A rare set of "remarks" on the Gaspar Strait, published by Alexander Dalrymple, with an early reference on chronometers

Dalrymple, Alexander. Remarks on a Passage from P. Warwoor, to the Strait of Sunda, The Macklesfeild-Strait on the East of Banka, with the Journal of the Carnatic, Capt. Lestock Wilson. Published at the Charge of the East India Company, from the original MS.

London, George Bigg, 1789.

4to. (2), VI, 60 pp. Stitched, untrimmed.


A rare set of "remarks" concerning the Gaspar Straits and the east coast of Bangka Island, published by Dalrymple from the log of the East Indiaman Carnatic. A fascinating insight into the workings of Dalrymple and the East India Company.

As hydrographer to the East India Company from 1785, Alexander Dalrymple continually sought to update and correct the charts and pilots used by the Company's captains. To this end he sought the log books and observations of many of the voyages that took place between England and China, especially where they had detailed records of the China Seas and the approaches to it. Sometimes Dalrymple would request log books from the Company or the ship's captain, or as in the present work, the captain, Lestock Wilson, has taken the liberty of contacting Dalrymple himself. Dalrymple goes so far as to publish the correspondence at the beginning of the present work.

The observations and charts made by Captain Wilson so impressed Dalrymple that he not only included them in his chart of the area and published the present sailing directions, but also persuaded the East India Company to allow Wilson, now in command to the EIS (East India Ship) Vansittart, to carry out more detailed surveying of the area on his next voyage. Again Dalrymple publishes the Court of Directors minutes regarding Wilson's commission at the beginning of the present work. The decision by the Court of Directors to allow one of their ships to delay their journey to China in order to carry out surveying work was highly unusual. In fact, Andrew Cook, in his work on Dalrymple, highlights the Vansittart voyage as one of the only times that they consented to Dalrymple's request; and the Directors state, within the minutes, the reason why: "the propriety of some early ship carefully examining the Strait on the East of Banka, which is now justly preferred to the Strait of Banka, and intimating that Captain Wilson of the Vansittart, who has already passed that way, has by his Chart and the Observations communicated to Mr Dalrymple, shewn himself well qualified for effecting the desired object." The minutes go on to set out relatively loose stipulations on how (and how long) Wilson will be allowed to carry out the survey. What they do state is that, on his outbound journey, he is to survey the waters off the east coast of Bangka Island; taking no more than ten days, though more if strictly necessary, and that he must not miss the season's crossing to Canton. For the delay this will cause, they have ordered an unusually quick turnaround at Canton, in order to catch the prevailing winds on his return. The Gaspar Strait had previously been avoided by Company ships as the shoals were deemed too dangerous for safe passage, the Company preferring the safer yet longer Bangka Strait between the Island of Bangka and Sumatra. One of the reasons for the change, as mentioned by Wilson in the present work, was the increased size of the ships, together with the advent of the pocket chronometer, a fact alluded to by Wilson, who took an example of "Arnold's making, which kept time remarkably well, and the Longitude of several points is deduced from it". Alas, the surveying work that Wilson undertook, in the Vansittart, although successful, led to her being wrecked on one of the very shoals she had gone to survey. Wilson and the crew were rescued, but many of the treasure chests onboard were lost to the numerous pirates that patrolled the waters.

Pilot guides such as the present work rarely come on the market. We are only able to trace one example appearing at auction in the last 50 years, a collection of 47 pamphlets by Dalrymple, in Sotheby's 2014.

Some light spotting, title a little dust-soiled, occasional slight browning, small tear to last leaf affecting one word.

Cook 15747.

Art.-Nr.: BN#49524 Schlagwörter: , ,