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Alexander Dalrymple (1737-1808), hydrographer to the East India Company and the Admiralty, as publisher: a catalogue of books and charts

By Andrew Stanley Cook


This is a study of the publications and publishing practices of Alexander Dalrymple (1737-1808). Dalrymple was cumulatively a private publisher of nautical charts and plans (from 1767), the ''examiner of ships' journals'' and chart publisher for the East India Company (from 1779), and Hydrographer to the Admiralty (from 1795). The core of the study is a catalogue of the known publications of Alexander Dalrymple, defining and establishing his oeuvre. The catalogue is in two parts, Catalogue A for the letterpress publications, numbering 257, and Catalogue B for the engraved charts, plans of ports, views of land, and other Illustrations, numbering 1116. The entries in each part of the catalogue are arranged chronologically by date of publication, with full bibliographical and technical descriptions, and notes of attribution, dating and inter-relationships. The introduction gives a short account of Dalrymple's life, focussing on his publishing activity, and introducing his geographical and political pamphlet publishing. Four phases of activity in his nautical publication are identified: the decision to publish charts and memoirs from his own voyages in the Eastern Archipelago (1769-1772); the private publication of charts and plans with grants or subscriptions from the East India Company (1772-1779); the annual series of charts, plans, views and memoirs issued from 1779 onwards for the East India Company; and the organisation and output of the Admiralty Hydrographic Office which he ran in parallel with his East India Company work after 1795. This is supplemented by a discussion of the continuing use made of Dalrymple's charts after his death in 1808. An investigation of Dalrymple's engraving and publishing practices follows, with a brief survey of his technical leaflets and manuals on nautical surveying and chronometer use, and an account of Oriental Repertory, his chief non-nautical publication. The study emphasises the close personal control Dalrymple exercised over his publications, and the consequent problems in the Admiralty and East India Company in developing arrangements to continue publishing charts after his death

Topics: VK597.D2C7, Hydrography--History, Dalrymple, Alexander (1737-1808)
Publisher: The University of St Andrews
Year: 2012
OAI identifier:

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