, while new ones would be commenced. With this, the British established their geodetic control over the Indian landscape. By the 1840s the vast majority of the Indian Subcontinent had been measured the to standards of the GTS, with only regions in the Himalayas and the Northeast and far North of India remaining to be surveyed.
The present map was issued under the direction of Robert Melville Grindlay (1786-1877), who at this time was the head of one of the largest logistics and private banking firms specializing in India. Grindlay had first arrived in India at the age of 17 in 1803. He joined the EIC Army and, from 1804 to 1820, served in many locations throughout Southern and Western India. While completely self-taught, he was a highly accomplished artist, and he made numerous sketches of the places his visited. Upon his return to England, he arranged for his drawings to be published as Scenery, Costumes and Architecture chiefly on the Western Side of India. (London, issued in six parts, 1826-30), which is considered to be one of the period’s most artistically virtuous works on India.
In 1828, Grindlay co-founded the firm of Leslie & Grindlay, which specialized in arranging for passengers and their cargo to be safely transported to and from anywhere in India. Over time, the business expanded into private banking services, maintaining an especially close relationship with the EIC Army. By the 1840s, the enterprise had grown into a very large concern, making Grindlay a very rich and powerful man.
The present map was specifically designed to be of use to British travellers, especially those connected to the EIC army or civil service. It shows all major transportation routes, the distances between major points, political boundaries and various types of government offices – all vital information for official travellers.
As the map was endorsed, and widely used, by the EIC’s officials, it is fittingly dedicated to Sir James Rivett Carnac, the Chairman of the ‘Honourable Company’.
James Wyld the Younger: Leading Mapmaker of the Victorian Age
The map’s publisher, James Wyld the Younger (1812 – 1887) was one of the most important mapmakers of Victorian era. Wyld assumed control of the family business in 1836, while only at the age of 24, upon the sudden death of his father James Wyld the Elder (1790 – 1836), who had literally worked himself to death. The elder Wyld was the successor to the legendary map publisher William Faden (1749 – 1836), having purchased the former’s business in 1823. The Younger Wyld was appointed as the Official Geographer to Queen Victoria upon her ascension to the throne in 1837. He published many highly important and continually updated map series of parts of the British Empire, such as Canada, Australia, South Africa and India. He also made maps of key theatres of British warfare or economic activity, such as China.
Wyld’s series of wall maps of India, of which the present map was one of the earlier editions, was perhaps the most important and influential work of its kind during the mid-19th Century. The first edition was issued in 1837, with regularly updated editions being published until 1881.
References: Cf. OCLC (1840 ed.): 673203526.