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Philippe Vandermaelen: Océanique - Partie de l’Ile de Sumatra. No. 11

Map: SEAS3160
Cartographer: Philippe Vandermaelen
Title: Océanique - Partie de l’Ile de Sumatra. No. 11
Date: 1827
Published: Brussels
Width: 22 inches / 56 cm
Height: 18 inches / 46 cm
Map ref: SEAS3160
Early detailed lithographic map of the provinces of Aceh and North Sumatra, on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. The map extends to show the smaller islands to the west of Sumatra in the Indian Ocean, these include the islands adjacent to Sumatra; Nias and Pulau (Ile des Couchons ou Poulo Babi).

In the east, the Malacca Strait and a small stretch of the Malaysian coastline, detailing Penang Island (Puolo Pinang). On the island, an icon to mark Fort Cornwallis, an 18th Century fortification built between 1786-1810 by the British East India Company for administrative control.

A large panel of descriptive text fills the left side of the map, narrating the history of the island, then going into detail about the physical environment, climate, and the flora and fauna that call the island home. When discussing the history of the island it mentions two prominent figures; firstly English orientalist William Marsden (1754-1836) who in 1771 was sent to Sumatra by the British East India Company and in 1783 published “History of Sumatra”

Another figure mentioned is Sir Stamford Raffles (1781-1826) most notable for founding Singapore and British Malaya. Raffles landed in Achin at the northernmost point of Sumatra in 1819 and later in 1823 having organised an expedition to unseat the sultan of Sumatra and seizing Bangka Island. Both exercises were created with the main intention being to establish permanent British positions.

Philippe Vandermaelen

Philippe Vandermaelen was born in Brussels in 1795 and, at the age of 21, inherited a fortune from his father who had been a successful soap manufacturer. Financially independent, Vandermaelen was able to devote his life to the study of geography and in 1829 he founded a geographical institute in Brussels.

Vandermaelen's most important work, entitled "Atlas Universel", was an enormous atlas consisting of over 400 separate map sheets covering the world on the huge scale of 1:1,6 million. Each map sheet was designed using a special projection so that, if the owner of the maps so wished, they could all be joined together to form a globe with a diameter of 7.75 meters (This globe was actually built in Vandermaelen's institute in Brussels). The map sheets were printed using the process of lithography, which was an early use of this printing method for map making, and were then usually delicately hand coloured to emphasise boundaries and outlines. The complete atlas took only 3 years to make, a very short time for such a large project, and it was sold in instalments over a two year period from 1825.

Examples of Vandermaelen's map sheets are of great interest to the collector for a number of reasons. Firstly their large scale. The sections depict many of the remoter regions of the world on a scale previously unknown or unattainable. Particularly for the collector of Americana and Australasia, the sheets covering the western United States and Pacific respectively, where exploration was still in very early stages, are unique in this respect. Their historical insets, descriptions and statistics, along with their great visual clarity, make Vandermaelen's maps fascinating and valuable antique documents which also have superb visual appeal.

Original hand colour. (SL) [SEAS3160]