Cape of Good Hope


CARTOGRAPHER: John Arrowsmith


PUBLICATION:   London: J. Arrowsmith, 10 Soho Square as part of his London Atlas of Universal Geography. 15 February 1842.


DIMENSIONS: Two line scales, one in English miles and one in Dutch miles.


TECHNOLOGY:  Engraved on copperplate and hand coloured..


ENGRAVER: J. Arrowsmith




VERSO: Blank.


CONDITION: Very good.



R.V. Tooley (Map Collectors’ Series no. 61);  D. Schire  (Map Collectors’ Series no. 17); E C Liebenberg (Quarterly Bull. Of the National Library of SA, vol 62 (3).



VALUE: This is a valuable and scarce map which should be of interest to everybody interested in the history of southern Africa during the 19th century.



This is a landmark map of which the first state (1834) was the first map ever to be published of southern Africa showing comprehensive, if not completely reliable geographical information on the interior of the country. Amongst map historians, Schire refers to this map as ‘superior to most of Arrowsmith’s contemporaries’ work in every respect’, whereas Tooley is of the opinion that it provides ‘one of the fullest geographical pictures of the expansion of the Boers into Natal, the Orange Free State and  the Transvaal, beginning with the Great Trek.’


The map on sale here is an 1842 update of the 1834 map.  It differs slightly from the 1834 edition in that it shows the Drakensberg (Quathlamba Mountains) which was by 1834 still unknown, and it also depicts new names along the Gariep River such as Smee Drift, Harne Kraals Drift, Gideons Drift, France Drift, etc. Many of these place names came about as a result of the Great Trek of 1834-36.


The Arrowsmiths were the leading British map publishers in the early 19th century and around 1839 John Arrowsmith (1790-1837) took charge of the family firm which was founded in 1790 by his great-uncle Aaron. As a founder member of the Royal Geographical Society, John Arrowsmith compiled numerous maps for Hansard and the Society’s Journal. He was also a close confidant of governmental bodies such as the Colonial Office and the Hydrographic Office of the Admiralty and it was from these institutions that he gleaned most of the information he required for his cartographic work. In the case of the map here illustrated, it was an official MS map of southern Africa compiled in the Colonial Office by a Mr L. Herbert from 1827 to 1838 which was his main source of information. (Today this large coloured MS map of 118 x 186 cm resides in the British National Archives as CO700 Cape of Good Hope, 12.) Arrowsmith acknowledges his debt to Herbert’s work on his map, but went further in that he also consulted whatever additional source material he could find.


Arrowsmith meticulously mapped the routes of travellers and explorers who produced maps such as Campbell (1815 and 1822) and Burchell (1822), but also depicted the routes of travelers who did not produce maps, but had collected important topographical information. He was also the first cartographer to map the courses of the Harts and Vaal Rivers and to give an indication of the upper reaches of the Olifants River. In the area between the Orange and Vaal Rivers appears a note which was verbatim copied from Hebert’s map and which indicates what was to become:  “Country lately taken possession of by Colonial farmers in consequence of the long protracted droughts”. That the Eastern Cape and Natal coast are much better represented than on any earlier map serves as evidence that Arrowsmith also had an insight into Captain WFW Owen’s extensive coastal survey of southern Africa during the 1820s.