Bacon’s rare map of the Transvaal

By BACON, G[eorge], W[ashington], 1899 
£100
£60

Bacon’s large-print map of the Transvaal

Africa Southern Africa
  • Author: BACON, G[eorge], W[ashington]
  • Publication place: London
  • Publisher: G. W. Bacon & Co., Ltd., 127 Strand
  • Publication date: c1899
  • Physical description: Lithograph map in full-colour, with three inset maps, laid on cardboard, two small holes on right border with minimal effect on image.
  • Dimensions: 560 by 755mm. (22 by 29.75 inches).
  • Inventory reference: 15458

Notes

This rare map of the Transvaal, or the South African Republic, was produced and sold to the general public in London, at a time when the British Empire was approaching the pinnacle of its global influence. Made in 1899, it displays the southern African states on the verge of the Second Boer Wars, which would see the Transvaal transformed from an independent republic to a British possession. Despite its nominal focus on the South African Republic, the map predictably gives special prominence to the British colonies, represented in pink. The same is true of the inset maps along the right border: Cape Colony is labelled in the largest script on the map of Africa, and similarly, the map that claims to show Orange Free State is actually dominated by the British territory.

The map displays the typical geographical features of labelled towns and cities, relief expressed by hachures, and a few small lakes. Alongside these, it also records the communications networks that spanned the Portuguese, British and independent territories, namely the railway system. Under the influence of the European powers, the rail network had expanded throughout the latter half of the nineteenth century. The swiftness of this expansion is evidenced by Johannesburg in particular: even though the city had only just become significant in the mid-1880s after its spectacular gold-rush, it is shown here at convergence of several major railway lines.

The map was produced by the American mapmaker and publisher, George Bacon, who had made his name in the late nineteenth century by producing maps of London. His work was designed for popular consumption, printed in bold colour and with large print. During the 1890s, he produced a series of maps of the African territories, including Cape Colony and Orange Free State, examples of which are far more prevalent than his map of the Transvaal. By contrast, this map is particularly rare on the market, and we have not been able to trace another example appearing for sale.