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THE LEVANT (ISRAEL / LEBANON / SYRIA / TURKEY) – PAIR: SEA CHART & VIEW: A Chart of the Coast of Syria, from Ancient Joppa To Iskenderoon. By Capt. Edw.d Smith, R.N. Taken during a Cruise in The Right Hon.ble Lord Francis Edgerton’s Yacht, Menai. May & J



The only known surviving examples of a pair of fine nautical works by Captain Edward Smith, R.N., being a large-format sea chart of the Levant, accompanied by a sheet of nautical views of the same coast, based on Smith’s reconnaissance of the coast aboard the yacht ‘Menai’ in the spring of 1840. 

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These Views to Accompany the Chart & Sailing Directions constructed by Capt. E. Smith, R.N.


Pair of Lithographs, each mounted upon contemporary linen (Poor condition, but with most attributes still present; both contemporarily trimmed on both narrow sides with notable loss to printed area; both sheets foxed, more pronounced on view sheet; view sheet with some minor abrasions to printed area and stained on both narrow ends), both 50.5 x 62 cm (20 x 24.5 inches).


This is the only known surviving example of a pair of fine nautical works by Captain Edward Smith, R.N. that details the coast of the Levant from Jaffa (modern-day Israel), in the south, all the way past Haifa and Beirut, up to Iskenderun (Turkey).  The pair includes an elegant sea chart of the entire coast and a sheet of views of major ports along the same.  They are the result of a detailed and insightful naval reconnaissance of the coasts of the Levant conducted in May-June 1840 by Smith, aboard the Menai, the private yacht of the famous traveller and patron of the arts and sciences, Francis Egerton, 1st Earl of Ellesmere.  The present chart and sheet of views were meant to accompany (but where separately published from) Smith’s written navigation guide for the Levant, Sailing Directions for the Coast of Syria, from Ancient Joppa to the Gulf of Iskenderoon, To accompany Chart and Views of the Coast (London: Eden & Co., 1840), which makes ample reference to the chart and views (book not present here).

Please see link to full text of Smith’s Sailing Directions:


Both the chart and sheet of views are beautifully designed and lithographed, in an elegant Late Georgian style, made before the busyness of the Victorian motif came into vogue.  Referring to the sea chart, the main map, running down the left side of the sheet, presents the coast of the Levant, from a southward-orientated perspective, with Jaffa at the top (which is here largely trimmed away), and then following the shore all the way to the Gulf of Iskenderun (the northern extremities of which are trimmed way).  Every major port and permanent feature (ex. Mount Carmel) is marked along the coasts, providing a fine projection.  The left side of the sheet features five fine inset chats of the harbours of ‘Tripoli’; ‘Sidon’; ‘Tyre’; ‘Kaifa’ (Haifia) and ‘Beirout’ (Beirut).  All of the harbour plans are quite detailed and feature numerous bathymetric soundings, nautical hazards, as well as some details with respects to the ancient walled port cities themselves, along with aspects of the surrounding countryside (ex. The ‘Mulberry [silk] Plantations’ above Beirut).  Additionally, within the interior of the main map is a series of four mariners’ profile views of the coast.

The sheet of views features seven attractive vignettes of major ports along the Levantine coast.  The upper register of the sheet is dominated by the view of the ‘Bay of Acre From Cape Carmel to Cape Blanco’, depicting what is now known as the Bay of Haifa, extending from the Haifa to Akko, considered to be the best natural harbour in the eastern Mediterranean.  The far right side of the sheet features the ‘View at the Back of Beirout’ and ‘Mount Carmel’, the latter being of the Biblically famous mountain that backs the city of Haifa.  The centre register features views of the Lebanese ports of ‘Ancient Sidon’ and ‘Ancient Tyre.  The lower register contains the view of ‘St. Georges’ Bay & Kahl El Salif N.E. of Beirout’, which features interesting renderings of ‘Mt. Lebanon’ and ‘Mulberry Plantations’; and a view of ‘Beirout’, depicting the bustling port city.  It is important to note that small parts of the views along both the right and left sides of the sheet have been trimmed away.

Captain Edward Smith Charts the Coasts of the Levant

From the period spanning the Napoleonic Wars up to 1840, the Levant, the far eastern coasts of the Mediterranean (incorporating modern Israel, Lebanon, Syria and Turkey’s Gulf of Iskenderun), was visited by numerous British and French naval ships, as well as countless Western merchant marine vessels. This had resulted in some fine charts of specific ports; however, this long coastline had yet to be systematically and scientifically surveyed.  Moreover, while the Ottomans, who ruled the region, permitted western commercial and private vessels to sail its waters and to visit the Levant’s ports, they were generally hesitant to grant foreigners permission to conduct formal surveys of the coasts, lest they be used to aid some form of unfriendly military action.  As of the spring of 1840 there were no reliable published charts or sailing directions of the Levant coasts as whole.

In the spring of 1840, Francis Egerton, 1st Earl of Ellesmere (1800-57), the former British cabinet secretary, travel writer and famed patron of the arts and sciences, decided to tour Italy and the Holy Land with his wife, Harriet, Lady Ellesmere.  They travelled the Mediterranean aboard the Ellesmere’s private yacht, the Menai, skippered by Captain Edward Smith, a commercial mariner who had previously served with great distinction in the Royal Navy, rising to the rank of captain.

The Menai arrived at Jaffa (modern Israel) at the end of April 1840.  From there Lord and Lady Edgerton were to depart for an excursion inland, to Jerusalem, and the other great Biblical sites.  They were to rendezvous with the Menai in June.  In the meantime, Captain Smith intended to tour the coast of the Levant, aboard the yacht, from Jaffa, up to Iskenderun, reconnoitering the ports, hunting, sketching and fishing.  At first, he had no intention of making charts, views or a navigation guidebook for publication.

However, as Smith recalled:

“…when first I commenced Sketching, Sounding, and noting down the bearings [along the Levant coast], it was purely for my own amusement and information, not contemplating, at the time, its appearing in the shape of a Publication; and which I should not have carried into execution had not my attention been directed to the want of such a work by the Merchants and Consul at Beirout: and also two or three intelligent Commanders of British Merchant Vessels, who accompanied me in several of my shooting, fishing, and sketching excursions along the Coast; and, further, the circumstances which have occurred since I commenced sketching, in May last, would seem to render such a work still more desirable.” (Smith, Sailing Directions, pp. iii-iv).

Indeed, as Smith proceeded to explore the coast, he was made keenly aware of the fact that no easy-to-use practical guide for navigating the Levantine coast existed.  He then proceeded to remedy the situation, drafting the chart and views that appear on the present pair of sheets, all explained by the written sailing directions.

Smith’s trio of works would have been very useful to the contemporary mariner, a point recognized by the period’s foremost authorities on navigation.  John Purdy, Britain’s leading author of sailing directions gave a summary of Smith’s directions in his own guide for sailing the Mediterranean, and acclaimed his “…useful sketches of the coast and harbours, with a sheet of beautiful views of the principal places” [John Purdy, The New Sailing Directory for the Strait of Gibraltar and the Western Division of the Mediterranean Sea (London: R.H. Laurie, 1840), pp. xli-xlii].

In spite of the obvious value of Smith’s works, they seem to have only been published in very limited quantities, in a ‘boutique’ manner, as the chart and view sheet were issued by the obscure firm of Dean & Munday, Threadneedle Street, London; having been lithographed by the small firm of Eden & Co.; although the works were sold by more prominent chart-sellers, such as Bate, Wilson and Wyld.

The present pair of Smith’s chart and sheet of views of the Levant appears to be the only known surviving examples, although Smith’s Sailing Directions is known in a handful of institutional copies.  While the present pair of sheets is in admittedly poor condition, they are nevertheless important and valuable artifacts of a noble pioneering endeavour to chart the coasts of modern Israel, Lebanon, Syria and Turkey.  We have chosen not to restore the sheets in an effort to preserve their historical integrity, especially as we are not aware of the precise appearance of the missing marginal details.  We are told that the present chart and view were, until recently, bound within a John Arrowsmith composite atlas, which is probably why they survived, while other examples have perished.

References: The chart and view are referred to in: Edward Smith, Sailing Directions for the Coast of Syria, from Ancient Joppa to the Gulf of Iskenderoon, To accompany Chart and Views of the Coast (London: Eden & Co., 1840); and John Purdy, The New Sailing Directory for the Strait of Gibraltar and the Western Division of the Mediterranean Sea (London: R.H. Laurie, 1840), pp. xli-xlii.  We can trace no references to the chart or sheet of views from after the period of their production, let alone any references to the locations of any examples.

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