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Aaron Arrowsmith's rare antique four-sheet map of the East Indies, with additions to 1812.

The map shows the coasts of Burma, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Philippines, and West Papua. Depths are shown.

The title is set at the upper left sheet, with a graticulated border, grid at one-degree intervals, numerous coastal soundings, wind directions, and shoals indicated. The map includes details of the best clipper routes to China at various months of the year, as well as the routes of various English navigators, including Cook.

An impressive four sheet chart of the navigation routes through the southeast Asian archipelago to China and the Philippines. Arrowsmith was a very inventive and accurate mapmaker. This wall map may have been commissioned specifically for an Asian trading company and was certainly aimed at English captains and companies trading to China and southeast Asia.

The detail on depth soundings, winds, obstructions, and general accuracy is a trademark of Arrowsmith's fine work. Arrowsmith moved to London in 1770 and was employed by both Faden and John Cary. In 1790, he set up on his own and made his reputation with his 8 sheet world map on Mercator's projection, 1790. It was not until the end of the 19th century that the Hydrographical office of the Royal Navy sent its surveying ships Sulphur, Samarang, Herald and others to the region that accurate nautical charts became available.

This is a rare Arrowsmith chart. We have handled this edition only one other time, in 2015. We note an example of the 1824 edition in a dealer catalog (Shapero, 2004, Item 219) and one example of the 1809 edition (Manasek, 1992, Item 25). Christie's offered a copy of the 1812 edition of the chart in their July 15, 2005 Travel Sale (Lot 65).

Condition Description
4 sheets, unjoined. Minor soiling.
Aaron Arrowsmith Biography

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.