Fine large format map of the Course of the Niger River, published by John Arrowsmith in London.
H.D. Trotter was the leader of an expedition up the Niger River, as part of a delegation of British Officers, including William Allen (1793–1864), under the auspices of the Society for the Extinction of the Slave Trade and for the Civilization of Africa, Sent to the Niger with orders to penetrate as far as possible and make treaties with the local rulers to outlaw the Slave Trade, the expedition met with considerable hardship from first entering the river. For the most part they remained healthy for the first month until reaching Iddah after which many of here crew were struck down with fever until matters were so grave that even the determined Capt. Trotter was forced to order Captain Allen retreated to the coast while he pushed on in the hopes of reaching a healthier climate upstream. But fever continued too ravage the crew and by the 8th August any further progress was clearly impossible. The expedition was considered a disastrous failure though Commander Allen cites the three treaties signed with the most influential potentates on the river to have constituted partial success.
Allen published A Narrative of the Expedition sent by H.M.’s Government to the River Niger in 1841, following up on his earlier pictorial publication,
Allen described these particular expeditions as “desirable for nobler ends than the acquisition of wealth”, with a pledge to help eradicate the persistent and pervasive slave trade network. In 1846 he published a pamphlet on ‘Mutual Improvement,’ a Utopian-like recipe for moral development and social compassion. In 1849, his Plan for the immediate Extinction of the Slave Trade, for the Relief of the West India Colonies was a provocative scheme to have slave-dependent nations transition their slaves into short-term binding apprenticeships with fixed end-dates for release and economic freedom.
Inset: The lower course of the River Niger as far as it was ascended in the expedition under Captn. Trotter R.N. 1841.
The Arrowsmiths were a cartographic dynasty which operated from the late-eighteenth century to the mid-nineteenth. The family business was founded by Aaron Arrowsmith (1750-1823), who was renowned for carefully prepared and meticulously updated maps, globes, and charts. He created many maps that covered multiple sheets and which were massive in total size. His spare yet exacting style was recognized around the world and mapmakers from other countries, especially the young country of the United States, sought his maps and charts as exemplars for their own work.
Aaron Arrowsmith was born in County Durham in 1750. He came to London for work around 1770, where he found employment as a surveyor for the city’s mapmakers. By 1790, he had set up his own shop which specialized in general charts. Arrowsmith had five premises in his career, most of which were located on or near Soho Square, a neighborhood the led him to rub shoulders with the likes of Joseph Banks, the naturalist, and Matthew Flinders, the hydrographer.
Through his business ties and employment at the Hydrographic Office, Arrowsmith made other important relationships with Alexander Dalrymple, the Hudson’s Bay Company, and others entities. In 1810 he became Hydrographer to the Prince of Wales and, in 1820, Hydrographer to the King.
Aaron Arrowsmith died in 1823, whereby the business and title of Hydrographer to the King passed to his sons, Aaron and Samuel, and, later, his nephew, John. Aaron Jr. (1802-1854) was a founder member of the Royal Geographical Society (RGS) and left the family business in 1832; instead, he enrolled at Oxford to study to become a minister. Samuel (1805-1839) joined Aaron as a partner in the business and they traded together until Aaron left for the ministry. Samuel died at age 34 in 1839; his brother presided over his funeral. The remaining stock and copper plates were bought at auction by John Arrowsmith, their cousin.
John (1790-1873) operated his own independent business after his uncle, Aaron Arrowsmith Sr., died. After 1839, John moved into the Soho premises of his uncle and cousins. John enjoyed considerable recognition in the geography and exploration community. Like Aaron Jr., John was a founder member of the RGS and would serve as its unofficial cartographer for 43 years. Several geographical features in Australia and Canada are named after him. He carried the title Hydrographer to Queen Victoria. He died in 1873 and the majority of his stock was eventually bought by Edward Stanford, who co-founded Stanford’s map shop, which is still open in Covent Garden, London today.