Map Details      Question or Comment about this Map?
Number: 3667
Continent: Africa
Region: South
Place Names: South Africa, Lesotho, Basutoland
Year of Origin: 1911
Title: LESOTHO: Basutoland Scale 1:250,000.
Language: English
Publish Origin: London
Height: 111.0
Width: 105.5
Units: centimeters
Size Class.: Large
Scale: 1 : 250,000
Color Type: Outline Color
Images of this map are not yet available.
Cartographer: Charles Montague Dobson
Publisher: Geographical Section, War Office UK
Other Contributors:
Northernmost Latitude:
Southernmost Latitude:
Westernmost Longitude:
Easternmost Longitude:
Notes: [PENDING 3.2020, source Pahor/JJohnson] Lithograph in colour, dissected into 40 sections and mounted upon original linen, with original marbled endpapers bearing seller?s label of ?Edward Stanford Ltd. / London?; with contemporary manuscript additions of boundary lines in purple marker (Very Good, light even toning, some very mild staining and few minor surface abrasions, small verso repair to linen at one point along folds; lacking slipcase), 105.5 x 111 cm (41.5 x 43.5 inches). Rare ? the first edition of the first accurate and complete general map of Basutoland (today Lesotho), predicated upon the surveys of the British military engineer Charles Montagu Dobson; an especially impressive technical achievement of scientific cartography, the map is valuable as a detailed record of one of the last major regions in Southern Africa to still follow indigenous land development patterns, published in London by the War Office. This is the first edition of the first complete and scientifically accurate map of Basutoland (today known as Lesotho), which was then an autonomous state under British protection. It is predicated upon exacting systematic, trigonometric surveys conducted from 1904 to 1909 by Charles Montagu Dobson, a highly talented British military engineer. This highly detailed and precise projection of the entire country was published by the Geographical Section of the War Office, in anticipation of the possibility that the British Army would someday be deployed in the region; yet, the map also promised many benefits for civilian purposes, such infrastructure and agrarian development. The map is academically significant in that it is the most accurate and detailed record of one of the last regions in Southern Africa to still follow indigenous land-use patterns. The work was highly influential and served as the base map of Basutoland until the 1960s, being copied and updated on numerous occasions. This large, separately issued map is done to a grand scale of 1:250,000, sufficient to showcase virtually every feature of the country. Executed to the most advanced standards of systematic, trigonometric surveying, it is of the stellar technical quality of a British Ordinance Survey, as opposed to a map of an African frontier. Basutoland?s highly varied topography, straddling the Drakensberg Mountains, is expressed through contour lines at intervals of 100 feet, giving the spot heights of all major peaks (the highest summit being 10,300 feet). The country is divided into named districts, and the map showcases the distinction between the more populated western areas, anchored by the capital, Maseru, and the relatively underdeveloped eastern and southern regions. The ?References? (lower left) details the wealth of symbols used to denote towns; villages; native huts and kraals; railways (which touch the country only at Maseru); telegraph lines; post and telephone offices; telephone lines; roads (whether ?frequented? or ?unfrequented? wagon roads, or bridle paths); ruins; missions (Protestant or Catholic); triangulation points; wells (of various kinds), as well as rivers, lakes and the locations of drifts (fords). Additionally, the map labels rural stores and frontier forts; police stations; notes on the quality of the land; and identifies wondrous places such as waterfalls, caves and the ?Bamboo Forest? near the far southern tip of the country. Another curious detail is the delineation of ?Adam Kok?s Road? being the route taken by Adam Kok III, the Grinqua chief and explorer in 1861-3. Interestingly, in lower right corner is a chart, ?Sisuto Geographic Terms?, translating the names of topographical features from the local language, today called Sotho, into English. The present example of the map features contemporary manuscript additions, in the form of boundary lines in purple marker. We have not been able to discern the purpose of these divisions, it seems that they perhaps relate to some form of military exercise. The map reveals that Basutoland, being one of the last indigenous-ruled countries in Africa, still generally follows traditional land used patterns, as opposed to European systems. Apart for the more developed areas around Maseru, the country is one of relatively isolated native villages and unenclosed cattle grazing lands, in sharp contrast to the farm tracts and ranches that dominated the adjacent landscape of South Africa. In particular, the recording of hundreds of Basotho settlements is particularly impressive. In this sense the map?s importance transcends its subject, and has been a focus of several academic studies. A Note on Rarity The present map is rare. While examples are held by several institutions worldwide, we can trace only 2 examples of the map appearing on the market over the last generation. Basutoland (Lesotho): Indigenous Enclave in South Africa The region in and around what is today known as Lesotho was long inhabited by the Basotho, cattle herders who spoke the Sotho language. A proud and brave people, for generations the Basotho tribes successfully protected their mountainous territory from encroachment by much larger powers. In 1822, King Moshoeshoe I, from his capital of Thaba Bosui (labelled on the map just to the east-southeast of Maseru), united the Basotho tribes into a single national polity for the first time. He founded the country of Basutoland, which occupied much larger boundaries that those shown on the present map, as they extended deep into the fertile veld to the west of the Caledon River. From the 1830s onwards, Basutoland came under pressure from both the Afrikaners (from what became the Orange Free State) and the British (from the Eastern Cape and Natal); these tensions would eventually lead to war. Amazingly, Moshoeshoe I?s warriors bested the British in a war in the early 1850s, but were soon almost completely besieged by the Afrikaners. While Basutoland put up a remarkably strong resistance, by the late 1860s the little kingdom realized that its cause was futile. Moshoeshoe I appealed to the British for relief from the Afrikaners, resulting the Treaty of Aliwal North (1868), whereby Basutoland agreed to give up almost half of its territory (reducing it to 11,720 square miles), in return for peace. In 1869, Basutoland became a protectorate of Britain, and while it enjoyed a good deal of autonomy, it had to submit to the presence of a British resident, British troops, as well as permitting the expansion of Christian missionary activity. Apart from the developed areas around Maseru, the country largely remained as it always had been, under the day-to-day control of local chiefs, with the people maintaining their traditional cattle-herding lifestyle, free from European interference. Upon the creation of the Union of South Africa, Basutoland became an enclave, entirely surrounded by single other country. Basutoland remained a British protectorate with the rights of tis citizens protected, even as South Africa came to pursue its horrific Apartheid policies in the surrounding lands. In 1966, the country gained its independence, changing its name to Lesotho. It remains an independent state to the present day, preserving its unique Basotho culture and the Sotho language. Charles Montagu Dobson: Pioneering Scientific Surveyor of Basutoland Charles Montagu Dobson was born in Gloucestershire in 1879, the son a prominent physician. Taking his early schooling at Clifton College, Bristol, he became a cadet at the prestigious Woolwich Military College in 1896, where he studied engineering and surveying. He graduated as second lieutenant in 1898 and went on to serve in South Africa with great distinction on the front lines during the Second Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902). In the wake of the conflict, Dobson was promoted to the rank of captain and became a fellow of the Royal Geographic Society. After defeating the Afrikaners and gaining mastery of all South Africa, Britain set its sights upon consolidating its control over the region. Basutoland occupied a strategic location along the heights of the Drakensberg Mountains; however it was hitherto, for the most part, not well mapped, a circumstance that was seen as a military liability. The best existing cartographic record of the country, the War Office?s Map of Basutoland (London, 1888; revised 1892), while providing decent coverage of the area around Maseru, gave only a vague overview of the majority of the country; indeed, only very little of Basutoland had ever been surveyed. Please see a link to an image of this map: In 1904, the War Office charged Dobson with the important and challenging task of systematically surveying all of Basutoland to the highest trigonometric standards. Dobson commenced his fieldwork in January 1905, and succeeded in mapping the entire country by April 1909. Dobson?s manuscripts were dispatched to the Geographical Section of the War Office in London, resulting in the publication of the present map. Given the incredibly rugged, and in places wild, nature of the terrain, Dobson?s work has rightly been hailed as a ?remarkable achievement?; it is inarguably one of the most technically impressive works of cartography covering any part of Southern Africa made during its era. Dobson returned to England in July 1909, where he assumed administrative posts in the army, while remaining active on the academic geography scene. Upon the outbreak of World War I, Dobson was promoted to the rank of major and dispatched to the Western Front. Sadly, he was killed leading his men on the front lines at the Battle of Loos (France) on September 26, 1915. While he was only given a short life, his Basutoland map ensured an enduring legacy. References: British Library: Cartographic Items Maps 67390.(1.).; OCLC: 82467136 / 79160027; Cf. Walton, James. ?An Early Fokeng-Hlakoana Settlement at Metlaeeng, Basutoland.? The South African Archaeological Bulletin, vol. 8, no. 29, 1953, pp. 3?11.
Last updated: Mar 21, 2020