Riding the wave


Alexander Dalrymple

In 1795 the Admiralty established the Hydrographic Office, of which the direction was entrusted to Alexander Dalrymple (1737 - 1808), geographer, hydrography and Scottish writer, who started his career in 1752 as a modest apprentice at the offices of the Madras English East India Company, but in a few years, in 1758, took command of the "Cuddalore", with instructions to carry out a reconnaissance of the East Indies to as far as China, to negotiate commercial contracts. It was the start of a rapid rise within the company, where he became sales manager and hydrographer.

Mindoro Island
ms. on parchment in black and with, with details in red, about mm. 1685 x 685.
The sketch, as the author explains, was made on board the "Cuddalore" in January 1761. (Taunton, UK Hydrographic Office).

Therefore, when the Hydrographic Office was founded, it appeared natural to entrust with the management of the State mapping agency a professional who had acquired such vast expertise within that prestigious powerful para-governmental body. Dalrymple was therefore the first "Hydrographer of the Navy" and in this capacity, he produced no less than a thousand charts.

The chart has been reproduced in Coste del Mondo nella cartografia europea: 1500-1900 , (179 p., about 300 images), by Priuli & Verlucca, publishers, Ivrea, 2000.)