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SOUTH AFRICA: POTCHEFSTROOM (North West Province). Map of Potchefstroom shewing Fifteen Mile Radius.



An Exceptionally rare – seemingly unrecorded – and impressively large ‘Sunprint’ or cyanotype map on cotton cloth, depicting Major Robert Lyle McClintock’s advanced topographical survey of the environs of Potchefstroom, South Africa, executed in the period following the Second Anglo-Boer War, made in Potchefstroom after the original survey composed in Pretoria. 

1 in stock


Cyanotype on cotton cloth (Very Good, overall impressive condition for a map of its nature and size, some tack marks and small tears in blank margins of corners, minor fraying along edges, some wear along old folds, minor staining), 91 x 76.5 cm (36 x 30 inches). 


This excellent map showcases Major Robert Lyle McClintock’s 1907 advanced topographical survey of the environs of Potchefstroom, South Africa, the traditional de jure capital of the Transvaal, which here has been printed on cotton cloth by the gorgeous cyanotype, or ‘sunprint’, method.  Indeed, this is one of the largest and most finely produced cyanotype maps were have ever encountered.


The map is by far and away the most detailed and accurate survey of the Potchefstroom region even made to date, depicting topographical features with extreme precision, with elevations expressed by contour lines at 50-foot intervals.  The city of Potchefstroom, with its neat grid of streets, occupies the centre of the map, while the railway to Johannesburg (to the northeast) runs to the west of town.  The ‘Cantonment’ (local army barracks), is located to the northwest of the city, while the ‘Government Experimental Farm’ and the ‘Mooibank Settlement’ are located to the southwest.  Elsewhere, the map labels dozens of rural homesteads, properties and major topographical features.  The ‘Reference’ (lower left margin) explains symbols for Roads; Tracks; Farm Boundaries, Homesteads / Houses; Fences; Dry Water Courses; ‘Kaffir Crawls’ [an archaic, politically incorrect term for a native South African cattle enclosure]; Heights above the area’s mean sea level of 4,242; Dam Pans; Telegraph Lines and Inter-Colonial Boundaries.


The present cyanotype map is noted as being a ‘Tracing made from Sunprint by A. Mitchell, Potchefstroom, 14 – 6 – 07’ (lower left corner), having been copied from McClintock’s original manuscript or printed survey, which had been composed in Pretoria earlier that same year (we have not been able to trace any records of a Pretoria manuscript or a printed edition), as indicated by the note on the present map, ‘Compiled in the office of the General Staff, Army Headquarters, SA, from the latest available information.  / R.L. McClintock Bt Major / Pretoria Feby 1907’ (lower right corner).


The survey represented on the present map was one of many commissioned by the General Staff of the British Army in South Africa, headquartered in Pretoria, of locations in the Transvaal and Orange River Colony, provinces that had been recently conquered from the Afrikaners during the Second Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902).  McClintock was an especially esteemed engineer and veteran of the war, and it is was only fitting that he was chosen to survey the Potchefstroom area, which was one of the most important of all the Transvaal mapping projects. 


While the Transvaal and the Orange Free State had been mapped to a decent standard during the period of Afrikaner administration, and even during the war itself, the British regime required even more precise cartography to the most advanced scientific specifications.  Initially these surveys were commissioned for use in the event that another war, or incidents of civil unrest, broke out, but were later valued for other purposes.  These ultra-accurate maps, such as the present survey of Potchefstroom, were subsequently incorporated into the general mapping of the entire country, which was critically important for the purposes of civil administration under the new dominion of the Union of South Africa (established in 1910).  Thus, as was often the case, military surveys were civilianized in times of peace.


A Note on Rarity


We cannot trace even a reference to another example of the present cyanotype map, let alone the location of another example.  This is perhaps not surprising, as the map was made in only an extremely small print run, and published on cloth for local field use.  Most of the copies would have been lost due to wear and tear.


We cannot trace any examples of McClintock’s original survey drafted in Pretoria in February 1907, in ether manuscript or printed form.  However, we are aware of apparently two different editions of McClintock’s Map of Potchefstroom shewing fifteen mile radius, issued under the auspices of the British Army’s General Staff Topographical Section, with one edition being printed in London by the press of the War Office, while the other was issued by the Ordnance Survey Office, in Southampton.  These issues are known in only a few institutional examples.


Potchefstroom: The Rise of South Africa’s “City of Expertise”


Potchefstroom is today known as an ‘academic city’, home to many prestigious schools, colleges and post-secondary institutions.  It is located about 129 km (75 miles) west-southwest of Johannesburg and today has a population of around 130,000.


Potchefstroom has long been one of northern South Africa’s major centres.  In 1838, it became the second settlement (after Klerksdorp) founded in the Transvaal by the Voortrekkers, yet the first to develop into a proper town.


For a brief time, after its founding until 1840, the town was part of an Afrikaner pseudo-state, the Republic of Winburg-Potchefstroom, led by Andries Hendrik Potgieter.


In 1848, Potchefstroom became the capital of the South African Republic (Zuid Afrikaanse Republiek , ZAR), an independent Afrikaner state that roughly occupied the bounds of the modern Transvaal.  The Sand River Convention (1852) was singed in the city between Britain and the ZAR, an accord by which the former agreed to respect the political autonomy of the Afrikaner settlers north of the Vaal River.  In 1858, Potchefstroom was confirmed as the de jure capital of the ZAR, although the seat of government was established in Pretoria.

Importantly, the first shots of the First Anglo-Boer War (1880-1) were fired in Potchefstroom, on December 16, 1880, when the Afrikaners laid siege to the city’s British garrison.   The siege was lifted on March 23, 1881, after which the British assumed control of the area.

Following the Second Anglo-Boer War (1899 – 1902), Britain conquered all of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State.  Potchefstroom was seen as being important to South Africa’s future, and attracted much public investment and infrastructure development.  In 1909, as the South African colonies prepared to join into a dominion, the Union of South Africa (formed 1910), Potchefstroom was even considered a choice for the location of the country’s new capital.  However, Colonial Secretary Jan Smuts, opined that the city “stood no chance” of becoming the capital.  Alternatively, he declared that Potchefstroom should be made into South Africa’s “city of expertise”.  Subsequently, many schools, colleges and university level institutions were founded in the city, such that it is today one of the county’s leading centres of learning and research, and home to North-West University.

Cyanotoype: Brilliantly Blue, and Made with Ease


The present map’s gorgeous blue tone is the result of the cyanotype (blueprint) printing technique, which is sometimes referred to as a ‘sunprint’.  This photographic printing process involved the use of two chemicals: ammonium iron (III) citrate and potassium ferricyanide.  Invented in 1842 by the astronomer Sir John Herschel, the technique was favoured by engineers, as it produced technical diagrams of sharp contrast and clarity.  It also had the advantage of being very low cost and easy to execute (by those properly trained).  In the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, the technique gained wide popularity for architectural and engineering plans (i.e. ‘Blueprints’).  This led it to be adapted to cartography, often to maps of a technical nature, such as urban models and plans for mines and infrastructure (such as the present map).  A limitation of the cyanotype medium is that it could yield only a very limited number of copies, such that virtually all cyanotype maps are today extremely rare. 


Cyanotype maps were especially popular with British military cartographers operating in colonial frontier regions, such as the Potchefstroom area, during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  The technique began to fall out use for cartography in many places by the 1920s, although it had a greater longevity in some locales, such as India.


The present map is extraordinary for a cyanotype piece, owing to its large size and the fact that it was printed on cloth. 

Colonel Robert Lyle McClintock: Decorated Military Engineer and Cartographer

Robert Lyle McClintock (1874 – 1943) was a highly regarded Irish military surveyor who hailed from a family that owned the estate of Dunmore House, County Donegal.  He entered the Army as a Second Lieutenant in the Royal Engineers in 1893.  He served with the Niger Expeditionary Force (1897-8), notably on the Illah Expedition.  He was considered to be a virtuoso frontier surveyor with ideal skills for mapping Africa.  He was promoted to first lieutenant in 1898.

McClintock fought with distinction during the Second Anglo-Boer War, not only conducting important military reconnaissance mapping, but fulfilling front line combat duties.  He was mentioned in despatches on several occasions, and in particular gained praise for his bravery and industriousness at the Defence of Kimberly and the actions at Poplar Grove, Driefontein and Wittebergen.  He received both the Queen’s and King’s medals and was made a Companion of the Distinguished Service Order.  He was promoted to Captain in 1904, and made a Brevet Major shortly thereafter.  In the years following the war, he fulfilled key mapping assignments, most notably undertaking the present survey of Potchefstroom.  

McClintock inherited the Dunmore estate in 1912, and briefly retuned to Ireland. However, upon the outbreak of World War I (1914-8), he became the commander of the Sappers and Miners at Bangalore, India.  He was soon deployed with his unit to fight in East Africa, where he, once again, acquitted himself with distinction.  Following the war, he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and retired to his Donegal estate.

References: N / A – Seemingly Unrecorded.  Cf. [Re: Editions of McClintock’s survey published in England:] OCLC: 41342512 and 497578717; British Library: Cartographic Items Maps MOD TSGS 2271.

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