Detailed map of the Indian Ocean by D'Apres De Mannevillette's, with pencil notes tracking a voyage around the Cape of Good Hope to Pondicheri, by way of the Isle de France and Bourbon, and Cochin.
This fine large format map of the Indian Ocean is one of the most detailed and accurate generals chart of the Indian Ocean published in the second half of the 18th Century and, in this respect, represents a milestone of enlightenment cartography, which strived for clarity and precision. The map embraces the entire Indian Ocean from around 38 degrees South up to its northernmost reaches (the Red Sea) and 30 degrees North; longitudinally, it extends from the Cape of Good Hope, in the west, all the way to include the shores Western Australia.
The overall impression is of an accurate general map, familiar to the modern eye. This was the result of the careful compilation of charts form the best sources, combined with recently acquired geodetic positions taken by the crews of French Navy vessels. Generally, the mapping of India is taken from a variety of the best European sources, including French, Portuguese, Dutch, and English maps. The mapping of Africa and Arabia largely derives from Portuguese sources, and Dutch charts were used to delineate the shores of Southeast Asia and Western Australia.
This chart appeared at and just after an interesting period of French involvement in the Indian Ocean and its basin, and therefore would have been considered highly useful by a variety of stakeholders. From 1742, the India division of the Compagnie Perpétuelle des Indes (essentially the French Colonial Company), was headed by Joseph-François Marquis Dupleix, who would mount an aggressive campaign against the British and their Indian allies for control of the subcontinent. While his endeavors came to a precipitous end in 1754, Dupleix's activities were historically consequential and melodramatic.
Meanwhile, from 1735 onwards, the first French governor-general of the Mascarene Islands, Bertrand-François Mahé de La Bourdonnais, was undertaking endeavors to colonize Isle de France (now Mauritius), Île Bourbon (Réunion) and Séchelles (Seychelles). Madagascar was also of great interest, as from 1720, it had been the pirate capital of the world, praying on European, Arab and Mughal shipping.
The chart builds on a number of earlier charts by Bellin and an earlier editions of Mannevillette's chart. While there are several similar and smaller maps that cover the same region, this map is the largest of the series and captures more of Australia than Mannevillette's smaller chart of the Indian Ocean, published in 1775.
D' Après de Mannevillette (1707-1780) was a famous French sailor and hydrographer. During a voyage to China in 1728 he succeeded in correcting the latitudes of many places using new instruments. Back in France he devised a plan to correct and publish all the existing maps of the route to China: the Red Sea, the coasts of India, Malaya, the northern parts of Indonesia, Indochina and China. His Atlas Le Neptune Oriental (containing only 22 charts), was first published in 1745, and was regarded as a major achievement and a library indispensable to navigators. In 1762, d'Après was appointed director of an office established by the Compagnie des Indes for the publication of charts.
Jean-Baptiste Nicolas Denis d’Après de Mannevillette (1707-1780) was a French sailor and hydrographer celebrated for his excellently-rendered charts. Mannevillette was born into a maritime family and he joined his father on a French East India Company voyage to India aged only twelve. A clever boy, he returned to France to study navigation, chartmaking, and mathematics with Joseph-Nicolas De L’Isle. At nineteen, he was back at sea, working his way up the ranks of the French East India Company’s merchant fleet.
In his work with the company—he was eventually promoted captain—Mannevillette sailed to the Indian Ocean many times. En route, he was constantly gathering and correcting hydrographic knowledge. He was also skilled at using the latest navigational instruments, like the octant and later the sextant, which allowed him to make his charts especially accurate for their time. He compiled his work into his most significant publication, Le Neptune Oriental, which was commissioned by the French East India Company and first published in 1745. It was released in an expanded second edition in 1775, with posthumous expansions in 1781 and 1797.
The Neptune earned Mannevillette many accolades. The company made him Director of Charts at Lorient in 1762. In 1767, King Louis XV gave him the Order of St. Michael and named him an associate of the Royal Marine Academy.