This is a beautifully hand-colored c. 1750 Jacques Nicolas Bellin map of Bombay (Mumbai), India. Bellin's map illustrates Bombay as it was becoming the British East India Company's primary base of operations in India, replacing Surat to the north. It is oriented towards the east, with north at left.
A Closer LookBombay was under lease to the East India Company from the British Crown, who had acquired the islands from Portugal as part of the marriage agreement between Charles II and Princess Catherine of Braganza. With easy access to the Persian Gulf - Indian Ocean trade route, Bombay quickly became a busy harbor town and important center for British commerce. More broadly, India was undergoing important transitions at this time that would eventually open the door to British dominance on the subcontinent. Namely, the Mughals were largely displaced by the Marathas and Sikhs, who were the most powerful opponents of later British expansion.
Despite being a center of trade, early maps of Bombay are surprisingly scarce. For this map, Bellin had to use the late 17th century map of Samuel Thornton. Thornton's map is the earliest known printed map of Bombay and is today, for all intent and purposes, unobtainable. All subsequent maps of Bombay until the late 18th century were based exclusively on the Thornton map. Bellin's small map, here, is no exception and Thornton's work can be seen in its general layout as well as in the soundings, anchorages, and annotations.
Publication History and CensusThis map was drawn by Jacques Nicolas Bellin and published as plate No. 1 in Vol. 9 of the Abbe Provost's L'Histoire Générale des Voyages. As the map is undated and Provost's book was published in multiple editions from the mid-late 18th century, it is difficult to know its date with certainty, but it closely resembles other editions that have been dated to the mid-18th century (later editions rotated the map to align on a north-south axis).
Jacques-Nicolas Bellin (1703 - March 21, 1772) was one of the most important cartographers of the 18th century. With a career spanning some 50 years, Bellin is best understood as geographe de cabinet and transitional mapmaker spanning the gap between 18th and early-19th century cartographic styles. His long career as Hydrographer and Ingénieur Hydrographe at the French Dépôt des cartes et plans de la Marine resulted in hundreds of high quality nautical charts of practically everywhere in the world. A true child of the Enlightenment Era, Bellin's work focuses on function and accuracy tending in the process to be less decorative than the earlier 17th and 18th century cartographic work. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Bellin was always careful to cite his references and his scholarly corpus consists of over 1400 articles on geography prepared for Diderot's Encyclopedie. Bellin, despite his extraordinary success, may not have enjoyed his work, which is described as "long, unpleasant, and hard." In addition to numerous maps and charts published during his lifetime, many of Bellin's maps were updated (or not) and published posthumously. He was succeeded as Ingénieur Hydrographe by his student, also a prolific and influential cartographer, Rigobert Bonne. More by this mapmaker...
John Thornton (October 8, 1641 - January 23, 1708) was a British chartmaker, sea captain, publisher and engraver active in London during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Thornton apprenticed to John Burston where mastered the art of manuscript maritime cartography as practiced by the Thames School. By the 1660s Thornton, working with John Seller and William Fisher, began publishing printed nautical charts and was the only Thames School cartographers to successfully transition to print. Thornton published numerous maps both independently and with some of the most prominent British publishers of his day, including the aforementioned as well as Herman Moll, Robert Morden, James Clark, Robert Greene, and Philip Lea. From around 1665 Thornton took over from Seller the production of the English Pilot. Upon his death in 1708 Thornton willed his charts, copper plates, instruments, and 'all things belonging to my calling' to his son, Samuel Thornton, who continued to republished his father's work, with few updates, until about 1715. Learn More...
Provost, A., L'Histoire Generale des Voyages, (Paris) Vol. IX, plate 1.