The First Large Format Map of French Cochinchina
Rare separately published map of the southern part of Vietnam and Cambodia, centered on the Mekong Delta and River.
The map extends from the coast and the area around Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) to the area around Phenom Penh in Cambodia, published by the French Foreign Ministry.
The map shows the region shortly after the French conquest of Tonkin, et. under the Direction of Admiral Rigault de Genouilly in 1858.
Under the orders of Napoleon III of France, Rigault de Genouilly's gunships attacked the port of Đà Nẵng in 1858, inflicting substantial damage, but failing to take the city. Genouilly next moved sailed south, capturing Gia Định (present-day Ho Chi Minh City). From 1859 to 1867, French troops expanded their control over all six provinces on the Mekong delta and formed a colony known as Cochinchina.
The map is extremely rare. We locate examples in the British Library, Harvard, Paris Natural History Museum and the University de Montaigne (Bordeaux).
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.