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INDIA – GOA: Carta do Territorio Portuguez de Goa correcta por J.F. d’Assa Castel Branco, Tenete d'Engenheiros em 1878. Zoom

INDIA – GOA: Carta do Territorio Portuguez de Goa correcta por J.F. d’Assa Castel Branco, Tenete d'Engenheiros em 1878.


A very rare large-format separately issued map of the Portuguese Territory of Goa, India; the finest general map of the colony issued during the second half of the 19th Century; after the surveys of the Indian-born engineer Lieutenant José Frederico d’Assa Castel Branco.

Author: José Frederico d’ASSA CASTEL BRANCO (1836 - 1912).
Place and Year: Paris: Imprimerie des chemins de fer A. Chaix & Cie for A.M. Gomes & Filhos, 1878.
Code: 66211

Lithograph with original outline hand colour, folding into original red cloth covers bearing title stamped in gilt (Very Good, overall bright and clean, just some light wear and toning along original folds; covers with just some shelf-wear and light stains), 96 cx 67 cm (38 x 26.5 inches).


This impressive map is the finest survey of the Portuguese Territory of Goa, India, produced during the second half of the 19th Century.  It is based upon advanced trigonometric surveys conducted by Lieutenant José Frederico d’Assa Castel Branco, a Goan-born military engineer, and represents a breakthrough in the scientific cartography of the colony.  The map was commissioned by the Goa bookseller, A. Mathias Gomes & Filhos, and was published in Paris by A. Chaix & Cie, a lithographer that specialized in railway maps and plans.

The map embraces all the Territory of Goa, a Portuguese enclave along the Arabian Sea, entirely bordered by British India.  The map showcases Goa’s topography in grand fashion, noting every river, coastal headland and estuary, while the ranges of hills are expressed though subtle hachures.  The territory is divided into 14 provinces which are each outlined in their own resplendent original colours.   

The ‘Convenções’, in the lower right, identifies the symbols used for ‘Caminhos’ (large / post roads); ‘Estradas’ (smaller / country roads); ‘Igrejas’ (churches); ‘Pagodes’ (Hindu temples); ‘Aldeas’ (villages); and ‘Fortes’ (forts), which are marked throughout the map.  Panjim (today Panaji), the territorial capital, appears prominently in the north-west.

The chart in the lower left, features the latest statistics for the territory and each of its provinces.  It distinguishes between the provinces which are ‘Velhas Conquistas’, lands taken by the Portuguese during the 16th Century (5 provinces), with the ‘Novas Conquistas’ (10 provinces), lands that had been acquired since.  It notes the land area for each province (the entire territory embraces 3,370 km sq.); as well as the number of ‘Freguezias’ (parishes); and ‘Aldeas’ (villages).  Also noted are the populations of each province including the number of Roman Catholics (both male and female) and non-Catholics (both male and female).  Due to its over 350 years of Portuguese domination, Goa was one of the few majority Christian regions in India; there were 245,785 Catholics versus 145, 015 non-Catholics (mostly Hindus). 

Goa was conquered for Portugal by Alfonso de Albuquerque in 1510, and quickly became one of the most important centres in Asia, the capital of a vast Lusitanian maritime empire, which included outposts ranging from Mozambique to Japan.  Through the 16th Century, Goa was the World’s largest entrpôt for spices and the epicentre for the spread of Catholicism in Asia.  From the 17th Century onward, Goa, and the Portugal Empire in general declined in economic power.  However, Goa remained an important regional centre, benefiting from the protection of Britain, Portugal’s ancient ally. 

The territory was traditionally centred upon the city of Velha Goa (marked here as ‘Gôa’), located a ways up the Goa River.  However, the site proved unhealthful and the capital was formally moved to Panjim, near the coast, in 1843.

As for cartography, the territory was first generally mapped to scientific standards by the British military surveyor James Garling in 1814.  This survey was viewed at the time to be one of the finest regional surveys conducted in India, executed as part of the Great Trigonometric Survey of India, a grand British project to map the entire subcontinent that lasted from 1802 to 1870.  Portugal allowed Garling to map Goa, as the territory relied upon British military protection during the period of the Napoleonic Wars.  For the next 60 years or so, all general maps of Goa were predicated upon Garling’s template, with aspects merely being updated by Portuguese cartographers.

In the 1870s, José Frederico d’Assa Castel Branco, a military surveyor who was a senior member of the colonial public works department, was charged by Goa’s governor with re-mapping the entire territory to high trigonometrical standards, benefitting from equipment that had been greatly improved since Garling’s time.  The result was the present stellar map, which importantly was the first general map of Goa to definitively break past the Garling template. 

Assa Castel Branco’s map remained the base map of the colony for some years.  A second edition was issued in 1890, while the map was copied by several other Portuguese official cartographers.  It is also worth noting that Assa Castel Branco created a large school map of the colony, Carta do Territorio de Goa para Uso das Escolas Primarias (1878), which is today very rare.


José Frederico d’Assa Castel Branco: Leading Goan Engineer

José Frederico d’Assa Castel Branco (1836 - 1912) was the most important cartographer and civil engineer in Portuguese India during the later 19th Century.  He was born in Goa and studied at the Escola Mathemática e Militar de Goa in 1850, whereupon he entered the Portuguese military.  He joined the State Engineering department of Portuguese India in 1860, while retaining his military rank.  Over the next several years, he oversaw many civil engineering projects and conducted trigonometrical surveys of the Goan countryside, leading the publication of the present map.  In 1879, in part as recognition of his stellar cartographic activities, Assa Castel Branco was promoted to become the Deputy Director of the State Engineers.  He was then responsible for building several of the major public edifices of Panjim, including the Public Works headquarters, Post Office, Archbishop’s Palace and the Meteorological Observatory.  In 1887, Assa Castel Branco became a professor of engineering at the Escola Profissional e no Liceu de Goa and was promoted to become the Director General of Public Works of Portuguese India the following year.  In addition to his maps, he published a work on weights and measures, Pesos e medidas portuguezes, inglezes, indianos e portuguez-indianos comparados com os do systema metrico decimal (Nova Goa: Imprensa Nacional, 1898).  In 1901, he retired from the army with the rank of General but continued to work as an engineer until his 70th birthday in 1906.  


A Note on Rarity

The present map is very rare.  We can trace 7 institutional examples, of which only one can be found outside of Portuguese government collections.  Examples are cited at the Sorbonne-Institut de géographie (Paris); Arquivo Histórico Militar (Lisbon); Arquivo Histórico Ultramarino (Lisbon); Biblioteca Infraestruturas, Transportes e Comunicações [Portuguese Economic Ministry, Lisbon]; Biblioteca Nacional de Lisboa; Museu de Marinha (Lisbon); and the Sociedade de Geograpfia de Lisboa.  Moreover, we can trace no records of another example of the map as having appeared on the market during the last generation.



References: Avelino Teixeira da Mota, Cartas antigas da India existentes em Portugal, (Lisbon, 1980), no. 169 (p. 79); Sorbonne-Institut de géographie 50.n.1 / OCLC: 944323348; Arquivo Histórico Ultramarino (Lisbon): PT/AHU/CARTI/058/00779; Biblioteca Infraestruturas, Transportes e Comunicações (Lisbon): C 0215-6 C / BAHOP.