Arrowsmith's wall maps of Upper and Lower Egypt
By ARROWSMITH, Aaron , 1807

A Map of Lower Egypt from Various Surveys communicated by Major Bryce and other Officers. Drawn by A. Arrowsmith 1807. [Together with] Map of Upper Egypt, drawn from various documents. By A. Arrowsmith.

Africa Northern Africa
  • Author: ARROWSMITH, Aaron
  • Publication place: London
  • Publisher: Published A. Arrowsmith, No.10 Soho Square [and] Published A. Arrowsmith, No.10 Soho Square
  • Publication date: 10th November 1807 [and] 20th November 1807.
  • Physical description: Large engraved map on four sheets, joined as two, fine original hand-colour, inset plan of the Battle of the Nile, [together with] engraved map, fine original hand-colour, inset of the bay of Cosire (El Quseir).
  • Dimensions: 1230 by 1560mm (48.5 by 61.5 inches). [and] 990 by 660 (39 by 26 inches).
  • Inventory reference: 1070


Two large and detailed maps of Egypt published just after the failed Alexandrian Expedition, a major operation during the Anglo-Turkish War of 1807-1809.

By 1806, Britain had become increasingly fearful of France’s growing influence in Constantinople. After the failure of the Dardanelles Operation in September of that year, the British sent a naval force, under the command of Alexander Mackenzie-Fraser, to secure Alexandria as a base from which to conduct their operations against the Ottomans and French. Although initially met with little resistance, the British were hampered by supply issues and, later on, by stiff Egyptian counteraction. By the end of September they were forced to leave Alexandria having failed in their mission.

A great deal of the geographical information for the map of Lower Egypt came from Sir Alexander Bryce of the Royal Engineers (d.1832), who had served under Sir Ralph Abercromby at the Battle of Alexandria of 1801. Bryce would (together with Captain W. Mudge of Ordnance Survey renown) help in carrying out General Roy’s system of triangulation for connecting the meridians of Greenwich and Paris, and in the measurement of a “base of verification” in Romney Marsh.

The map of Upper Egypt details the journey of Eyles Irwin through Egypt in 1777. Irwin was an East India Company official who set sail from India in 1777, bound for England. Unfortunately, his ship was captured by pirates. The ship was diverted to the port of Cosire, a detail of which is shown on the map, from whence they were forced to cross the dessert to Kenne (Qena), from there to Suez via Cairo, eventually arriving at Alexandria. From there he gained safe passage to England. The whole adventure took eleven months and was set down by Irwin in his work, ‘A Series of Adventures in the Course of a Voyage up the Red-Sea’, published in 1780.

Aaron Arrowsmith (1750-1823) was the finest cartographer of his generation. Although he received little formal education it is believed that he was taught some mathematical instruction by William Emerson, an author of several books on the application of mathematics to the area of cartography. Around 1770, Arrowsmith moved to London to seek employment. It is believed that he worked for William Faden before joining John Cary Sr. in the early 1780s. There he provided the measurements for John Cary’s early publication detailing the roads from London to Falmouth, his first signed work. Arrowsmith set up on his own in 1790 and over the next thirty years produced some of the most beautiful and elegant maps of the era.


  1. BLMC Maps 64390.(4.)
  2. Maps 17.a.15.

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