Chart of the East Coast of Madagascar, including the Mauritius, Seychelle Islands and c.


A charming representation of a grim reality: nautical chart of East Madagascar marked-up to document an extended whale hunt.

Date: 1846
Place: London
Dimensions: 53 x 67 cm (21 x 26.5 in)
Condition Rating: VG

In stock

SKU: NL-00777 Category: Tag:


This is an exceptional 1846 British Admiralty nautical chart of northeast Madagascar, Mauritius, and the Seychelles Archipelago with unique manuscript annotations relating to a series of c. 1852 – 1856 whaling voyages in the south Indian Ocean. The annotations include illustrated whale tails recording whale sightings and takings, some of which are dated, others of which appear to relate to a numeric key (now lost).


Whaling in Madagascar

Madagascar sits at the confluence of the South Equatorial Current and the East Madagascar Current, which draws various whales along their migratory patterns. The region is particularly rich in Sperm, Humpback, and Bryde whales. East Madagascar, around Antongil Bay, is believed to be an active mating ground for the Humpback Whale. While indigenous whaling off the east coast was recorded as early as 1598 by Theodor De Bry and others, active whaling by European and American whaling ships did not develop until around 1800. After 1820, over-whaling became a recognized problem in the region. Today, as part of the Indian Ocean Whale Sanctuary, it is designated as a protected zone.

This map was first published by the British Admiralty in 1828 following the completion and compilation of Owen’s seminal 1821 – 1826 survey of Africa’s east coast. The present example, an ancillary map not included in the formal Owen 6-map set, was revised and updated to 1846. The map was engraved by the firm of J and C. Walker.

This map is rare, and with the present manuscript whaling notations, unique. We are aware of one example of this edition, at Princeton. Another edition (1867) is held by the British Library. We are aware of no surviving examples of the 1828 first edition.


British Admiralty Hydrographic Office

The United Kingdom Hydrographic Office is the British Admiralty’s agency for creating and supplying hydrographic and marine geospatial data. The Admiralty’s first Hydrographer was Alexander Dalrymple, who was appointed in 1795 on the order of King George III. Among his tasks was cataloguing the existing charts into a royal cartographic library. Dalrymple was succeeded in 1808 by Captain Thomas Hurd, under whose stewardship the department was given permission to sell their maps to the public. By 1825, more than seven hundred different charts and coastal views were for sale from the Hydrographic Office.

In general, hydrographers have played a key role in the development of cartography. It was hydrographers who first began calculating the effects of magnetic declination on navigation, and hydrographers who drew the first maps that tried to compensate for this effect in their rendition. The British Hydrographic Office introduced a number of important features, such the use of an eponymous scale or the inclusion of tide tables in nautical charts, which soon became standard features. The Hydrographic Office also mounted or co-sponsored along list of expeditions across the globe, including Charles Darwin’s voyage with the HMS Beagle.

John Walker

John Walker was a British map seller, engraver, lithographer, hydrographer, geographer, draughtsman, and publisher of both nautical charts and geographical maps. Walker’s maps for publication were primarily produced in partnership with his brother, Charles, under the imprint J. and C. Walker. Among their joint projects were more than 200 maps for the influential Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge Atlas (SDUK). In addition they published numerous charts for the Admiralty Hydrographic Office.

Rare Maps by Cartographer William Fitzwilliam Owen

William Fitzwilliam Owen (1774 – 1857), officer in the Royal Navy, commanded the mission of the sloop Leven and brig Barracouta in mapping the entire east African coast from the Cape to the Horn of Africa. When Owen completed his mission in 1826, having covered some 30,000 miles of coast, he returned to England with 300 new charts.

Condition Description

Good. Manuscript annotations related to whaling. Some foxing. Old linen backing.


OCLC 64451972.