Maps & Plans, Showing the Principal Movements, Battles & Sieges, in which the British Army was engaged during the War from 1808 to 1814 in the Spanish Peninsula and the South of France. [Compiled by Thomas L. Mitchell]
Maps & Plans, Showing the Principal Movements, Battles & Sieges, in which the British Army was engaged during the War from 1808 to 1814 in the Spanish Peninsula and the South of France. [Compiled by Thomas L. Mitchell]
Maps & Plans, Showing the Principal Movements, Battles & Sieges, in which the British Army was engaged during the War from 1808 to 1814 in the Spanish Peninsula and the South of France. [Compiled by Thomas L. Mitchell]
Maps & Plans, Showing the Principal Movements, Battles & Sieges, in which the British Army was engaged during the War from 1808 to 1814 in the Spanish Peninsula and the South of France. [Compiled by Thomas L. Mitchell]
Maps & Plans, Showing the Principal Movements, Battles & Sieges, in which the British Army was engaged during the War from 1808 to 1814 in the Spanish Peninsula and the South of France. [Compiled by Thomas L. Mitchell]
Maps & Plans, Showing the Principal Movements, Battles & Sieges, in which the British Army was engaged during the War from 1808 to 1814 in the Spanish Peninsula and the South of France. [Compiled by Thomas L. Mitchell]

Maps & Plans, Showing the Principal Movements, Battles & Sieges, in which the British Army was engaged during the War from 1808 to 1814…
Maps & Plans, Showing the Principal Movements, Battles & Sieges, in which the British Army was engaged during the War from 1808 to 1814 in the Spanish Peninsula and the South of France. [Compiled by Thomas L. Mitchell]

London: James Wyld, [1840].

Elephant folio (855 x 685 mm), with engraved title and dedication, 37 lithographed maps and plans, some folding or double page (up to 855 x 1390 mm), many with hand-coloured troop positions and some geographical features, including three maps with coloured overlays and seven maps with vignette views, and a lithographed plate with five views; in half morocco; expert repairs to corners and spine replaced to style; dark green old cloth sides incorporating the large, gilt title label from the original cover; marbled endpapers.

Sir Thomas Mitchell's tour-de-force: "an art which owes its perfection to war"

This extraordinary publication mapping the military progress of the Peninsular War – very large, enormously detailed, and extremely rare – represents the early and highly-skilled work of Thomas Livingstone Mitchell, one of the greatest Australian explorers and the long-serving Surveyor-General of New South Wales. Mitchell's magnum opus is as rare as it is important, and as important as it is large: in fact enormous. The complex printing techniques employed, the very specialist subject, and the sheer size and weight of the publication suggest a very limited print run, while the size and weight of the Atlas have undoubtedly been further responsible for its narrow survival rate; meanwhile, even if known to military historians its significance as testimony to the enormous and varied skills of the great Australian explorer and surveyor has been far from sufficiently noticed. As a recent commentator has remarked, "[it] is virtually unknown… No recorded copy of this vast tome exists in Australia, and the only publicly available version lies battered and obscurely catalogued in the British Library. This major work of art by a seminal character in Australia's history requires exposure and exposition". In fact there are now copies of the Atlas in the National Library of Australia and in the State Library of New South Wales, but the point is well made.

This extraordinary publication mapping the military progress of the Peninsular War – very large, enormously detailed, and extremely rare – represents the early and highly-skilled work of Thomas Livingstone Mitchell, one of the greatest Australian explorers and the long-serving Surveyor-General of New South Wales. Mitchell's magnum opus is as rare as it is important, and as important as it is large: in fact enormous. The complex printing techniques employed, the very specialist subject, and the sheer size and weight of the publication suggest a very limited print run, while the size and weight of the Atlas have undoubtedly been further responsible for its narrow survival rate; meanwhile, even if known to military historians its significance as testimony to the enormous and varied skills of the great Australian explorer and surveyor has been far from sufficiently noticed. As a recent commentator has remarked, "[it] is virtually unknown… No recorded copy of this vast tome exists in Australia, and the only publicly available version lies battered and obscurely catalogued in the British Library. This major work of art by a seminal character in Australia's history requires exposure and exposition". In fact there are now copies of the Atlas in the National Library of Australia and in the State Library of New South Wales, but the point is well made.

Thomas Mitchell served as a young man in the Peninsular War: in 1811 he was gazetted a second lieutenant in the 95th Regiment and served at the battles of Ciudad Rodrigo, Badajoz and Salamanca. A number of men who would later be important in Australian history served together in Wellington's campaigns: Mitchell served alongside William Light, the founder of South Australia, James Taylor, creator of the splendid A Panoramic View of Sydney. The Entrance, The Town, and Part of the Harbour of Port Jackson (London 1823) and James Wallis, whose An Historical Account of the Colony of New South Wales of 1821 was the first book of views engraved in Australia.

Mitchell's patron Sir George Murray, Quartermaster-General, recognised Mitchell's topographical and mapping skills and organised his commission to produce plans of the major Peninsular battlefields. This commission occupied Mitchell for five years in Spain and France, and subsequently eight years in England before his departure for Australia, and later, once again in England, completing the working up into finished maps for the Atlas from 1838 to 1840. This massive input is reflected in the immense size and detailed scope of the resulting publication.

The story of the involvement of Mitchell and his peers in the Peninsular campaigns has been told especially well by Christine Wright in Wellington's Men in Australia: she identifies the parallel early career of Mitchell, along with William Light, the founder of South Australia, and a number of other men subsequently significant in Australian exploration or history, including the topographical artists James Taylor and James Wallis.

Wright makes the point that military officers of the period were often – thanks to their training – artistically skilled; she identifies seventeen such Australian figures: 'Alphabet' Boyes, George Barney, Thomas Bunbury, Edward Close, Henry Dumaresq, Foster Fyans, George Gawler, Robert Hoddle, William Light, Edmund Lockyer, William Lyttleton, Richard Meares, Thomas Mitchell, Samuel Perry, Charles Sturt, James Taylor and James Wallis.

In the course of his Australian explorations, and during his surveying work, it fell to Mitchell to name many features of the Australian landscape, from mountains to streets, and both Sargent and Wright have demonstrated quite how often Mitchell's names were chosen to commemorate his former colleagues from the Peninsula campaigns.

Mitchell's mapping on the battlefields

What survives of Mitchell's original work in Spain and France is today chiefly in the archives at Sandhurst, while some original maps and drawings collected by Sir William Dixson are now held by the State Library of New South Wales (along with the only other copy of the Atlas known to be in this country).

Mitchell's biographer Cumpston noted that "The maps and plans [that Mitchell] had prepared at Sandhurst, which can still be seen, are sufficient evidence that his selection for this task was fully justified. Many of them were reproduced in Wyld's Atlas of the Peninsula War. There is also contemporary testimony. Sir William Napier, in his History of the Peninsula War, wrote: 'Captain Mitchell's drawings were made by him after the war, by order of the government and at the public expense… Never was money better laid out, for I believe no topographical drawings, whether they be considered for accuracy of detail, perfection of manner, or beauty of execution, ever exceeded Mitchell's'.

"Murray's own verdict, written on 23 October 1825 from Dublin, where Murray was then Commander-in-Chief of the forces in Ireland, is given in a letter to Hay, Permanent Under-Secretary at the Colonial Office: 'There is a Captain Mitchell who has been employed by me first in making surveys in the Peninsula of the several fields of Battle, and subsequently in drawing military plans from their actual surveys. He is a very intelligent and industrious man and possesses a considerable share of enterprise and adventure. He is a skilful, accurate, and practised surveyor, and a very good draftsman. His plans are indeed beautifully executed'."

The Survey Section

Christine Wright has written about the Survey Section that "attached to the Quartermaster-General's Department, [it] was a vital part of the British army, and it was here that Mitchell learnt the skills required for his later exploration and surveying expeditions in the Australian colonies. In this section, he had to quickly survey and sketch features of importance that could determine future operations, and he had to take note of elevations and their heights, of roads and bridges, waterways and their depths, etc."

Mitchell was often in forward positions, and often alone. He moved between the 95th Regiment and the Quartermaster-General's Department. With good sketching skills and mathematical knowledge, he was the ideal surveyor. "The Iberian Peninsula was where [he] gained his capacity for physical endurance: he could go for three days without food, wet through the whole time, in a bitterly cold wind. In his published journal, Mitchell's assistant surveyor, Granville Stapylton, commented on Mitchell's remarkable physical endurance.

"Mitchell remained in Spain and Portugal for five years from 1814 as a solitary surveyor in the field, to prepare the plans of the principal battlefields of the war. Remarkably, he was just 22 years of age when he began, and he completed this task alone. Young as he was, Mitchell was by now a well-skilled surveyor and draftsman: Sir George Murray, under whose instructions he undertook this assignment, would not otherwise have entrusted him with a work of such magnitude."

Back in England in 1819, Mitchell continued to work on his surveys to produce finished manuscript maps, until his departure for Sydney in 1827 as assistant Surveyor-General of the colony, the following year becoming Surveyor-General on Oxley's death.

Mitchell's first period in New South Wales

"Thomas Mitchell had many skills when he arrived in New South Wales in 1827, those of a surveyor, geologist, geographer, explorer, naturalist, botanist and anthropologist; though it was his expertise as a surveyor that qualified him for appointment as Deputy Surveyor General. Mitchell acknowledged this in a letter to his patron, Sir George Murray, and commented that it was his long experience in 'an art which owes its perfection to War' that qualified him for his new appointment" (Wright).

Mitchell would not return to London until 1838, by which time he had completed his first three expeditions in Australia. In 1838 Boone published his Three Expeditions into the Interior of Eastern Australia, the explorer's classic account of his three expeditions along the river systems of south-eastern Australia, strikingly illustrated with lithographic plates taken from his own field sketches. The expeditions were motivated by the need to map, and therefore for the state to own, land before it was occupied by squatters who were grabbing prime grazing land at an alarming rate. Most previous survey work had been inaccurate and disputes between landowners prompted calls for a general survey of New South Wales.

"As his biographer, W. C. Foster, points out, the skills Mitchell had acquired during his years in Spain and Portugal were to be drawn upon time and time again in the planning and the day-to-day activities of each of his four inland expeditions. During his exploration journeys, Mitchell even set his camp in the same layout that he had been used to in the Peninsular War…" (Wright). Mitchell was extraordinarily well-suited to the business of exploration, based on the talents fully developed in Spain and France and shortly to be thoroughly demonstrated in his work on the Atlas. Few explorers could claim his full combination of skills: cartographic, topographical, artistic and organisational. Mitchell could survey as well as he could draw, could write and make maps, and run well-organised and disciplined expeditions.

His adaptation of this particular set of skills to use in Australia was one of the most conspicuous examples of the way in which military men of the first half of the nineteenth century mattered to the development of the colony. "Mitchell and other British army officers had proved themselves resilient under adversity, and had developed the ability to 'rough it' in the Australian environment, similar in some respects to that of the Iberian Peninsula. Both officers and men alike had learnt the art of adapting themselves to new and unexpected conditions and tasks. The skills Peninsular War veterans put to use in the Australian colonies were a consequence of their previous experience in Spain and Portugal. Of the variety of these skills, more than half were directly involved with British colonisation of Australia. These were technical skills and mainly related to land and mapping: exploring, surveying, map making, draughting, town planning, engineering, building fortifications and road making. Among other things, maps were an aid in managing a population, especially one where a great number were convicts or ex-convicts.

"Other veterans also brought with them modern professional skills acquired in the British army and the newly organised Commissariat. Some brought medical skills and experience gained on the battlefields as part of the new British army Medical Department, and became leaders in colonial surgery and medicine. While it is true that the skills acquired by these men could have been acquired elsewhere in the British army, and some in the medical service were, the battles fought in Spain and Portugal occupied the vast majority of the British army from 1808 until 1814. Those medical skills proved crucial to the expansion of the British empire".

Preparing the Atlas

In London to finish his book and to see it to publication, Mitchell agreed with the military authorities to work with the publisher Wyld to produce his full Atlas of the Peninsular War, working from all the original materials prepared by himself and by others in the Survey Section. His patron Murray arranged the necessary releases and permissions from other contributors to the project. Mitchell organised all aspects of the preparation of the atlas, an enormous task, and most of the maps and views are directly based on his own original cartography and surveying and on drawings made by him at the time. The quality of the atlas is a testament to his exceptional skill as a draughtsman, and also to Wyld's ability as the foremost cartographic publisher of his age, making it not only "the best atlas of the Peninsular War" but probably the finest cartographic record of any military campaign.

An array of methods was used by Mitchell in arranging for the various maps to be printed, including zincography, copper engraving, and lithography – the latter method used by Thomas Picken to draw on stone the views that Mitchell had made around the battlefields in Spain and France. S.G.P. Ward noted that this was 'the very best period… of English lithography and the maps, plans and views in the atlas bear testament to it'. However Mitchell had started by using the complex anaglyptographic method: the results can be seen in his extraordinary two double-page sheet Map of the Pyrenees for which he constructed a three-dimensional topographical model in clay, then had this made into a contour model in plaster that the pantographic mechanism could follow, in order to transfer the detail in a quasi-three-dimensional way to lithographic stone. The plaster model had to be resurfaced in copper for this purpose, but ultimately the model had to be cast in bronze before he could satisfactorily transfer it to stone for printing. This remarkable method could only be used for the one amazing map: "I cannot hope to complete the whole in that manner before the time when I must return [to New South Wales]" as he laconically noted in a letter.

"Now extremely rare, this work still provides the most accurate description of the terrain of the battlefields. It has been described as more like a piece of furniture than a book, measuring 865 mm by 700 mm, and containing some 50 maps and plans of the actions in which the British, Portuguese and Spanish armies engaged on the Iberian Peninsula. The maps reveal Mitchell's skills as a surveyor, draftsman and lithographic artist… In my view, Mitchell's greatest cartographic achievements were his maps of the Peninsular War battlefields and his 1834 Map of the Nineteen Counties of New South Wales. I am not the first to make this assessment: over the years, many others have praised both, and the War Office used his Peninsula maps for over 80 years…" (Wright).

James Wyld

On his father's death in 1836 James Wyld became the sole owner of the thriving family mapmaking business based in Charing Cross. He was a prolific publisher of maps and guides and although the timing of his publications shows him as something of an opportunist, his maps, unlike those of many of his contemporaries, were always of the highest quality. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society in 1839, and later appointed as Geographer to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, causing Punch to observe that if a country were discovered in the interior of the earth Wyld would produce a map of it "as soon as it is discovered if not before".

Aware of the intense interest in the recent Peninsular War, Wyld was eager to publish an atlas detailing all the major engagements and the opportunity to do so arose when he became aware of Mitchell's survey of all the Peninsular battlefields.

During the course of the publication Mitchell and Wyld had a substantial falling-out – they had some serious disagreements about the atlas, chiefly regarding payment, and in fact Mitchell was moments away from debtors' prison – for moneys owed in fact by Wyld - until rescued by his wife's family. Back in Sydney in 1843 Mitchell could write to his patron, Murray, that "I have some comfort here in the belief, that we have no men at Botany Bay so morally bad as Wyld of Charing Cross". Despite this, and one imagines encouraged by the enthusiastic reception of the Atlas, they remained closely associated – perhaps no wonder given Mitchell's position as Surveyor-General and Wyld's pre-eminent position as cartographic publisher. Indeed their relationship was close enough and Wyld's respect for Mitchell great enough that he dedicated his great 1850s Map of South Australia, New South Wales, Van Diemen's Land, and Settled parts of Australia… to Mitchell.

Sources:

J.H.L. Cumpston, Thomas Mitchell: surveyor general & explorer. Oxford, 1954.

William C. Foster, Sir Thomas Livingston Mitchell and his world, 1792-1855: surveyor general of New South Wales, 1828-1855. Sydney, Institution of Surveyors N.S.W, 1985.

T. C. Sargent, Some peninsular names in Australia felix, Military Historical Society of Australia, 1968; and Thomas Livingston Mitchell and Wyld's atlas of the Peninsular War, 1808-1814. Cartography Vol. 13, No. 4, 1984.

Richard H. P. Smith, Peninsular War Cartography: A New Look at the Military Mapping of General Sir George Murray and the Quartermaster General's Department. Imago Mundi, Vol. 65, no. 2, 2013.

Christine Wright, Wellington's Men in Australia: Peninsular War Veterans and the Making of Empire c. 1820-40. Palgrave Macmillan, 2011.

S.G.P. Ward, Wellington's Headquarters. Oxford, 1957.

Edward Coleridge, proposal for a post-graduate study of the atlas (online resource: http://federation.edu.au/research/research-areas/research-centres-and-networks/crcah/student-profiles/edward-coleridge).

APPENDIX: Mitchell at the Peninsular War (from the Wikipedia article)

On the death of his uncle, Mitchell joined the British army in Portugal as a volunteer, at the age of sixteen. On 24 June 1811, at the age of nineteen, he received his first commission as 2nd Lieutenant in the 1st Battalion 95th Rifles (later the Rifle Brigade / Royal Green Jackets). Utilising his skills as a draughtsman of outstanding ability, he was occasionally employed in the Quartermaster-General's department under Sir George Murray. He was present at the storming of the fortresses of Ciudad Rodrigo, Badajos and San Sebastian as well as the battles of Salamanca and the Pyrenees. Subsequently, he would receive the Military General Service Medal with bars for each of these engagements. When the war was over Murray obtained permission from the Treasury for an officer to reside in Spain and Portugal for four years to complete the sketches of the battlefields which had been begun during the war for the Military Depot.

Lieutenant Mitchell was selected as a person well qualified in every respect to aid in the accomplishment of the undertaking. The first duty allotted to him was the completing of such sketches, begun during the war, as had remained unfinished, and adding to these several other important surveys, for the execution of which it had been impossible to allot officers whilst operations were in progress in the field. But in the summer of 1819 the continuance of the disbursements made by Government for the undertaking became doubtful, so he was called home. He then devoted himself to the second part of his task, which was that of making finished drawings from the materials compiled by himself, and from other documents of ascertained authenticity. But with the cessation of the Government allowances he had to stop this work.

On 10 June 1818, during his posting in Spain and Portugal, he married Mary Blunt (daughter of General Richard Blunt) in Lisbon and gained promotion to a company in the 54th Regiment. With the reductions in the military establishment of the country which followed the withdrawing of the Army of Occupation from France, Captain Mitchell was placed on half-pay.

It was not until a lapse of several years, whilst Mitchell was in London between 1838–1840, that the work was completed. The finished drawings were published, by the London geographer James Wyld, in 1841… Of almost unimpeachable accuracy, it is the prime source for the topography of the war.

APPENDIX: Honouring his Peninsular War comrades (Christine Wright)

Sir Thomas Mitchell was one of Wellington's exploring officers during the Peninsular War, and his later naming of geographical features in the Australian colonies is a roll call of influential friends, patrons and Peninsular War colleagues, as well as a commemoration of Wellington's campaign in the Peninsula. On 22 July 1836 Mitchell named Mt. Arapiles in Victoria: 'I ascended this hill on the anniversary of the battle of Salamanca, and hence the name'.

Mt. Arapiles was named after the Arapiles, two stony features on the battlefield of Salamanca; although Mt. Arapiles rises 700 feet, whereas the Greater and Lesser Arapiles rise only 150 feet above the Salamanca plain. From there, Mitchell peppered the landscape with the names of those who had fought in the Peninsular War. The Stokes River was named after Lieutenant James Marshall Stokes of the 95th Regiment (Mitchell's regiment) who was killed in the storming of Badajoz in April 1812.

On 18 August 1836 Mitchell named a hill Fort O'Hare in memory of his commanding officer, who also fell at Badajoz while leading the forlorn hope. From Fort O'Hare, Mitchell's party crossed a river, which he named the Crawford. This was a misspelling of the name of Major General Robert Crauford, Commander of the Light Division until his death at the siege of Ciudad Rodrigo in 1812. Near the Stokes River lies a range of hills that Mitchell named the Rifle Range, after his own regiment, the 95th Foot or Rifle Brigade. On the southwest end of the Rifle Range, Mitchell called a hill Mount Kincaid after John Kincaid, the author of Adventures in the Rifle Brigade and Random Shots of a Rifleman, both valuable accounts of the life of an officer of the 95th Regiment.

On 28 August 1836, Mitchell found a river, which he named the Fitzroy. Sargent notes that it is believed, though not definitely proven, that this river was named for Lord Fitzroy Somerset, who served as Wellington's military secretary throughout most of the Peninsular War, and who married Wellington's niece.

Mount Napier, also named on 28 August, was named for either the whole Napier family or one of its famous members. Rather than other better-known members of the Napier family, such as Sir George Napier (later governor of the Cape), Sargent has proposed that Mount Napier was named after a brother, William Napier. William Napier was the historian of the Peninsular War and the first volumes of that history were in the hands of most veterans from 1828 onwards.

Other features are Mount Surgeon, Mount Pierrepoint, Mount Bainbrigge and Mount Stavely, named after two Staff Corps officers and two officers of the Quartermaster General's Department in Portugal and Spain, all of whom were engaged on reconnaissance, mapping and sketching of routes and battlefields. There are others, but a final example is Mount Cole, named by Mitchell on 22 September 1836 after Lieutenant-General Sir Galbraith Lowry Cole, commander of the 4th Division at the battle of the Pyrenees in 1813, for which Mitchell was awarded the Military General Service Medal bar, proof of his participation.

Street names in New South Wales towns also reflect the importance of veterans of the Peninsular War when they were laid out. Just one example is that of Campbelltown, south of Sydney, with the street names of Stewart, Lindesay, Innes, Sturt, Cordeaux, Condamine, Lithgow and Dumaresq.

Price (AUD): $28,500.00  other currencies     Ref: #4504792

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