Saturday, October 19, 2013

Travel through Philately - Old Maps of Singapore

Google Map and GPS undoubtedly changed the way we viewed our world - through satellite captured images digitally rendered and overlaid to show different information at the beck and call of a click. Looking back at history, the digital world did not come into the household and consumer's hand before the 90s, and most household could not afford one until the turn of the millennium. To see how our predecessors read a map would be the reason I collected this particular FDC, one which showed the old maps of Singapore as drawn by cartographers of the past.

This FDC has an antique look about it, trying its best to simulate the feel of old parchment with those brownish patches randomly placed on the cover.

Being a port of utmost importance ever since maritime trade expanded from the European mainlands and even before that, early navigation charts of the island and the surrounding sea lanes had been drawn by Portuguese and Chinese traders in the 16th century. The earlier charts were meant more for navigation of the ship, and maps of the island were not made with any great effort until the 19th century.

With Stamford Raffles establishing a foothold for East India Company in Singapore in 1819, maps of greater detail were planned for the island to establish it as a trading port. Marine charts were produced for navigational purposes in the first few years, with a detailed survey of the island's interior in the subsequent decades. The extensive surveys of the interior were important for the purpose of city planning as well as land allocations for ethnic groupings.

The stamps on this FDC featured a few early hand drawn maps of Singapore. The setenant block of four pieces of 15¢ stamps complement each other to form an image of pre-war Singapore, showing the Principal Residences and Places of Interest in 1920s. The town has been laid out in its principal uses and the modern CBD of Singapore grew out along the basic road infrastructure.

The other 2 stamps of the FDC featured even earlier hand drawn maps of Singapore. The $1 stamp has an early British Settlement map of Singapore in the 1820s, one of the earliest maps to produce the outline of Singapore. This was made by Captain J Franklin and Lt Jackson. The 50¢ stamp featured a map of the island as well as the surrounding dependencies in 1860s.

Initial maps and charts after Raffles' settlement were done on a part-time basis by military engineers as part of their survey of the island and surrounding waters. G D Coleman was the first official Revenue Surveyor when he was assigned the duty to prepare land titles for the Singapore Town in 1827. As these early maps were hand drawn, it required great care to preserve them, thus original manuscripts were mounted on canvas to preserve their usage.

An old map of Singapore showing Singapore in 1825 (image taken from Wikimedia Commons).

Readers who are interested in the recent past of Singapore, including the road names as well as the layout of Singapore, are advised to visit Singapore MapsRemember Singapore and Times of My Life.

Date of Issue:             26 July 1989
Denominations:           15¢, 50¢, SGD1
Stamp Size:                (15¢) 38.00mm x 33.34mm; (50¢, SGD1) 38.10mm x 36.85mm
Perforation:                14.25
Paper:                        Unwatermarked
Printing Process:         Lithography
Printer:                       Harrison and Sons Ltd
Designer:                    Leo Teck Chong

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