Thursday, April 7, 2011

Missing beans

I recently heard of a dealer of antique maps - Geographicus - there was no way I would have heard of them but for something remarkable that they did. They scanned up their treasures and, since these ancient maps were in public domain, released them for use on Wikimedia Commons. These maps are amazing sources of history! These original works with their historical purposes - probably to guide early traders find stuff to ship back to their homes. One of the maps I have been marvelling is this one from 1733. The full map by Homann's heirs can be found here but here is a crop of a region of interest. It includes places like Dharmapuri and the entire region holding 95 million people today is yet to be discovered.
Homann heirs 1733 map (no roads)

Come 1748 and the town of boiled beans is still not on their map! 1794 and Bengaluru (correct spelling!) appears in Jefferys map. Note that there are no major roads leading to it but then it seems like the Germans were not very interested in actual business. This was around the same time that the English were mapping the region so as not to get beaten again by Tipu.
Portion of 1794 Jeffreys map

The 1800 map by Faden Rennell shows road networks and it is clear that they are well established - note the neighbouring town of Pedda Ballapuram. In 1808 we see Chinna Ballapuram nearby.
1808 map
There must be many interesting things to study in these maps, rivers gone dry, towns coalescing, names  and boundaries changing and so on. Perhaps we can have more original geography classes (looking back, I cannot even figure out if there was a guiding philosophy in the teaching of geography) now that the compilation of geographical knowledge itself becomes more visible. 

Credits: courtesy of Geographicus, via Wikimedia Commons

Index to the maps 
(Make sure you click on the "full resolution" link below the images on these pages)

1652 - Nicholas Sanson
1733 - Homann heirs (South India)
1740 - Matthias Seuter (India, German view)
1748 - Homann heirs
1756 - Bellin (Kollam fort) 
1759 - La Rouge (French Coromandel - include Kallamedu - Pt. Calimere)
1764 - Jacques-Nicolas Bellin (French map of Bombay)
1768 - Jeffreys
1770 - Rigobert Bonne (northern India)
1775 - Jean-Baptiste d'Apr├Ęs de Mannevillette (maritime map, south India, Sri Lanka)
1776 - Rennell (Bihar, Bengal)
1777 - Rennell (Delhi)
1780 - Bonne-Raynal (northern India)
1780 - Bonne-Raynal (southern India)
1780 - Bonne (Maldives)
1780 - Rigobert Bonne (French map, northern India)
1784 - Tiefenthaler (Ganges)
1793 - William Faden
1799 - Clement Cruttwell
1800 - James Rennell
1804 - German version of Rennell's southern India map with notes on Tippu Saheb
1806 - John Cary (used by Bishop Reginald Heber)
1808 - Charles Smith
1814 - John Thomson (southern India)
1814 - Thomson (with details of Ganga)
1814 - Thomson (northern India, Nepal)
1818 - John Pinkerton
1821 - Matthew Carey (with English take-over dates)
1827 - Anthony Finley
1834 - Penny Cyclopaedia (Society for diffusion of useful knowledge)
1834 - Bombay Goa
1837 - Malte-Brun (French map with low resolution of detail)
1838 - James Wyld (S. India with rivers, roads)
1842 - Calcutta
1852 - Levasseur (S Asia)
1853 - S A Mitchell (princely state boundaries) 
1855 - Justus Perthes (includes India of Ptolemy and Eratosthenes)
1855 - Colton
1862 - A J Johnson
1863 - Edward Weller (map of Delhi - useful for readers of The Last Mughal)
1864 - S A Mitchell (Asia including Tibet)
1864 - A J Johnson (Hindostan)
1865 - A J Johnson
1865 - Karl Spruner von Merz
1879 - Bombay Harbour
1895 - Times of India (Bombay)

Further reading


  1. Beautiful. Thanks for sharing. have re-shared.

  2. Was completely fascinated by the history of geography (well, it's actually history of cartography but the other phrase sounds better!)

    Seems also to be a history of spelling :)

  3. Talking of maps, you must certainly have read The Selected Works of T(ecumseh) S(parrow) Spivet by Reif Larsen ( Fictional but fascinating byproduct of a cartographically besotted mind.

  4. Have not read the book but certainly looks like interesting reading. Enqueued for now to my to-read list that needs several more lives now!