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SRI LANKA: A View of the Agricultural, Commercial, and Financial Interests of Ceylon. With an Appendix; Containing Some of the Principal Laws and Usages of the Candians; Port and Custom House Regulations; Tables of Exports and Imports, Publish Revenue and



Rare – the only work on the economics and economic history of Ceylon (Sri Lanka) from the early British colonial period, by Anthony Bertolacci, the island’s Corsican-born Auditor-General, featuring information of immense historical value published nowhere else, augmented by the first edition of Captain Gaulterus Schneider’s revolutionary map of Ceylon – the first scientific survey of the island.

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Large 8° (23.5 x 15 cm / 9 x 6 inches): Collation Complete 1 Large Folding Coloured Map, 8 ff., 577 pp., 1 p. Advertisements, bound in original light blue publisher’s boards with tan paper spine and pastedown printed title (Very Good, internally clean, text pages with deckled edges; map crisp with resplendent colour; front cover mildly stained, but not affecting internal book, spine stained with shelf-wear, some chipping with very minor loss to head of spine).


This is a stellar example of one of the seminal works of the British colonial period in Ceylon (modern Sri Lanka), being the first-ever serious treatise on the economics and economic history of the island.  Importantly, it also features the beautifully-coloured first printing of Captain Gaulterus Schneider’s map of Ceylon, importantly the first scientific survey of the island.  The work contains critical information and data published nowhere else, granting the reader an unparalleled insight into the nature of Ceylon’s economy and society as the British East India Company (EIC) consolidated its control of the island following its replacement of the former Dutch regime in 1795.  The work was written by Anthony Bertolacci, a native of Corsica, who served as a senior civil servant on the island for over 20 years, eventually rising to become its Auditor-General (essentially, finance minister).

The work is written in a scientific, yet lucid, manner and is divided into three sections: 1) concerns the currency used on the island; 2) describes Ceylon’s commercial and economic resources; and 3) elaborates upon the Crown’s revenues and expenditure.  The work is further embellished with 25 different tables covering all matters of trade and government revenue.  Throughout Bertolacci grants valuable insights and analysis into the natural economic advantages of Ceylon and how they could potentially be better exploited under the new regime, which was far-better organized and ambitious than the previous Dutch administration.  Specifically, Bertolacci gives recommendations as to the improved management of the rice, cinnamon, tea, pepper and pearl industries, as well as thoughtful proposals concerning infrastructure projects, such as irrigation.

Anthony Bertolacci: Pioneering Economic Historian of Ceylon


Anthony Bertolacci (1776 – 1833) was a pioneering statistician and the father of the study of economics in Sri Lanka.  He hailed originally from Corsica, the son of a senior French civil servant.  During the British occupation of his native island, from 1794 to 1796, the young Bertolacci became the personal secretary to Frederick North (1766 – 1827), a British administrator and the son of the late prime minister Lord North.  Bertolacci accompanied North to Britain, and then, in 1798, to Ceylon, upon the latter’s appointment as the first British governor of the island. 


While Bertolacci had no formal training, he proved to be a virtuoso at finance and accounting, combing and interpreting statistics and making excellent recommendations towards improving the island’s customs and tax systems.  He was appointed to progressively senior roles in the Ceylon’s administration and, in 1809, became the Comptroller General of Customs and a member of the island’s executive council, quite an accolade for a 33-year old foreigner.  Bertolacci eventually rose to become the island’s Auditor-General, essentially its finance minster, before retiring to England in 1819, after 21 years in Ceylon.  Several of his descendants likewise distinguished themselves in the service of the British Crown.  Bertolacci’s original manuscript journals from his time in Ceylon are today preserved at the British Library (Add. Mss. 58083 and 58084).

Captain Schneider’s Epic Survey of Ceylon

A highlight of the work is the its inclusions of the relatively large (55.5 x 40 cm / 22 x 15.5 inches) and resplendently coloured A New Map of the Island of Ceylon compiled by Captain Schneider, Engineer.  The map has the distinction of being the first publication of the first scientific survey of the island.  It was made by Bertolacci’s friend, Captain Gualterus Schneider (1772 – 1841), who served as the third British surveyor-general of Ceylon, from 1811 to 1833.  Schneider, born in Jaffna, of a German father in the employ of the VOC and a Dutch mother, was trained as a surveyor under the Dutch regime.  He joined the newly established British Survey Department of Ceylon in 1800, and soon impressed his superiors with his ability to quickly and accurately map rough country.  Upon being appointed Ceylon’s surveyor-general, he was determined to create the first scientific map of the island.  The hitherto best map of the island, Aaron Arrowsmith’s Map of the Island of Ceylon (London, 1805), largely predicated on old Dutch sources, shows that while the coastal areas were relatively well understood, the interior regions were scarcely known to Europeans, at least as far as its representation on printed maps (the VOC kept many of their best manuscript maps under-wraps, classified as ‘top secret’).


Schneider personally travelled hundreds of miles with a perambulator and compass, all the while battling bureaucratic inertia and budgetary constraints to produce the first broadly accurate map of Ceylon, completed in 1816.  As shown here, Schneider corrected the shape of the island from its rounded appearance on the 1805 Arrowsmith map to the accurate tear-dropped shape that is familiar today.  He also provided much detail with respect to the interior of the island for the first time. 

In 1822, Schneider created a large, more detailed, manuscript map, adding to the present work, which was first published as A New and Correct Map of the Island of Ceylon, Including an accurate delineation of the Interior Provinces, from actual Survey, by Captain G. Schneider, December 1822 (London: John Kershaw, 1826).  The Schneider map remained the authoritative base map of the island for many decades and was reissued in a variety of editions.


Historical Background: The Establishment of British Rule in Ceylon


Bertolacci’s work covers the economy and economic history of Sri Lanka during a critical and fascinating period.  From the early 16th Century until 1640, the coastal regions of Ceylon were controlled by Portugal, while from that date to 1795, the same areas were under the hegemony of the Dutch East India Company (VOC).  Meanwhile, the island’s vast and rugged interior was the domain of the powerful Kingdom of Kandy (established 1469), and was little known to Europeans.  The Portuguese and the Dutch were almost exclusively concerned with looting the island’s vast agrarian resources along its coastal plains, and had little interest in building a colonial society, or in analyzing its economy and economic history.

In 1795, during the French Revolutionary War, when the former Dutch Republic became a client state of France, Britain conquered coastal Ceylon for its own East India Company.  Unlike the Dutch, who were content to occupy isolated trading posts and forts along the coast, the British aimed to make Ceylon an integral part of their empire, so desired to socially and economically control all of its territory.  The Kingdom of Kandy was provoked into fighting Britain in the two Kandyan Wars, in 1803-5 and 1815, after which the once mighty state lost is sovereignty, becoming a protectorate of Britain. Following the Uva Rebellion (1817-8), an insurrection of Kandyan noblemen, the EIC abolished the kingdom altogether and annexed its territory, so assuming complete control over the entire island.  The British them set about establishing sophisticated infrastructure, revenue, land use and judicial systems in Ceylon, which was greatly assisted by the conventions of statistical compilation and analysis that Bertolacci pioneered.

A Note on Rarity


Bertolacci’s present work is rare on the market; we can trace its appearance only twice at auction since 1978.  It is worth noting that this particular example is very attractive, bound in original boards, with the Schneider map clean and crisp, with resplendent original colours.


References: OCLC: 500192736; R. Griffiths (ed.), The Monthly Review (London, December 1818), pp. 415-9; H.N.S. Karunatilake, ‘Social and Economic Statistics of Sri Lanka in the Nineteenth Century’, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society Sri Lanka Branch, New Series, vol. 31 (1986/87), pp. 40-61; The Literary Gazette: A Weekly Journal of Literature, Science, and the Fine Arts (London: H. Colburn, 1817), p. 128; The Asiatic Journal and Monthly Register for British India and its Dependencies (Parbury, Allen, and Company, 1817), pp. 449-464; [Re: Schneider’s surveys:] Ian J. Barrow, Surveying and Mapping in Colonial Sri Lanka: 1800-1900, pp. 39-42.


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