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Aaron Arrowsmith's Large Chart of the Indian Ocean.

Aaron Arrowsmith's exceptionally rare chart of the Indian Ocean, published in four sheets, but here with only three present.


Replete with information about prevailing winds and monsoons.

Struggle for Control of the Indian Ocean During the Napoleonic War

During the Napoleonic War, the French navy was able to use its base at Mauritius to substantially harass British shipping from India. In 1808, four fleets of Indiamen left the British Isles for India to collect saltpeter for the Peninsular War

Source Material

Arrowsmith sites the voyages of General Coote, Alexander (1809), the Harcourt, and Bonaventura. He also credits information from D'après de Mannevillette's Supplement.


This chart is exceptionally rare, even by the standards of Arrowsmith charts, which are generally very scarce. We have found two examples of the 1802 (British Library and National Library of Scotland) and one example at UCLA of the 1812 (Charles Stuart de Rothesay Collection of Maps, 1715-1840).

No copies are traced at auction or in dealer catalogs.

Condition Description
Three of four sheets (lacking northwest sheet). Lower edge of northeast sheet with some expert restoration. Very good copies of the present sheets.
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.