Rare English sea chart of the area between India and Sri Lanka, published in Laurie & Whittle's Oriental Pilot.
At the top of the map is a detailed plan of Negapatnam (Nagapattinam), an important trading trading point since the mid-16th Century, when the Portuguese established it as a trading center, and which had been controlled by the Dutch since 1676 and the capital of Dutch Coromandel beginning in 1690. The town had only recently been taken by the British in the early 1780s and thereafter put under the administration of the British East India Company.
The main charts provide an increasingly detailed treatment of the narrow passage between coastline of southern India and Sri Lanka, which would have then been impassible to all but the smallest vessels, with only a 3 to 5 foot depth as measured by Captain George Lewis of the Prudence in 1783
There would appear to be several states of the map dating back as early as about 1778, all of which are very rare.
The map is very rare on the market. We note a single example of an earlier variant of the map by Robert Sayer, offered by Susanna Fisher in 1986.
Robert Laurie (ca. 1755-1836) and James Whittle (1757-1818) formed their Fleet Street, London-based firm upon the 1794 death of their employer Robert Sayer, himself one of the dominant print and mapmakers of the last half of the 18th century.
Laurie & Whittle started managing Sayer's business as early as 1787. They took over all managerial duties when Sayer's health flagged in 1792, and they changed the imprint in 1794 upon his death. Sayer left the two a 21-year lease on the shop (at £100 a year) and on Sayer's Bolt Court premises, as well as an option to acquire stock and equipment at a preferential price of £5,000 payable over three years.
Robert Laurie retired from the firm in 1812, and his role was assumed by his son, Richard Holmes Laurie (1777-1858). The younger Laurie worked with James Whittle until the latter died in 1818. After R. H. Laurie died in 1858, Alexander George Findlay, FRGS (1812-1875) purchased the firm from his daughters. The firm continues today under another name, specializing in yachting charts.
Laurie & Whittle were prolific print and map publishers, and throughout their careers, they produced numerous very important and rare works. They carried on Robert Sayer's atlas business and were responsible for editions of The Complete East-India Pilot and The American Atlas.