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Monday, April 11, 2011

Map of the Day: French Manuscript Map of Northeast India

THE MOST ACCURATE EIGHTEENTH-CENTURY MAP OF INDIA 
Watercolor and Ink on Paper
Dimensions:  42" x 66"

The mid-to-late 1700s witnessed a number of conflicts between the British and French over colonial holdings, and not just in North America. India, too, was a source of contention, as witnessed by this magnificent, large-scale manuscript map of present-day northeast India. 

This unique monument marks the end of French colonial aspirations in the region, and represents the most accurate manuscript map of India from the eighteenth century. The map extends from Delhi at the northwest to Patna and beyond in modern Bihar at the southeast. The backbone of the map is the Ganges River, which snakes from Delhi down past Agra, turns east at Allahabad and continues its southeastward course toward the Bay of Bengal. 

The map is the product of a French military cartographer, made in a period when the French were rapidly losing ground to the British in India. The Seven Years' War (1756-1763) resulted in the defeat of the French forces and limited French imperial ambitions. In 1757, the French were defeated at Calcutta and pushed out of Bengal. They soon suffered a similar fate in the south, where the British, after further advances, defeated them soundly at Wandiwash in 1760. French ambitions on Indian territories were effectively laid to rest with the Treaty of Paris in 1763, thereby eliminating a major source of economic competition for the British East India Company. Thus this map was made in the very years when the French were losing their hold on India. 

Such a map would have been kept in the strictest secrecy during this time when geographical knowledge was so closely intertwined with political domination. The foremost scholarly authority on maps of India, Susan Gole, has shared her insights and expertise on several matters relating to this "beautiful map," which she considers "a great advance on that of d'Anville of 1752 [considered the most accurate map to that date]." Gole estimates that it "was prepared about 1765-1770, either for use in the military struggle between the French and British in India, or by the Capuchins so they could know where to find safe haven and avoid the British." 

This map is not only remarkable for its aesthetics and history, but also for its geographic sophistication. Gole concludes simply that it "shows more up-to-date information than any other that I know of for the period." Not one of the standard reference books illustrates a map of comparable quality, from public or private collections anywhere in the world, for this time period. This is a map of national importance and oustanding aesthetic quality, worthy of any major art museum.

Offered at $275,000

Arader Galleries intends to have the lowest prices on ABE, Alibris, Biblio, AE, and Artnet while maintaining the highest levels of quality in the business for every offering. To inquire or view the complete offering, please contact our curators at info@aradernyc.com or call our 72nd Street NYC gallery at (212) 628-3668.

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