A Seagoing Officers Sea Chart Book From 1799

by John M. MacFarlane 2016

Title Page

Title Page (Photo from MacFarlane collection.)

I was given a bound book of sea charts once owned by my ancestor, Captain James Hepburn McFarland RN.

Full Title: Oriental Pilot; East–India Directory; a collection of charts, general and particular, The Indian and Pacific Oceans, The China Seas, England and the Cape of Good Hope, from the last edition of the works of Mr. D’Apres de Manneville, with many additions and corrections, and the insertion of All the New Discoveries made by the English, Dutch, French and Spanish etc.The whole conveyed from Draughts, Surveys, and Journals, communicated by the Officers, and marine surveyors of the East–India Company and others. Being a useful insertion from the Complete East–India Pilot. A new edition containing 46 charts.


The Printers (Photo from MacFarlane collection.)

London. Printed and Published by Robert Laurie and James Whittle, Map Chart and Print–Sellers. No. 53 Fleet Street. Successors to the late Mr. Robert Sayer. Price Six Guineas bound in calf and Seven Guineas and a–half with the new Quarto Book of Directions 1799

The exterior

The book was covered by a slip cover made from deck cloth in 1965 by Commander George R. MacFarlane RCN to protect the cover while being handled. (Photo from MacFarlane collection.)

Table of Contents

Table of Contents (Photo from MacFarlane collection.)

While the book index indicates that there are 46 charts in the collection there is a notation, by the owner’s hand, that one of the charts (not included) is "not yet published"

Chart Title

An example of engravings to be seen on the charts. (Photo from MacFarlane collection.)

Owner stamp

The owner stamped his name at the top of the title page and on some of the charts. (Photo from MacFarlane collection.)

Spanish Chart

Hand drawn contemporary copy of a map drawn by the Malaspina expedition possibly as a result of an encounter by McFarland with the expedition leaders in South America. (Photo from MacFarlane collection.)

McFarland must have encountered the expedition of Alessandro Malaspina at some point. The Descubierta and Atrevida were twin corvettes of the Spanish Navy, custom- designed as identical special exploration and scientific research vessels used by Malaspina and his colleague Bustamante. Malaspina visited the area now known as the River Plate between Uruguay and Argentina on his westward voyage to the coast of British Columbia and Alaska in 1789. They sailed down to Río de la Plata, and stopped in Montevideo and Buenos Aires, in order to prepare a report on the political situation of the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata. A hand drawn copy of a Spanish chart of the area was made by McFarland at the front of the book with special note of water depths along the coast.

We do not know why HMS Lancaster would have visited Montevideao and the River Plate area in 1801 but there were British attempts to seize control of areas in the Spanish colonial Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata – in present-day Argentina and Uruguay. There were invasions took place between 1806 and 1807, as part of the Napoleonic Wars, when Spain was an ally of Napoleonic France.


Chart detail (Photo from MacFarlane collection.)

Full chart

The full contemporary copy of the Chart as it appears in the front of the Atlas. (Photo from MacFarlane collection.)

Chart detail

Chart detail (Photo from MacFarlane collection.)

Noon Positions

Noon Positions (Photo from MacFarlane collection.)

The ships that McFarland served in operated on the Cape of Good Hope Station in the Indian Ocean and the South Atlantic. He made a major voyage from the Cape to Montevideo Uruguay and another from the Cape to England. The noon positions are recorded on at least two of the charts and connected to show the ship’s track.

Noon positions

Noon Positions (Photo from MacFarlane collection.)

Noon Positions

Noon Positions (Photo from MacFarlane collection.)


Memorandum pasted on the back of a chart concerning the position of an island near Madagascar. (Photo from MacFarlane collection.)


A list of the major landmarks in the sailing directions for entering Table Bay (Cape of Good Hope) (Photo from MacFarlane collection.)

HMS Penguin

A watercolour sketch by Captain McFarland RN probably of HMS Penguin originally a Dutch brig Komeet captured and commissioned into the Royal Navy. (Photo from MacFarlane collection.)

To quote from this article please cite:

MacFarlane, John M. (2016) A Seagoing Officers Sea Chart Book From 1799. Nauticapedia.ca 2016. http://nauticapedia.ca/Articles/Chart_Book.php

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