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Unrecorded Arrowsmith Chart of the Philippines

Extremely rare example of Aaron Arrowsmith’s general chart of the Philippine Islands, first published in London in 1812. This state, with corrections to 1818, is unrecorded and previously unknown to scholars.

The chart shows the archipelago as it was known in 1818. The islands themselves break the frame of the map, emphasizing their size and number. Several ships’ tracks are included in this edition. The most prominent is that of the Descubierta and the Atrevida, the purpose-built exploration used by Alejandro Malaspina on his Pacific survey that took in the state of the Spanish empire at the close of the eighteenth century.

The inclusion of this important Spanish expedition is also a reference to Arrowsmith’s sources, which were also Spanish. The chart is based on the Carta general del ArchipIélago de Filipinas / Levantada en 1792 y 93 por los Comandantes y oficiales de las corbetas de S.M... Construida de orn. superior en la Dirección Hidrográfica; C. Noguera la delº; Jf. Cardano la grº; J. Morata la escribió, by Felipe Bauzá. It was first published by the Spanish charting body, the Dirección Hidrográfica, in 1808. 

The differences between this 1818 state and the original 1812 are mainly in the island groups surrounding the larger islands. What is the “Apo Bank” in the original is now the “Apo Shoal”, and the islands trailing to the southwest of the shoal are drawn with more precision on the 1818 state. Busvagon, for example, is considerably larger in the 1818 and has two points of elevation included. Southeast, the Quiniluban Islands have increased in number and Malalais is now named. Farther south and just east, the Cagayan Islands also have more definition.

To the east, in the Surigao Islands, a new ship’s track has been laid. This is the HMS Psyche, which explored the area in 1809. The Psyche experienced rough weather and conditions amongst the islands. They weathered a storm, cut an anchor, and nearly ran aground on a coral reef before sailing free. The ship’s name has left its mark in the Psyche Passage.

States of the Chart

Arrowsmith's 1818 chart is apparently unrecorded. 

The first state of the map was published in 1812. The 1812 edition of the map was advertised for sale in Debates at the East-India House, During the Negociation for a Renewal of the East-India Company's Charter . . . ., Volume 2, in an advertising section in the back of the volume. It also featured in an advertisement dated August 1813, “Modern Publication and New Editions of Valuable Works, Pilots, Maps Charts &c. Printed For, And Sold Wholesale, Retail and for Exportation By Black, Parry & Co., Booksellers to the Hon. The East-India Company, Stationers, Map and Chart Sellers, Leadenhall Street, London.”

The present example appears to be the second state, with additions to 1818. There was another state with additions to 1823, which seems to survive in a single example in the British Library.

The map was later re-issued by Samuel Arrowsmith, Aaron’s son, in 1832. Three later states of a second edition (with the addition of an inset Plan of the Bay of Manila) were published by Richard Holmes Laurie in 1845, 1853, and 1862. The last of these was corrected from the charts of the Spanish cartographers Juan Morata and Francisco Coello, and the surveys of Commander William Thornton Bate.    All of these later states are also extremely rare on the market.

A copy of the first state of the map can be seen here: The British Library also has a copy of the 1812 edition, catalogued under the original Spanish title, Carta general del Archipiélago de Filipinas. Levantada en 1792, 93, but credited to Arrowsmith. 


The chart is of the utmost rarity. We can locate no institutional examples of the 1818 state, and only the two aforementioned states of the 1812 edition (BPL and BL). 

Condition Description
Restoration along the top margin. Margins extended and neatline reinstated. A few minor tears on the edges, expertly repaired.
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.