This highly detailed display map from the King’s Topographical Collection was the product of a survey of Kolkata undertaken from 1780 to 1784. It was produced by Captain Mark Wood for the East India Company, which controlled the Indian province of Bengal. The area around the Hughli River downstream from the East India Company’s headquarters in Kolkata was seen as strategically important in the protection of British territories. Wood’s map – an amalgamation of years’ worth of notes, sketches and annotated planes – shows the newly built Fort William at top right, Kolkata beneath it, and the fortifications at Budge Budge at bottom left.
Wood’s draughtsmanship is meticulous, with fields, trees and shrubs individually rendered. This careful representation of topographical features was essential for the map to be a useful working document, replicating, as far as possible, the land itself. The point of it, as Wood himself states in the title cartouche at bottom right, was to show ‘the extent and situation’ of different types of land and routes, as well as the ‘sands and soundings’ of the Hughli ‘at low water in spring tides’. The entire river is marked with accurate depth soundings as well as the location and reach of potentially treacherous sandbanks. The map was also valuable for planning new areas of development.