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1840 Ross Map or Chart of Hong Kong (First Opium War)

Entrance to the Chou-Kiang or Canton River from the Ouer Islands to Linten. - Main View

1840 Ross Map or Chart of Hong Kong (First Opium War)


The finest British chart of Hong Kong available during the first Opium War.


Entrance to the Chou-Kiang or Canton River from the Ouer Islands to Linten.
  1840 (dated)     19 x 25 in (48.26 x 63.5 cm)     1 : 184000


A rare and remarkable nautical chart of the utmost significance. This 1840 maritime map of Hong Kong and vicinity is attributed to Captain Daniel Ross, Bombay Marine. During the first Opium War (1839 – 1842), this was the finest and most detailed chart of Hong Kong available. It predates the formal seizure of Hong Kong by Commodore Bremmer in 1841 and Belcher's subsequent 1843 chart by several years. It can only have been this chart, as well as by Belcher's yet unpublished 1841 manuscripts, that were used to negotiate the 1842 Treaty of Nanking, that formally ended the first Opium War and ceded Hong Kong to the British.

This map is derived from Daniel Ross's 1807 - 1816 survey of the China Coast on behalf of the British East India Company. Ross's survey work and his manuscript chart (possibly National Library of Australia, MAP RM 1590), was largely forgotten until the First Opium War (1839 - 1842), when his work was resurrected to serve as the basis for this updated March of 1840 chart. The updates over Ross's 1815 survey, which include additional soundings and other details, were most likely are based upon the surveys of I. A. Douglas, in 1839, at the outset of the First Opium War.

This is one of a three chart Admiralty hydrographic office series identified as 'China South Coast.' The present chart, first published in March, 1840, was the first of the series, with additional charts of surrounding waters, following in April and May. It covers the China coast from Macao to Hong Kong, with countless depth soundings and numerous fascinating annotations. The map identifies 'Chinese Tombs,' 'Pirate Harbor,' a 'Junk Town,' and provides a wealth of other information.

This map is exceedingly rare with only one other example known, currently in the archive of the British Library. It is an essential map for any serious Hong Kong collection.


Daniel Ross (November 11, 1780 - October 29, 1849) was a British hydrographer and naval officer active in India and the Far East during the first half of the 19th century. Ross is admiringly referred to as 'The Father of the Indian Surveys.' He was born in Jamaica, the illegitimate son of Hercules Ross (1745 - December 25, 1816), a powerful Jamaican-English merchant, privateer ship owner, and naval price agent. His mother was Elizabeth Foord, a quadroon slave who Hercules later freed. Ross joined the Bombay Marine in 1795. From 1806 to 1820 he was assigned to survey the coast of China from Vietnam to Macao. In 1822 he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society. By 1823 he had been appointed Marine Surveyor General of Calcutta, a position he held until he resigned in 1833. Afterwards he retired to Bombay (Mumbai) where in 1838 he was appointed President of the Bombay Geographical Society. He retained the position until retiring in ill-heath in 1849. He is the half-brother of sportsman and photography pioneer Horatio Ross. Learn More...

The British Admiralty Office (1795 - Present) or the United Kingdom Hydrographic Office refers to the Branch of the English government that is responsible for the command of the British Navy. In 1795 King George III created the United Kingdom Hydrographic Office, known in short as the U.K.H.O., to provide top notch nautical charts to the vast Royal Navy. Prior the founding of the Admiralty the surveying and creation of nautical charts was primarily a commercial venture wherein the cartographer himself, more of than not, actually financed the printing of his own material. The great navigator Cook himself is known to have scrambled for funds to publish his own seminal charts - the most important and advanced of the period. The system of privately funded nautical mapping and publishing left vast portions of the world uncharted and many excellent charts unpublished. King George III, responding significant loss in trade revenue related to shipwrecks and delay due to poor charts, recognized the need for an institutionalized government sponsored cartographic agency - the Admiralty. The first head of the Admiralty, a position known as Hydrographer, was the important cartographer Alexander Dalrymple. Dalrymple started by organizing and cataloging obtainable charts before initiating the laborious process of updating them and filling in the blanks. The first official Admiralty Chart appeared in 1800 and detailed Quiberon Bay in Brittany. By 1808 the position of Hydrographer fell to Captain Thomas Hurd. Hurd advocated the sale of Admiralty charts to the general public and, by the time he retired in 1829, had issued and published some 736 charts. Stewardship of the organization then passed to Rear Admiral Sir Francis Beaufort. It was under Beaufort's administration that the Admiralty truly developed as a "chart making" as opposed to a "chart cataloging" institution. Beaufort held his post from 1829 to 1854. In his 25 years at the Admiralty Beaufort created nearly 1500 new charts and sponsored countless surveying and scientific expeditions - including the 1831 to 1836 voyage of the H.M.S. Beagle. By 1855 the Admiralty's chart catalog listed some 1,981 charts. Learn More...


Very good. Slight discoloration upper left. Minor closed and repaired tear, upper right.


British Library BLL01004820275. Charting the Pearl River Delta (Hong Kong Maritime Museum), page 16.