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Map of Calcutta (1832)

Mirza Firuz Shah
Akbar Shah II 1806–1837
Stacked Wooden Logs


A masterpiece of early Indian lithography and colouring, and an exquisite rendering of the important Schalch-Princep survey of Calcutta:
The map provides an extremely detailed portrayal of Calcutta, which was then the capital of the “Company Raj” and India’s preeminent commercial and cultural centre, with a population of almost 200,000. The city proper, comprised of densely populated urban blocks coloured in red, is confined by the Hooghly River and the New Circular Canal. The great citadel of Fort William, built between 1757 and 1764, rises out of the middle of the Esplanade on the south side of town. True to European Enlightenment era urban models, Calcutta is traversed by several broad thoroughfares, although by contrast most of the city is comprised of narrow, curving streets and alleyways, common to many traditional Indian cities.

A superb map of Calcutta printed in Calcutta by one of India's greatest lithographers and used to improve the public health of the city.

The map depicts Calcutta and surroundings in great detail and also includes the western side of the Hooghly River. It also shows Fort William and the surrounding Esplanade. The key in the lower left elaborates the street names that did not fit in the map image, it also lists the public buildings and bazaars of Calcutta. Brick houses, native huts and ships, scattered huts, orchards or topes, gardens, and fields, are all differentiated pictorially. North is at the left, giving the map an eastern orientation.

As noted in the title, the map is based on the surveys of Major John Augustus Schalch (1793-1825) and Captain Thomas Prinsep. Those surveys were conducted from 1820-28, and substantially updated Lieutenant Colonel Mark Wood's survey of the city that was executed in 1784 and 1785. The Schlach-Prinsep surveys were initiated in part as a response to the 1817 Cholera epidemic in Lower Bengal.

The Shlach-Prinsep surveys were first made available with Ernesto de la Combe's virtually unobtainable map of 1828.

Schalch's survey proved that Calcutta sloped from East to West, and thus it served as the basis for a system of canals around the city that were intended to improve its precarious hydrological position. The canals were begun in 1829 and finished in 1833. The Circular Canal is shown on the map.

The map, when it is seldom seen, is usually dissected and laid on linen. This is the first example that we have seen uncut.

The map is by Jean-Baptiste Tassin, whose fascinating and geographically wide-ranging career landed him in Calcutta, where he started one of the city's first lithography presses. He later also worked in San Francisco, with period between and after in France.

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average rating is 5 out of 5

Ismail Mazari

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Very good information.

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Shah Sharaf Barlas


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