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How India got its boundaries? Maps offer insights

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By EMN Updated: Aug 16, 2013 9:54 pm
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Annie Samson

 

[dropcap]O[/dropcap]ld maps, detailing the lay of the land as well as providing insights into pre-independent India and the changes that occurred after Partition, are now on exhibit here.
An unseen collection dating back to the 18th century shows maps of India prepared by leading western cartographers and dealers like Pierre Mortier Lapie, Rigobort Bonne, Talliis among others and printed in England, France, Italy and the US.“I have put together maps of India by different cartographers and printmakers. The earliest maps date back to 1750 and shows you how India looked like 200 years ago during the time of the Mughals, during the time of the British right up to 1946,” Anubhav Nath of Ojas Arts, which is organising the exhibition told PTI.
A total of 100 maps, some sourced from Nath’s collection, handed over to him by his grandfather Ramachander Nath and some lent by art and antiquity collector Gautam Sabbarwhal are featured in the exhibition “How India Got its boundaries” that goes on show from August 15 to September 20 this year.
“It is interesting to discover how maps define the borders of each country. Pre-Independent India included Pakistan and Bangladesh (erstwhile East Pakistan) and Post-Independence they became three different nations. We are all familiar with present day map but around 60 to 70 years ago India was a different place altogether,” says Nath.
Cartography, or the art of graphically representing a geographical area reached its zenith in 17th-19th centuries as explorers discovered more places and were also able to mark their exact geographical locations with the help of longitudes and latitudes.
During that time, there was a vast commissioning of maps by western powers. Maps made by cartographers differed according to the perspective of different governments.
“The French and Portuguese so also the British would mark their maps differently to give prominence to their respective territories. The spellings of different places are also interesting to take note so also was the usage of colour,” points out Nath.
A rare map of Central Asia and India by the late 19th century Paris-based publisher C H Lacoste, another one titled “Indostan, Presquisles of India, China, Independent Tartie” by French cartographer S Robert de Vaugondy in 1761 are featured in the display.
A fine first edition map 1829 of India and Southeast Asia covering Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Bhutan, Nepal, Malaysia, Thailand, Burma, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia by M Lapie are also included in the exhibition, which says Nath took him almost a decade to put together.
The exhibition is also offering collectors a chance to buy the maps, the largest of which is a full size wall display one.
“A considerable part i.e. 60 per cent to 70 per cent of the exhibition is on sale. The starting price begins from Rs 5000. We don’t have reproductions and it will be of interest to collectors and make for great collectibles as also good investment pieces. The value of maps have gone up in the last 5 to 10 years,” says Nath.
Each map on sale is accompanied with an authenticity certificate.
While the primary focus of the exhibition remains maps also included in the show are a few antique engravings.
Engravings, normally on copper are what constitutes a first map. Printed maps are usually transfer of ink from a printing platform.
“There are not many exhibitions on maps. While the National Archives have a museum level collection of maps, they are usually not put up for exhibitions and this exhibition will help people, especially the younger generation see how the country looked at different periods in time,” says Nath.

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By EMN Updated: Aug 16, 2013 9:54:53 pm