Finely detailed pair of sea charts, covering the northern part of the Bay of Bengal and a chart of the River from the coast to Calcutta and Hoogly.
The chart at the right tracks the course of the Hooghly River northward, with an existing post road and projected railroad line to the east of the River, extending north to Calcutta.
In the main chart, there are annotations locating various points of interest, including:
- Ile Saugor -- pharo or lighthouse with a little drawing of a house: In French it reads " Phare Projete" meaning project of a future lighthouse. The annotations read, " Execute" meaning it had been finished.
- Above the French words : Feu Flottant (next to the sailboat)….meaning floating lights.....and above that it reads in French "Station des Pilotes" meaning "Captain stations" This indicates the point where the incoming ships met the harbor pilots who would guide them into the bay and up river.
The Dépôt de la Marine, known more formally as the Dépôt des cartes et plans de la Marine, was the central charting institution of France. The centralization of hydrography in France began in earnest when Jean-Baptiste Colbert became First Minister of France in 1661. Under his watch, the first Royal School of Hydrography began operating, as did the first survey of France’s coasts (1670-1689). In 1680, Colbert consolidated various collections of charts and memoirs into a single assemblage, forming the core of sources for what would become the Dépôt.
The Dépôt itself began as the central deposit of charts for the French Navy. In 1720, the Navy consolidated its collection with those government materials covering the colonies, creating a single large repository of navigation. By 1737, the Dépôt was creating its own original charts and, from 1750, they participated in scientific expeditions to determine the accurate calculation of longitude.
In 1773, the Dépôt received a monopoly over the composition, production, and distribution of navigational materials, solidifying their place as the main producer of geographic knowledge in France. Dépôt-approved charts were distributed to official warehouses in port cities and sold by authorized merchants. The charts were of the highest quality, as many of France’s premier mapmakers worked at the Dépôt in the eighteenth century, including Philippe Bauche, Jacques-Nicolas Bellin, Rigobert Bonne, Jean Nicolas Buache, and Charles-François Beautemps-Beaupré.
The Dépôt continued to operate until 1886, when it became the Naval Hydrographic Service. In 1971, it changed names again, this time to the Naval and Oceanographic Service (SHOM). Although its name has changed, its purpose is largely the same, to provide high quality cartographic and scientific information to the France’s Navy and merchant marine.