This very rare, large format map, published on thick paper, is an extremely sophisticated work of thematic cartography and data visualization that shows Sumatra’s annual production of various agricultural commodities, as well as petroleum, coal and gold & silver, broken down per district; its annual imports and exports, segmented per district and by commodity; its transportation system; and its population density per district. It was compiled from the latest and best information by the Topografischen Dienst (Nederlandsch-Indië), the Topographical Service (Dutch East Indies), and was printed in Batavia (today Jakarta) in 1923.
Sumatra is the world’s sixth-largest island with an area of 473,481 km2, straddling the Equator. Its varied topography includes a chain of volcanic mountains running up its west coast, while the rest of if the island consists of rainforest lowlands and swamps. Sumatra possesses vast mineral resources and can produce a vast agrarian bounty due to its tropical climate, fertile soils and great biodiversity. While the Dutch colonial regime had a fixed presence in the south and southwest of the island since the early 17th century, while occupying a transitory place along the coasts, it was not until well into the 19th century that, through conquest and treaties, it managed to gradually take control over the entire island. This unlocked Sumatra’s immense riches, the exploitation of which represented a major boon to the Dutch imperial economy.
The ‘Legenda’, in the lower-left corner, explains the symbols used to identify towns of various sizes (those with black dots have post and telegraph offices); roads; railways (both built and under construction); rivers, noting their navigability; district boundaries; and radio-telegraph stations.
The legend also explains the data vitalization techniques used to express Sumatra’s annual production of minerals, and its imports and exports, based upon official data from 1920. The block charts in each district employ colour coding and sizing to represent the annual production of Agricultural Products, including quinine, cocoanut, tea, tobacco, cooking oil, coffee, rubber, gambir (a dyeing agent) and agave. There are also similar block charts noting the annual production of mines/fields producing petroleum, coal and gold & silver.
The pair of pie charts in each district show the annual Imports (‘Invoer’), lined in red, and Exports (‘Uitvoer’), lined in black, with the charts sized in relation to the quantity of overall imports and exports, and with each chart divided onto colour-coded segments all labelled in the legend.
The inset map, in the upper right corner, ‘Overzicht van de bevolkingsdichtheid en geregelde verkeerslijnen van Sumatra’ (‘Overview of the Population Density and Regular Traffic Routes of Sumatra’) employs colour coding to express the population density of each district (with the darker the shade, the more densely populated), while the road system is delineated by red lines and the railway network is shown by black lines, while the navigability of rivers is shown. The various types of lines in the seas represent the routes of several named shipping lines.
A Note on Rarity
The present map is very rare, it would have been made in only a small print run for a select audience, while the survival rate of such large, separately issued maps prodcued in what became Indonesia is very low.
We can trace 5 institutional examples, held by the Universiteitsbibliotheek Leiden; Universiteitsbibliotheek Utrecht; Nationaal Archief (Netherlands); Staatabibliothek zu Berlin; and the Cornell University Library. Moreover, we are not aware of any other examples as having appeared on the market.
References: Universiteitsbibliotheek Leiden: D C 26,3; Universiteitsbibliotheek Utrecht: *VII*.W.a.40 (Dk50-1); Staatabibliothek zu Berlin: Kart. E 9828; Cornell University Library: G8081.G1 1923; OCLC: 980374916, 1226579415; Jaarverslag van den topographischen dienst in nederlandsch indie over 1922 (Batavia: Topografische Inrichting, 1923), p. 54.