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1794 Laurie & Whittle Nautical Chart or Map of the South Coast of Ceylon or Sri Lanka


Plan of Ponta de Gala, on the South Coast of Ceylon.
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Title:    Plan of Ponta de Gala, on the South Coast of Ceylon.

Description:    This is a fine example of Laurie and Whittle's 1794 nautical chart or maritime map of Ponta de Gala (Galle) and Nilewelle (Nilwella) on the southern coast of Sri Lanka or Ceylon. Essentially two maps on one sheet, the upper map features the region of Galle on the southwestern tip of Sri Lanka. The Galle Fort is marked, but not named. Built by the Portuguese in 1588 and later fortified by the Dutch after its capture in 1649, was finally captured by the British in 1796, two years after the making of this map. The map also marks a house on what may be the Rumassala Hills along with a note describing them as the 'highest of the country'. The hills are part of the legend of Ramayana and are believed to be a one of the five pieces of the Himalayas dropped by Hanuman. The lower map features the Bay of Nilewella (Nilwella) on the southern coast of Sri Lanka, located near Dickwella in the Matara district.

The map offers rich detail including countless depth soundings, notes on the sea floor, rhumb lines, shoals, buildings, place names and a wealth of other practical information for the mariner. As noted in the title, Laurie and Whittle derived the map from a much earlier 17th century plan by the Dutch East India Company chart maker Johannes van Keulen (1654-1715). This map was published by Laurie and Whittle from their offices at 53 Fleet Street, London, on May 12, 1794. It was issued independently as well as offered in their 1797 East-India Pilot, or Oriental Navigator. 


Date:    1794 (dated)

Source:    Laurie, R., and Whittle, J., The East-India Pilot, or Oriental Navigator, on One Hundred and Eighteen Plates: Containing a Complete Collection of Charts and Plans, &c., &c. for the Navigation not only of the Indian and China Seas, but of those also between England and the Cape of Good-Hope; Improved and Chiefly Composed from the Last Work of M. D'Apres de Mannevillette; with Considerable Additions, from Private Manuscripts of the Dutch, and from Draughts and Actual Surveys Communicated By Officers of the East-India Company A New Edition, Containing One Hundred and Five Charts. (London: Laurie and Whittle) 1797.

Cartographer:    Laurie and Whittle (fl. 1794 - 1858) were London, England, based map and atlas publishers active in the late 18th and early 19th century. Generally considered to be the successors to the Robert Sayer firm, Laurie and Whittle was founded by Robert Laurie (c. 1755 - 1836) and James Whittle (1757-1818). Robert Laurie was a skilled mezzotint engraver and is known to have worked with Robert Sayer on numerous projects. James Whittle was a well-known London socialite and print seller whose Fleet Street shop was a popular haunt for intellectual luminaries. The partnership began taking over the general management of Sayer's firm around 1787; however, they did not alter the Sayer imprint until after Sayer's death in 1794. Apparently Laurie did most of the work in managing the firm and hence his name appeared first in the "Laurie and Whittle" imprint. Together Laurie and Whittle published numerous maps and atlases, often bringing in other important cartographers of the day, including Kitchin, Faden, Jefferys and others to update and modify their existing Sayer plates. Robert Laurie retired in 1812, leaving the day to day management of the firm to his son, Richard Holmes Laurie (1777 - 1858). Under R. H. Laurie and James Whittle, the firm renamed itself "Whittle and Laurie". Whittle himself died in six years later in 1818, and thereafter the firm continued under the imprint of "R. H. Laurie". After R. H. Laurie's death the publishing house and its printing stock came under control of Alexander George Findlay, who had long been associated with Laurie and Whittle. Since, Laurie and Whittle has passed through numerous permeations, with part of the firm still extant as an English publisher of maritime or nautical charts, 'Imray, Laurie, Norie and Wilson Ltd.' The firm remains the oldest surviving chart publisher in Europe. Click here for a list of rare maps from Laurie & Whittle.

Size:   Printed area measures 11 x 20 inches (27.94 x 50.8 centimeters)

Scale:    1 : 97000

Condition:    Very good. Original platemark visible. Two maps on one sheet.

Code:   CeylonSouth-lauriewhittle-1794 (to order by phone call: 646-320-8650)

Tags:    Laurie and Whittle , Mythology , British India

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