The First Modern Chart of Mumbai (Bombay) Harbor
Fine example of the second edition of William Nichelson's charting of Bombay Harbor, published in 1794 by Laurie & Whittle. The second edition notes that it is "Correct by Capt. Watson".
The map covers from Salsette Island to the continent south to Hunary Island. There is a detailed plan of the city of Bombay as well as several coastal profile views in the upper right quadrant. This is arguably the largest and finest obtainable nautical chart of Bombay Harbor to appear in the 18th century.
The map offers rich detail including countless depth soundings, notes on the sea floor, commentary on reefs, rhumb lines, shoals, place names and a wealth of other practical information for the mariner. Though most charts in the East-India Pilot were derived from earlier maps prepared for Jean-Baptiste d'Apres de Mannevillette's 1745 Neptune Oriental, this particular chart is a new and uniquely British production.
Cartographically, the map is derived from surveys by Captain William Nichelson and Captain Watson. Nichelson, master of the HMS Elizabeth, made a survey of Bombay Harbor and coast of Malabar in 1763, creating a monumental 8 sheet of the Harbor in 1763.
The original map is known in a single example, of which only 7 of the 8 sheets have survived. In about 1780, William Herbert produced a chart entitled A Reduced Chart of Bombay Harbour to serve as an Index for the large one of eight sheets by Wm. Nichelson, Master of the H.M.S. Elizabeth.
This chart represents a massive leap forward in the charting of the Bay, significantly improving upon prior charts by Van Keulen and Mannevillette, as well as Samuel Thornton's Chart of Bombay.
The map is quite scarce on the market, this being the first example we have offered for sale.
Robert Laurie (ca. 1755-1836) and James Whittle (1757-1818) formed their Fleet Street, London-based firm upon the 1794 death of their employer Robert Sayer, himself one of the dominant print and mapmakers of the last half of the 18th century.
Laurie & Whittle started managing Sayer's business as early as 1787. They took over all managerial duties when Sayer's health flagged in 1792, and they changed the imprint in 1794 upon his death. Sayer left the two a 21-year lease on the shop (at £100 a year) and on Sayer's Bolt Court premises, as well as an option to acquire stock and equipment at a preferential price of £5,000 payable over three years.
Robert Laurie retired from the firm in 1812, and his role was assumed by his son, Richard Holmes Laurie (1777-1858). The younger Laurie worked with James Whittle until the latter died in 1818. After R. H. Laurie died in 1858, Alexander George Findlay, FRGS (1812-1875) purchased the firm from his daughters. The firm continues today under another name, specializing in yachting charts.
Laurie & Whittle were prolific print and map publishers, and throughout their careers, they produced numerous very important and rare works. They carried on Robert Sayer's atlas business and were responsible for editions of The Complete East-India Pilot and The American Atlas.