Copper engraving, 95 x 40.5 cm, engraved by John Walker, black and white, old folds, a couple of short nicks and tears repaired on verso, some offsetting, blank verso.
This is the first accurate chart of the Ayeyarwada or Irrawaddy River, published in Michael Symes’ ‘An Account of an Embassy to the Kingdom of Ava’, a significant early description of the region. The embassy itself smoothed political and trading relations between the British East India Company and the Burmese Empire, at least until the hugely costly First Anglo-Burmese War broke out in 1824.
Thomas Wood of the Bengal Engineers was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in 1819, and died in Calcutta in 1834. He was Engineer in Chief to Lake during the Maratha Wars, but mostly served in the Surveyor General’s Department. For example, he surveyed the Brahmaputra River (1792-1794, picking up where James Rennell had left off in 1765) immediately prior to charting the Irrawaddy. According to RH Phillimore, the great historian of mapping in south Asia, Wood’s map was ‘a careful and professional piece of work, and was of the utmost value’ to the British during the second, as well as the first of the Anglo-Burmese wars. During the war of 1852-53, ‘one hundred copies of Wood’s map were specially lithographed and eagerly sought for’, even though there was now a more recent survey by Peter Grant, which had been compiled under slightly less testing conditions. Phillimore, Historical Records of the Survey of India (1945), volume 1, p. 85