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1902 Mansucript Map of Saigon and Cholon, Vietnam

[Saigon and Cholon]

1902 Mansucript Map of Saigon and Cholon, Vietnam


A previously unknown early manuscript map of the early vicinity of Saigon or Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.



[Saigon and Cholon]
  1902 (dated)    32.5 x 41 in (82.55 x 104.14 cm)     1 : 20000


The finest and most detailed manuscript map yet discovered illustrating Saigon or Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. The map is centered on the center of Saigon City, west of the Song Sai Gon River between the Nhiêu Lộc River and the Bến Nghé River. It extends significantly into the surrounding regions, then dotted by small villages and markets, all of which is now part of metropolitan Saigon. The map extends north roughly as far as Khu Pho, south to the confluence of the Sai Gon River with the NHA be River. The focus of the map appears to be network of roadways, railroads, tramways, and river connections between Cholon (Chợ Lớn), then a separate city, and Saigon. Most of the text is either French or transliterated Vietnamese. City, town, village and canton boundaries are delimitated using various types of dotted lines referenced in the legend, lower right.

While the purpose behind this map remains unclear, as is the maker, there are several things we can infer. While meticulously detailed, the map appears to be civilian work as the hand and text are not as neat as one might expect from the well-established French military style of cartography. The map does note military installations and other fortifications, but also churches, bridges, hospitals, cemeteries, markets, and more. The real focus seems to be on transportation network, including rivers, railroads, and bridges, suggesting civilian administrative or commercial use. Indeed, it is in this area that the map stands out as probably the finest extant map of the many minor waterways, villages, and roads, most of which are named, that have since been assimilated into greater Ho Chi Minh City. This map was issued just two years before Saigon and Cholon were organized into municipalities, so this map may have something to do with the planning for that administrative change. The map does appear to have been updated as a renaming some boundaries, has been added in the form of a pastedown in the legend. The apparent abbreviations 'mon cne' and 'pde' appear throughout, and by virtue of their omnipresence, interpreting their meaning may offer significant insight into the purpose of the map itself.

The map does appear to be signed and dated in the lower right quadrant and was either made by or for a Caporal-Bibliothecaire (or Corporal Librarian), possibly of Saigon. What appears to be a signature is all but impossible to decipher, but we think it may be 'Sr. de Lousagne,' or 'Lousague,' neither of which yield clues for further study. A date, September 1, 1902, also appears in the corner, although again, it is unclear if this is part of the original map or was added later, as the ink and hand appear different from the remainder of the map. Regardless, this is doubtless one of the finest, if not the finest and earliest map to offer real detail of the vicinity of Saigon and its urban development.


Very good. Age toning. Original linen. Minor stain, lower border.
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