To The Honourable The Court of Directors of the United East India Company This Chart of Malacca Strait Singapore Strait and the Southernmost Promontory of Asia

An extremely rare nautical chart or "maritime map" of the Strait of Singapore and the southern part of the Malacca Strait. Made for the British East India Company, this is one of the first charts to accurately map these heavily trafficked but treacherous straits. The chart covers the Malay peninsula roughly from Penang (Prince of Wales Island) to the island of Singapore and from the Sumatran coast to the China Sea. It features sixteen profile views as well as countless depth soundings, especially around the dangerous southern part of the Malacca Strait in the vicinity of Singapore..

This chart was compiled by James Horsburgh. It was engraved on behalf of the British Admiralty Office in 1857 and is extremely scarce and desirable for those interested in the early mapping of Singapore.  This chart is considered to be James Horsburgh's most desirable chart and is very suitable for framing. 

This 1857 edition exhibits updates by an Admiralty assistant to 1857. Among the changes over previous editions are a more detailed identification and shading of shoals, particularly around The Brothers just west of Singapore, a more comprehensive treatment of the Long Middle Bank and the Channels Bank, and a revision of the North Sands near Selangor (modern-day Kuala Lumpur). There has been a complete reassessment of the Singapore Strait and both Singapore City and New Harbor appear for the first time on the map. Further north in the Malacca Strait, greater detail has been added on the Perak (Perah) River where a 'Malay Town' and 'Dutch Factory' have been identified. Several lighthouses have been added as well as corrected soundings throughout.

The basic cartography can be traced to Jean-Baptiste d'Aprés de Mannevillette's map of 1745 and Thomas Jefferys' map of 1794. Some of the hydrography here is based upon Horsburgh's own survey work completed between 1790 and 1806. It also includes the work of other cartographers and navigators collected and compiled by Horsburgh. The coastlines and soundings on the Sumatra side of the Strait are based upon the soundings of the Bombay Marines Lieutenants W. Rose and Robert Moresby. The Strait of Singapore is based on the government surveys of John Turnbull Thomson. The Malay side of the Malacca Strait benefits from soundings completed by Lieutenant C. V. Ward of the Indian Navy.

As this chart went to press, Singapore was becoming increasingly prosperous and increasingly dangerous. Convict transports through the Straits of Singapore to penal colonies were blamed for street gangs, criminal secret societies, and other violence. At the same time, relations between the merchant and governing classes became tense. The Straits Settlements Governor at the time, William John Butterworth, was nicknamed 'Butterpot the Great' by angry merchants who blamed him for corrupt officials and inept civic management. Also, word of the Indian Rebellion of 1857 come to Singapore, leading to fears that the large Indian convict population would revolt there as well. This led to a general panic that had long-term ramifications for the Indian population of Singapore and the Straits Settlements in general.

Title: To The Honourable The Court of Directors of the United East India Company This Chart of Malacca Strait Singapore Strait and the Southernmost Promontory of Asia, is Inscribed by their Faithful and Obedient Servant James Horsburgh


James Horsburgh (September 28, 1762 – May 14, 1836) was a Scottish hydrographer and navigator active in the late 18th and early 19th century. Horsburgh was born in Fife, Elie, Scotland, to a humble family. Like many young Scottish men of little means, Horsburgh was destined for a sea-faring life and at just 16 signed on as a cabin boy in a coal trading ship. After many misadventures, including a brief incarceration by the French at Dunkirk, Horsburgh made his way to the West Indies and eventually to Calcutta, India. As the center for British maritime trade in the region, Horsburgh had no difficulty finding work with the British East India Company who maintained an active trade network between India and China. Despite the active trade, one these voyages to China, aboard the ironically named Atlas, taught Horsburgh just how poorly the East Indies were charted. The 1786 shipwreck of the Atlas, on which he was the First Mate, near Diego Garcia Island proved a pivotal moment Horsburgh's life. He subsequently devoted himself to accurately charting the Indian Ocean and the dangerous Straits of Malacca, Sunda, and Singapore. Many of Horsburgh charts are the direct results of his own unique survey work on board the Carron and later as captain of the Anna. Horsburgh's work culminated in the publication if his 1809 Directions for Sailing to and from the East Indies, China, New Holland, Cape of Good Hope, and the Interjacent Ports, a monumentally important guide to navigating the waters if the Indian Ocean and the East Indies. His work earned him friendships in London's highest naval and scientific circles, among them Joseph Banks and Alexander Dalrymple. He became a member of the Royal Society in 1806, when he retired from active sailing. When Alexander Dalrymple died in 1810, Horsburgh was appointed to the prestigious position of Hydrographer to the British East India Company where he worked until his death in 1836. Whereas Dalrymple was somewhat indiscriminate regarding the charts he published, Horsburgh was exacting and double checked the veracity of each and every chart that passed through his office. Horsburgh's work with the East India Company elevated the standards of the Hydrographic Department and earned him a Fellowship with the Royal Society. Today's Horsburgh's accomplishments are memorialized by the Horsburgh Lighthouse, near Singapore, and Horsburgh Island. When Horsburgh died most of his work was passed by his children to the Admiralty, which continued to publish updates until roughly 1864.

The British Admiralty Office (1795 - Present) or the United Kingdom Hydrographic Office refers to the Branch of the English government that is responsible for the command of the British Navy. In 1795 King George III created the United Kingdom Hydrographic Office, known in short as the U.K.H.O., to provide top notch nautical charts to the vast Royal Navy. Prior the founding of the Admiralty the surveying and creation of nautical charts was primarily a commercial venture wherein the cartographer himself, more of than not, actually financed the printing of his own material. The great navigator Cook himself is known to have scrambled for funds to publish his own seminal charts - the most important and advanced of the period. The system of privately funded nautical mapping and publishing left vast portions of the world uncharted and many excellent charts unpublished. King George III, responding significant loss in trade revenue related to shipwrecks and delay due to poor charts, recognized the need for an institutionalized government sponsored cartographic agency - the Admiralty. The first head of the Admiralty, a position known as Hydrographer, was the important cartographer Alexander Dalrymple. Dalrymple started by organizing and cataloging obtainable charts before initiating the laborious process of updating them and filling in the blanks. The first official Admiralty Chart appeared in 1800 and detailed Quiberon Bay in Brittany. By 1808 the position of Hydrographer fell to Captain Thomas Hurd. Hurd advocated the sale of Admiralty charts to the general public and, by the time he retired in 1829, had issued and published some 736 charts. Stewardship of the organization then passed to Rear Admiral Sir Francis Beaufort. It was under Beaufort's administration that the Admiralty truly developed as a "chart making" as opposed to a "chart cataloging" institution. Beaufort held his post from 1829 to 1854. In his 25 years at the Admiralty Beaufort created nearly 1500 new charts and sponsored countless surveying and scientific expeditions - including the 1831 to 1836 voyage of the H.M.S. Beagle. By 1855 the Admiralty's chart catalog listed some 1,981 charts.

John Bateman (fl. 1804 – 1825) was a British copperplate printer, map, and chart engraver active in London during the early part of the 19th century. Bateman is best known for his maps and charts, especially of the East Indies engraved for James Horsburgh and published between 1804 and 1825. He appears to have spent time in the East Indies with records documenting him in Calcutta as early in 1799 and may have befriended Horsburgh there. Some have speculated that John Bateman is related to Richard Bateman, another map and chart engraver active during roughly the same period.


Singapore Sea Chart - Year 1857 - Extremely rare Maritime Map
Publication Place / Date
Image Dimensions
1857 (dated)
98 by 64 cm.
Black and White
G+ / Study images carefully
Product Price
Product Number
On Request
SKU #M.0408