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Rare British Admiralty Map of the North Polar Regions, focusing on the most updated explorations of the various seafaring nations then exploring the Arctic Regions.

First issued December 24, 1855 and periodically updated to reflect the most recent explorations, the map identifies the explorations of various nations, with the printed legend noting:

  • Seas first navigated by British expeditions (Blue)
  • The Coasts discovered by British explorers before 1800 (Dark Blue)
  • The Coasts discovered by British explorers after 1800, (1818-1859) (Brown)
  • The Coasts explored in late years (1859-74) by Americans, Germans, Swedes and Austrians (Red)

Issued in the year following the discovery of John Franklin's lost ship, the map tracks the progress following the discovery of the Northwest passage.  Discoveries shown include the following:

  • 1820-24 Ferdinand von Wrangel and Fyodor Matyushkin explore the East Siberian Sea and the Chukchi Sea areas
  • 1821-24 Fyodor Litke explores the eastern Barents Sea and the west coast of Novaya Zemlya, including Matochkin Strait
  • 1821-23 Pyotr Anjou continues exploration of New Siberian Islands
  • 1853-55 Second Grinnell Expedition led by Elisha Kane looks for Franklin searching Grinnell Land
  • 1857-59 British expedition led by Francis Leopold McClintock was the fifth expedition sponsored by Lady Franklin and found artefacts, a crew members skeleton and the final written communications from the last survivors of the Franklin expedition
  • 1860-61 American expedition led by Isaac Israel Hayes who claimed to have seen the Open Polar Sea
  • 1860-62 First expedition led by American Charles Francis Hall
  • 1864-69 Second expedition led by Charles Francis Hall
  • 1868 First German North Polar Expedition led by Carl Koldewey along the east coast of Greenland
  • 1869-70 Second German North Polar Expedition (Germania and Hansa) led by Carl Koldewey reaches Sabine Island
  • 1871-73 Third expedition led by Charles Francis Hall the Polaris expedition
  • 1872-74 Austro-Hungarian North Pole expedition led by Captain Karl Weyprecht


The map is rare on the market. We note an 1875 example that sold at Christie's in 2017 and a copy offered by Francis Edwards in 1972.

We previously sold another example of the chart in 2018.

Condition Description
Folding map. Dissected and mounted on contemporary linen, with some minor fraying to the linen at folds. Mounted in original gilt-lettered cloth covers. Foxing to the lower-left panel.
British Admiralty Biography

The British Admiralty has produced nautical charts since 1795 under the auspices of the United Kingdom Hydrographic Office (HO). Its main task was to provide the Royal Navy with navigational products and service, but since 1821 it has also sold charts to the public.

In 1795, King George III appointed Alexander Dalrymple, a pedantic geographer, to consolidate, catalogue, and improve the Royal Navy’s charts. He produced the first chart as the Hydrographer to the Admiralty in 1802. Dalrymple, known for his sticky personality, served until his death in 1808, when he was succeeded by Captain Thomas Hurd. The HO has been run by naval officers ever since.

Hurd professionalized the office and increased its efficiency. He was succeeded by the Arctic explorer Captain William Parry in 1823. By 1825, the HO was offering over seven hundred charts and views for sale. Under Parry, the HO also began to participate in exploratory expeditions. The first was a joint French-Spanish-British trip to the South Atlantic, a voyage organized in part by the Royal Society of London.

In 1829, Rear-Admiral Sir Francis Beaufort was appointed Hydrographer Royal. Under his management, the HO introduced the wind force scale named for him, as well as began issuing official tide tables (1833). It was under Beaufort that HMS Beagle completed several surveying missions, including its most famous voyage commanded by Captain FitzRoy with Charles Darwin onboard. When Beaufort retired in 1855, the HO had nearly two thousand charts in its catalog.

Later in the nineteenth century, the HO supported the Challenger expedition, which is credited with helping to found the discipline of oceanography. The HO participated in the International Meridian Conference which decided on the Greenwich Meridian as the Prime Meridian. Regulation and standardization of oceanic and navigational measures continued into the twentieth century, with the HO participating at the first International Hydrographic Organization meeting in 1921.

During World War II, the HO chart making facility moved to Taunton, the first purpose-built building it ever inhabited. In 1953, the first purpose-built survey ship went to sea, the HMS Vidal. Today, there is an entire class of survey vessels that make up the Royal Navy’s Hydrographic Squadron. The HO began to computerize their charts in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In 1968, the compilation staff also came to Taunton, and the HO continues to work from there today.