An iconic Hong Kong chart

Surveyed by Captn. Sir Edward Belcher in H.M.S. Sulphur 1841 / Hydrographic Office of the Admiralty / Sold by J.D. Potter, Agent for the Admiralty Charts 31 Poultry and 11 King Street Tower Hill, CHINA HONGKONG SURVEYED BY CAAPTN. SIR EDWARD BELCHER. IN H.M.S. SULPHUR 1841. London, May 1st 1843/corrections to 1890.
Engraving, 25”h x 37”w plus margins, spot color

An iconic chart of the utmost importance, this is the 1890 issue of Edward Belcher’s survey of Hong Kong and vicinity. This was the first British survey of Hong Kong and played a significant role in Great Britain’s acquisition of the Crown Colony. The chart covers all of Hong Kong Island as well as the Kowloon Peninsula and, either in part of full, the adjacent islands of Lan Tao, Peng Chau, Hei Ling Chau, Lamma, Sheung Sze Mun, Po Toi, and Tung Lung Chau. it offers impressive detail to the level of individual buildings, especially in the vicinity of Victoria, Central, and on the Kowloon Peninsula. The chart also features innumerable soundings in fathoms, the locations of rocks and other hazards, and other aids to navigation. An inset map of Fotaumun Pass or Tathong Channel appears in the upper right quadrant.

The chart was the product of surveys overseen by Edward Belcher (1799-1877), a British naval officer, scientist, explorer, and marine surveyor active in the middle part of the 19th century. Belcher surveyed Hong Kong Island and Harbour after landing the bombing and surveying vessel H.M.S. Sulphur on Possession Point on January, 26, 1841. Coming at the height of the First Opium War (1839–42), Belcher’s was the first force to land on and take possession of Hong Kong for the British Crown. He may have been unaware of the long term significance of his conquest, but he was certainly a keen enough observer to recognize the island’s strategic significance and commercial potential. As such, his impressive chart, first published in 1843 and updated many times thereafter, set the standard upon which most subsequent nautical charts of Hong Kong were based well into the 20th century. Indeed, I find in OCLC (#905910153) an example printed in 1960! The chart was intended for hard use at sea, and all early editions are consequently rare.

This example of the chart was owned by the Thomas Reese Anderson, a native of the ship-building town of Sackville, New Brunswick and captain of the 1438-ton Albania of the Taylor Brother’s fleet. It was by far the best and most up-to-date depiction of the region available, and Anderson would have obtained it in advance of an 1891 charter voyage from New York to Yokahama. Following the voyage he retired from sailing and became a man of means in his hometown of Sackville, New Brunswick. He invested in various businesses including a railroad line, which ultimately led to his death in 1918 after being struck by a shunting train engine in 1918.

OCLC #54871290 (1846 edition).


Very faint areas of discoloration. Some restoration at upper left margin, not affecting image. Stamp of “Philip, Son & Nephew / Agents for the Admiralty Charts / South Castle St. Liverpool” above title block.