This fascinating and detailed map depicts the vast ‘Northwestern’ regions of the Indian Subcontinent to a high degree of accuracy of the first time on a published map. In 1837, the Surveyor General of India’s field office in Dehra Dun drafted a groundbreaking manuscript map, which carefully sourced and edited the best cartography from several of the most authoritative surveys of the immense and rugged region the extended from Delhi up through Afghanistan, and which embraced the important regions of Rajasthan and the Punjab. The map is highly impressive as it delineates the major rivers, traces the principal mountain ranges and depicts major roads and towns, creating an impression that is overall familiar to the modern viewer.
The Surveyor General’s Office had this great manuscript map printed in Calcutta in 1838 by their favoured printer, the Oriental Lithographic Press, operated by Jean-Baptiste Tassin, whose elegant and unique printing style greatly added to the clarity and appeal of the map.
The present map appeared at a critical time when the Northwestern regions were becoming the primary focus of the British East India Company (EIC). As the British controlled, either directly or indirectly, most of India to the southeast of Punjab’s Sutlej River, the vast regions beyond were the last great remaining prizes. The Punjab, Jammu & Kashmir and the lands extending west the Afghan border were then part of the Sikh Empire. During the First and Second Anglo-Sikh Wars (1845-6 and 1848-9), the British managed to topple the empire, integrating Punjab into British India, while the remaining areas became princely states. The EIC, under General Sir Charles Napier famously conquered Sindh in 1843. However, the British attempt to invade Afghanistan, during the First Anglo-Afghan War (1839-42) was an epic disaster. Tassin’s excellent map would have been considered extremely useful for strategic military planning during this critical period.