Three rare printed documents relating to Hydrographic Survey and the Admiralty Chart.
Three rare printed documents relating to Hydrographic Survey and the Admiralty Chart.
Three rare printed documents relating to Hydrographic Survey and the Admiralty Chart.

Three rare printed documents relating to Hydrographic Survey and the Admiralty Chart.

London: Admiralty Office, 1800.

Three large sheets, folded to bifolium measuring 320 x 202 mm., neatly folded to letter size, all in excellent condition; printed on one side, all three circulars signed by second secretary to the Admiralty William Marsden, the first addressed in manuscript to Vice Admiral Lord Seymour.

Gathering information for the great Admiralty Charts

A group of three rare documents fundamental to the establishment of the Admiralty Chart, and immediately predating Matthew Flinders' 1801-1803 survey of Australia: he would certainly have been aware of these new requirements due to his close relationship with the Admiralty. These detailed instructions to gather information on 'Seas but little frequented' are the blueprints for modern naval cartography and reflect the conditions that would lead to the great naval atlases of the nineteenth century such as those of Flinders and his successors. We have not discovered any other examples of these printed letters, perhaps confirming that documents such as these would typically have been discarded by ship's captains once they had been noted.

A group of three rare documents fundamental to the establishment of the Admiralty Chart, and immediately predating Matthew Flinders' 1801-1803 survey of Australia: he would certainly have been aware of these new requirements due to his close relationship with the Admiralty. These detailed instructions to gather information on 'Seas but little frequented' are the blueprints for modern naval cartography and reflect the conditions that would lead to the great naval atlases of the nineteenth century such as those of Flinders and his successors. We have not discovered any other examples of these printed letters, perhaps confirming that documents such as these would typically have been discarded by ship's captains once they had been noted.

The documents date from 1800, at the time when the Admiralty Chart was first being planned. They instruct the masters of British naval vessels to record and transmit vital hydrographic information to the Admiralty, and are signed by William Marsden as second secretary to the Admiralty. The first document bemoans the fact that masters of vessels have hitherto failed to communicate the information essential for the correction of naval charts. Captains and lieutenants are instructed to forward all such information, including prevailing winds, tides, reefs and other submerged obstacles. The second document repeats the demands of the first in significantly greater detail, adding the incentive that the names of those who furnish significant information shall be published on revised charts 'with a view to encouraging others to take advantage of the opportunities which may hereafter be afforded to them for obtaining the same useful information.' The third document is an example of the letter sent by Marsden to senior naval officers, instructing them to distribute copies of the letters to their men. The present example, a manuscript note confirms, was sent to Vice-Admiral Lord Seymour, then serving in the Lesser Antilles islands of the Caribbean. Seymour, who had first sailed with Edward Riou, would later enjoy an eminent naval career including serving as commander-in-chief of the Pacific Station, and subsequently commander-in-chief at Portsmouth, his flagship HMS Victory.

Ritchie's work on the Admiralty Chart notes the inconsistency and inadequacy of eighteenth century British naval charts and the problems associated with collecting and verifying information from officers: it is interesting to note that at the time of Cook's disoveries in the Pacific the commanders of His Majesty's vessels were expected to buy maps and charts from their own pocket.

Provenance: One, perhaps all, originally the property of Vice-Admiral Lord Seymour.

G.S. Ritchie, The Admiralty Chart: British naval hydrography in the nineteenth century, 1967.

Price (AUD): $7,500.00  other currencies     Ref: #4504979