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A fine large format 18th-century sea chart of Bintan and Batam Islands, Indonesia, located on the Singapore Straits, published by the firm of Laurie & Whittle.

Bintan Island (formerly known as Bintang) and the adjacent island of Batam (Bataam) are part of the Riau (Rhio) Archipelago, strategically located along the southern edge of the Singapore Straits, the busiest passage linking the Indian and Pacific Oceans. The islands are today one of Southeast Asia's most favored resort destinations; being located only a 45-minute boat ride from Singapore.

Since the 3rd-century A.D. the island's main harbor, 'Rhio' (now Bintang Bay), the focus of the present chart, had been a major trading port. From about 1200 to 1500, it was the main base of the Malay pirates who prayed on shipping in the straits. Following the fall of Malacca to the Portuguese in 1511, Bintan became the capital of the great Johor Sultinate. During the 18th-century, when this chart was made, Bintan and the Riau Archipelago were under British influence, although the sultan still ran day-to-day affairs. The area would not became part of the Dutch East Indies until the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1824.

The chart presents a very highly detailed hydrographic survey of Bintan Bay, and depicts the tracks of the vessels that mapped the harbor in the 1750s. Interestingly, it also features several socio-demographic details around the town of Rhio, including the labeling of the 'King's [Sultan's] Palace', the 'Chinese compound', the 'Malay Compound', and the 'Fishing Town' (inhabited by the Bugis). The 'Fishing Village' on Batam is also depicted.

The present chart was published by Laurie & Whittle in their East India Pilot. The chart is rare, and we are not aware of any examples of the separate chart appearing in dealer's catalogs or at auction during the last 25 years.

Richard Holmes Laurie Biography

Richard Holmes Laurie (1777-1858) was the son of mezzotint engraver Robert Laurie, who had taken over Robert Sayer's publishing house with James Whittle in 1794. Richard Holmes Laurie joined in a partnership with Whittle when his father retired in 1812. The name of the firm then switched from Laurie & Whittle to Whittle & Laurie. Whittle died in 1818, leaving Richard Holmes to continue publishing alone as R. H. Laurie.

When the Hydrographic Office opened in 1795, it was tasked with creating and producing all the nautical charts for the Royal Navy so as to wean the Navy off dependence on foreign charts. By the 1820s, private publishers were augmenting HO charts and competing with them, including Richard Holmes Laurie. Richard gave up publishing anything except nautical materials by 1830. He also sold charts to Trinity House, the lighthouse and maritime safety fraternity. He died in 1858. 

The firm continued to print under the name R.H. Laurie even after 1858. Later, the firm was managed by Laurie’s draughtsman, Alexander George Findlay, and, later, Daniel and William Kettle.

James Whittle Biography

James Whittle (1757-1818) was a British engraver and map printer. Whittle was employed by Robert Sayer (ca. 1725-1794). Together with Robert Laurie (1755?-1836), he took on Sayer’s business when the older man died in 1794. The two traded together as Laurie & Whittle until 1812, when Laurie retired. They had specialized in sea charts and maritime atlases. Whittle then partnered with Laurie’s son, Richard Holmes Laurie, until he died in 1818.