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Number: 3983
Continent: Africa
Region: South
Place Names: South Africa, Transvaal, Orange Free State,
Year of Origin: 1882
Title: Kaart van den Oranjevrystaat voor het Gebruik der Scholten. Zamengesteld ten Kantore van den Landmeter Generaal, Bloemfontein, September, 1882, door H.A. Robinson, Hoofdklerk. Edinburgh: Archibald & Peck, 1882.
Language: Dutch
Publish Origin: Edinburgh
Height: 64.0
Width: 96.0
Units: centimeters
Size Class.: Large
Scale: 1 : 1,000,000
Color Type: Outline Color
Images of this map are not yet available.
Cartographer: H. A. Robinson
Publisher: Archibald & Peck
Other Contributors:
Northernmost Latitude: -26.5
Southernmost Latitude: -31.5
Westernmost Longitude: 23.0
Easternmost Longitude: 32.0
Measurement Notes: on map
Notes: [Dasa Pahor and Alex Johnson source] South Africa ? Orange Free State The 'Diamond Rush', Afrikaans Cartography; Colour lithograph, with additional original hand colouring, varnished and mounted upon contemporary linen, some contemporary manuscript additions of the names and boundaries of newly proposed districts, map seemingly removed from original rollers. T his extremely rare wall map is the first official map of the Orange Free State (Oranje-Vrystaat), the Afrikaner ruled independent republic in central South Africa, which existed between 1854 and 1902. It was drafted in September 1882 from the best sources by H.A. Robinson, a mysterious British surveyor, while he served as the High Clerk of the Orange Free State surveyor general?s office. It was published in Edinburgh by the boutique lithographers Archibald & Peck, with text entirely in the Afrikaans language, making it one of the largest and most important works of Afrikaans cartography. The map was designed, as the title says ?voor het Gebruik der Scholen? (to be used in schools) but would also have been displayed on the walls of government offices and perhaps in some travel bureaus and other businesses. This Map represents emblem of Afrikaner defiance in the face of extreme British pressure. While the British, based in the Cape Colony, initially showed little interest in the Orange Free State and its sister Afrikaner nation, the Transvaal (technically the ZAR, Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek), both located deep in the interior of the highveld, that all suddenly changed. In the late 1860s, the world?s greatest diamond f inds were discovered near where the Orange and Vaal rivers meet, in the ill-defined boundary lands between the Orange Free State and the Cape Colony. The British placed immense pressure upon Bloemfontein to cede territory to Britain, under the threat of a total invasion of the country. T he Orange Free State?s saving grace was its leader, President Johannes Henricus Brand, arguably the most skilled African diplomat of his era, who managed to stave off British aggression, preventing his country from getting dragged into the First Anglo-Boer War (1880-1), fought between British at the Transvaal. While Transvaal?s victory in that conflict gave the Orange Free State some breathing space, in 1882, when the present map appeared, everyone knew that the British threat would soon return. Here the Orange Free State unfolds in unprecedented accuracy, to a large of scale of 14 miles to the inch (c. 1:887 000), with each of the states? districts coloured in their own vibrant hue. The cleanly-designed map mainly showcases the country?s major towns and infrastructure but also includes many other interesting details. The map shows that the British Cape Colony, occupies the territory to the west and southwest of the Orange Free State, and contains Kimberly, home to the world?s largest diamond mine, located just across the Free State boundaries, in West Grinqualand, a region that was recently ?stolen? from Bloemfontein?s administration. To the north is the Orange Free State?s sister Afrikaner nation, the Transvaal, while to the east is the British colony of Natal and the to the southeast is ?Basuto Land? (modern Lesotho), an indigenous-governed state with which Bloemfontein long had a difficult relationship. T he ?Toelichting? (Explanation), in the upper left corner identifies the symbols used throughout to represent national and district boundaries; wagon roads; the national capital (Bloemfontein); district seats and other towns; locations of port offices; Christian missionary stations; rivers and streams; mountain ranges and peaks (called ?kops?); and forested areas. Various diamond sites are labelled in the western Orange Free State, such as the ?Oliphantsfontein? and ?Koffyfontein? ?Diamant Delveryen? (diamond deposits) and the ?Jagerfoentien? ?Diamant Myn? (diamond mine). T he jurisdiction to the east of Bloemfontein, prominently outlined in red, ?Barolongs Grondgebied? (the Barolong?s Territory), represents the reserve of the Barolong (or Rolong) indigenous nation, with its limits as agreed by the national government. The Barolong people occupied a variety of areas in what is today?s South Africa and Botswana. In the lower right corner are three geological cross-sections of the country, running, respectively, from the Vaal River to Harrismith; the Vaal River to Mt. aux Sources; and Vaal River to Thaba Nchu. The accompanying ?Beschryving? (Description) identifies 14 different formations or strata and shows that the Orange Free State possessed a very complex and varied geology, which explains the presence of rare minerals, such as diamonds. T he chart below the title details the population of the country and its districts, according to the census of March 31, 1880. The numbers are divided between the ?white? and ?coloured? population, while the national tallies are further divided into gender classif ications. It shows that the country had total population of 133,518, with 61,022 being ?white? and 72,496 ?black?. Not included in the main national numbers is the population of the ?Barolongs Grondgebied? (the Barolong?s Territory), recorded at 12,000. T he present map, while showcasing the Orange Free State?s major topographical and human features with unprecedented planimetric assurance, is overall not all that accurate or detailed. This is since the country had never been systematically trigonometrically surveyed, unlike most of the Cape Colony and Natal. This was not due to backwardness or the inability of the Orange Free State?s surveyor general?s department but rather seems to have been intentional. Carrying out comprehensive, scientific surveys of the country would uncover more diamonds and gold deposits, and would make the British covet the territory even more, while such maps could aid an invading British army. Thus, while the present map gives a very good overview of the Orange Free State, it is of only very limited strategic military value, while some supposedly sensitive information, like the locations of some diamond mines, were already public knowledge. Importantly, the Robinson map still provided by far and away the best overview of the Orange Free State on any existing map. It is notably far more accurate that the depiction of the region portrayed on Abraham de Smidt?s A Map of the Colony of the Cape of Good Hope and Neighbouring Territories (1876), hitherto the finest portrayal of the area. T he Orange Free State?s surveyor general?s department thus concentrated its efforts upon making local cadastral surveys, or mapping towns, creating maps which were of great day-today practical use to the citizenry and government, but which would have been of limited use to the country?s enemies. The comprehensive trigonometric surveying of the Orange Free State would not commence until the British army started mapping the country during the Second Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902), with the entire territory not being fully mapped until civilian surveys were completed over the decade that followed. Robinson?s map nevertheless proved highly influential, and its content was copied by many of the leading mapmakers of South Africa, including Frederick A. Jeppe. Despite the importance of his work, little is known of H.A. Robinson (fl. 1872 - 1902) - we don?t even know his given names! He first appears in 1872 as a surveyor working for T. Doms mapping the territory in West Grinqualand that the Brit deeded to the Griqua chief Nicolaas Waterboer. Around 1880, Robinson moved to Bloemfontein to become the High Clerk (i.e., chief draftsman) of the Orange Free State surveyor general?s office. Despite the Anglo-Afrikaner rivalry, it was not unusual for the Bloemfontein regime to hire qualified British technical professionals. The present map is by far and away Robinson?s best-known work, he was otherwise engaged in making cadastral surveys, which wile locally important at the time, are seldom studied today. Robinson served the Orange Free State loyally for almost 20 years, but when the British conquered the country in 1900, Robinson is recorded as staying on to help run the civilian mapping operations in what became known as the Orange River Colony, at least until 1902. T here has been some confusion over the publication details of the present map, with some authors assuming that it was published in Bloemfontein; the title notes that the map was ?Zamengesteld? (Compiled) at the Surveyor General?s Office in Bloemfontein. However, they have overlooked the tiny imprint of ?Archibald & Peck, Engravrs, Edinr.? that appears at the bottom right of the lowest of the geological cross-section. It was not uncommon for colonial entities around the world to commission maps to be lithographed by boutique British houses, as this was often more cost effective for making large maps in small print runs than it would be engaging one of the big London or Paris houses, or having it printed locally (it would in theory have been technically possible to have the map printed in Bloemfontein, although the project would have been on the upper end of local capabilities). A Note on Rarity T he map is exceedingly rare, we can trace only a single other example, held by the University of Leiden Library (Netherlands), although there must be a couple examples in South African institutions that are not catalogued online. Moreover, we are not aware of any other examples as having appeared on the market. T he great rarity of the map is not surprising, as relatively few examples would have been published, while the survival rate of wall maps, especially those geared for the South African market, would have been incredibly low. T hat the present example survives at all seems to be since it was seemingly taken off its original rollers and folded away somewhere safe for some years; it comes down to us in remarkably good condition under the circumstances. Diamonds: Not the Afrikaners? Best Friend T he present map appeared during a time of transformative change in South Africa, in which the discovery of vast mineral resources caused the region to go from a colonial backwater to a focal point of international geopolitics, resulting in great conflicts for control of the country. Britain conquered the Cape Colony from the Netherlands in 1806. For the next several decades Britain mainly valued the colony as a strategically located way-station for voyages to India. The Cape was invariably a financial burden, as it produced few exportable commodities and its location ensured that it was almost continuously embroiled in expensive frontier wars with formidable native nations, such as the Xhosa. T he British Crown was loathe to invest any significant amounts of money into infrastructure and economic development schemes, which ensured that the colony?s lack of productivity was a self-fulfilling prophecy. T housands of Afrikaners ?trekked? into the Highveld, in the deep interior, founding independent societies in the 1830s. This seemed not to bother the British, as they had no interest in those far away landlocked territories and were glad to be rid of potentially troublesome subjects. Britain?s decision to annex the former Afrikaner settlement of Natal in 1843, motivated by its coastal location and the fine natural harbour at Durban, was nevertheless considered by many Whitehall officials to only be an added burden. London recognized the independence of the Afrikaner nations, the South African Republic (ZAR, Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek), being the Transvaal, at the Sand River Convention (1852) and the Orange Free State at the Bloemfontein Convention (1854). While both the British and Afrikaners were weary of each other, for some years, the British were content to allow the Afrikaners to farm the rugged interior with little interference. The fertile and temperate coastal areas were seen as far more precious than the rugged and politically unstable interior, hitherto thought to be light in natural resources; and so the British were content to let the Afrikaners be as they were. Moreover, they were pleased to have another European power in the neighbourhood which could help to keep their mutual rivals, the Xhosa and Zulu nations in check. However, this ?detente? would unravel following a surprise event. In 1867, a 15-year old boy named Erasmus Jacobs found a bizarre, shinny pebble along the banks of the Orange River at Hopetown, Cape Colony, very close to the British-Orange Free State boundary (depicted on the present map, on the far left-hand side). The rock was greeted with fascination in the town and was sent off to be assayed. It turned out to be a 21.24 Carat gem, soon to become famous as the ?Eureka Diamond?. It was purchased Sir Richard Southey, the Governor of the Cape Colony, for ?500. Shortly thereafter, it became an international spectacle, upon being displayed at the Paris Exhibition of 1867. From then on, isolated diamond finds were made in the area near the confluence of the Orange and Vaal rivers, although not enough diamonds were found to cause much of a sensation. However, the discovery of the ?Star of South Africa?, a massive 83.5 Carat gem in 1869, in the Orange Valley, proved to be a turning point in the region?s history. The more prescient observers recognized the magnitude of the event. Sir Richard Southey, who, in a dramatic flourish, laid the Star upon a table before the Cape Parliament, declared, ?Gentlemen, this is the rock on which the future of South Africa will be built?. The diamond subsequently sold in London for ?25,000, an enormous sum for the time. Prospectors came to the Diamond Region, and in particular to what was viewed the be the most promising area, near where the Vaal and Hart Rivers meet, by the old missionary outpost of Pniel (founded 1849). Mining camps were set up at various locations; however, for some months, very little was found, and it looked as if the rush might be a false alarm. T hen, beginning in January 1870, the miners started to find diamonds ? and lots and lots of diamonds! News spread fast and soon thousands of prospectors and entrepreneurs f looded to this remote and sparsely populated region. People came not only from across Southern Africa, but from Britain and Continental Europe, as well as seasoned gold diggers from places such as California and Australia. T he mining operations in the region near the confluence of the Orange and Hart rivers continued to proliferate. By April of 1871, there were at least 5,000 miners in the area, and as the brilliant white alluvia diamonds could be found even some distance from the riverbeds, claims were being mined along the gravel terraces as much as four miles inland from the banks, on either side of the rivers. T he British government suddenly showed an intense interest in the diamond lands on the frontier of the Orange Free State, in 1871 fording Bloemfontein to cede to Britain the ?West Grinqualand?, a district (marked on the present map) that contained what would become Kimberly, the world most productive diamond mine. Naturally, the Orange Free State and the ZAR were incensed, seeing the British actions not only a ?land grab? of Afrikaner territory, but (presciently) as a clear and present danger to the future independence of their republics. As the Diamond Rush gained intensity, the British appetite for more and more territory in region grew, leaving the Afrikaners ever more threatened. Britain and the Afrikaner republics were now on a collision course. Yet, on the scene was the Orange Free State?s saving grace, President Johannes Henricus Brand (1823 - 1888), considered by historians to have been a clever, calculating leader. He was a was a highly respected, English-educated law professor before being elected in 1864 to the first of his five terms as President of the Orange Free State. While an expansionist by nature, determined to broaden his nation?s horizons at the expense of its indigenous neighbours, he was at the end of the day a practical man, aware of his republic?s political and military limitations. As best exemplified by his conduct of the latter part of the Free State-Basotho Wars, he successfully gained valuable territorial concessions without coming into direct conflict with Britain. While Brand did not always succeed in his endeavours (he failed to stop Britain from annexing Kimberly in 1871), overall, he ensured that the Orange Free State thrived far better than could otherwise have been expected in a neighbourhood of dangerous potential and realised enemies. Most notably, he wisely ensured that his country did not join the First Anglo-Boer War (1880-1), as he knew that, unlike the Transvaal (which successfully fended off the British forces), the Orange Free State, being more geographically exposed, would be easily overrun. While maintaining an official stance of neutrality, Brand managed to lend covert support to the South African Republic, while keeping friendly ties with London. In 1882, the year that the present map was published, Queen Victoria gave him a knighthood! For a few years, it seemed as if the independence of the Afrikaner republics would be secure and that Britain might turn its attention to other regions of the world. However, another shocking surprise altered the course of South African history. In 1886, the largest gold deposits in the world were discovered along the Witwatersrand in the Transvaal. Britain became obsessed with taking control of the gold fields and everything else that stood in the way ? including the Orange Free State. President Brand, who had died in office in 1888, was succeeded by comparatively hot-headed leaders who led the Orange Free State, along with the Transvaal, on an adversarial path viz. Britain, something that Brand would likely have avoided. The showdown came in the form of the horrendously destructive Second Anglo-Boer War (1899 - 1902), which resulted in a complete British victory. The Afrikaners were forced to surrender and signed the Treaty of Vereeninging (May 31, 1902), by which the Orange Free State and Transvaal were dissolved and annexed by Britain, in return for the Afrikaners retaining their property rights and being safe from reprisals. All the British colonies in the region were integrated to form the Union of South Africa in 1910. References: Universitaire Bibliotheken Leiden: D A 39,7; OCLC: 776649690; S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science, article: ?Robinson, Mr H A (cartography)?:; E.C. LIEBENBERG, ?From Barrow to Jeppe - The Development of 19th century Cartography in South Africa?, in E.C. Liebenberg (ed.), Proceedings of the Symposium on the History of Cartography of Africa... (Pretoria: International Cartographic Association, 2003), pp. 103-119.
Last updated: Mar 15, 2022