This astoundingly large plan grants a panoptic view of Calcutta, captured during its heyday as the capital and commercial centre of India. In immense details, every city block, major building and property is carefully delineated, all based on exacting measurements taken by the latest scientific methods and instruments.
By the mid-1840s, it was clear that the Schalch-Princep survey of Calcutta had become “seriously out of date”, as since 1825, the city had nearly doubled in population to almost 400,000, with the urban area spilling beyond the Great Circular Canal into the farmland beyond. Creating a new survey was imperative for management of the drainage system, infrastructure development and taxation purposes.
Frederick Walter Simms (1803-65) was an English civil engineer and topographer who, in 1846, moved to Calcutta to serve as East India Company’s consulting engineer for railways. Simms “offered to carry out a new survey of Calcutta the would meet all engineering requirements”. His offer was eagerly accepted and Simms was granted the use the finest equipage and the command of a staff of 40 surveyors and several draftsmen.The survey was carried out with both considerable care and dispatch between 1847 and 1849. The following year Simms massive manuscript plan, done to a scale of 100 feet to an inch, was complete. Simms arranged for the map to be printed in London in 1858 by the firm of J. & C. Walker, on a reduced, but still enormous, scale of 14 inches to the mile.
The present edition “revised to 1875” features major additions, including new surveys of the suburbs of Calcutta conducted by Henry Thuillier and Captain R. Smyth, as well as the massive new rail yards at Howrah, which was by far India’s largest land transportation hub.