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Memoir of a Map of Hindoostan;

or the Mogul's Empire: With an Examination of some Positions in the former System of Indian Geography; and some Illustrations of the present one: And a Complete Index of Names to the Map.

Published: London: Printed by M. Brown, for the Author, 1783

Stock code: 100945

Price: £1,250

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This item is on show at 43 Dover Street (map)

First edition of the descriptive memoir produced by Rennell, “the father of Indian geography”, to accompany his map, “the first approximately correct map of India” (DNB). After an early career in the navy, during which he managed to master the art of surveying, Rennell was employed in the service of the East India Company as commander of small surveying vessels. A cruise to Bengal fortuitously had him arriving at Calcutta “at the time when Governor Vansittart was anxious to initiate a survey of the British territory. Owing to the friendship of an old messmate, who had become the governor’s secretary, Rennell was appointed surveyor-general of the East India Company’s dominions in Bengal, with a commission in the Bengal engineers, dated 9 April 1764. He was only twenty-one years of age when he met with this extraordinary piece of good fortune”. Rennell’s survey of Bengal, which he embarked upon commenced in 1764, was the first ever prepared. He received the rank of major of Bengal engineers on 5 April 1776, and retired from active service in 1777, after having been engaged on the survey for thirteen years. On his return to England he began the publication of “a new set of maps of Bengal to replace the inadequate small-scale maps published by the East India Company from his earlier surveys, and, with the guarantee of a bulk order from the company, had plates engraved to publish A Bengal Atlas first in 1780 … [it] remained the standard administrative map of Bengal for almost fifty years, the river maps being pirated in Calcutta in 1825, and the last recorded London reprint appearing in 1829 or 1830. Rennell’s general map of India, was first published as ‘Hindoostan’ in 1782 and dedicated to Sir Joseph Banks …”. An excellent copy of this important work, elusive in this first edition.

Quarto (275 216 mm). Contemporary streaked calf, red morocco label, spine divided by a broad gilt roll framed by fine dotted rolls, single gilt fillet panel to the boards, board edges gilt milled, edges stained yellow. Fine engraved allegorical frontispiece – pundits offering the shastas “into the protection” of Britannia, “in Allusion to the humane Interposition of the British Legislature in Favor of the Natives of Bengal, in the Year 1781” – and two maps, one of them folding. A touch rubbed, the upper joint just starting, tan-burn to the margins of the endpapers, the frontispiece trimmed a little close, some browning, but overall a very good copy.

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