This exquisite sea chart is one of the only known surviving early large-format maps of Bombay to have been printed in India, and was most likely lithographed and coloured by an Indian (as opposed to a European) lithographer. It embraces all of Bombay Harbour and features detailed and sophisticated nautical information, in addition to supplying very comprehensive and fascinating coverage of terrestrial features.
Bombay Island is shown to have become a single landmass, as the famous “Seven Islands of Bombay” had by 1838 been successfully joined upon the completion of the massive Hornby Vellard land reclamation project. The urban area north of the Bombay Fort is shown to be rapidly expanding with new quays having being built along the harbour front. The Colaba Causeway is depicted, having been completed in 1838; the Sion Causeway, connecting Bombay to Salsette Island, while first constructed in 1805, is shown in its expanded form, following renovations in 1826; while the Mahim Causeway is yet to be built, as it would be constructed between 1841 to 1846.
The map captures Bombay on the eve of a massive wave of population, economic and physical growth. In 1840 Bombay was by far India’s largest commercial port and had a population of around 250,000, however this figure would double over next 20 years. Bombay was the origin of the first railway line in India, completed in 1853, and by 1870 the city was connected by rail to centres all across India. Bombay would also shortly become the world’s largest textile entrepôt, a role strengthened by the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, which placed Bombay in relatively close transport proximity to Europe.
The chart, even at first glance, assumes a wonderfully unusual appearance. The style of the lithography, from the typography to how the ink rides on the paper, is distinctly different from the manner of charts published in Europe. Likewise, the palette of the map’s bright, yet elegant, original colours are distinctly Indian. Research suggests the map was produced by an obscure Bombay printing house, the ‘Manifest Press’ and lithographed by ‘Juggunnath Willoba’, of whom we can find few records.