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Art. XXIX.—Biographical Sketch of the Literary Career of the late Colonel Colin Mackenzie, Surveyor-General of India; comprising some particulars of his Collection of Manuscripts, Plans, Coins, Drawings, Sculptures, &c. illustrative of the Antiquities, History, Geography, Laws, Institutions, and Manners, of the Ancient Hindús; contained in a letter addressed by him to the Right Hon. Sir Alexander Johnston, V.P.R.A.S. &c. &c.

  • D. Hill

[The Catalogue of the Mackenzie Collection published at Calcutta by Professor Wilson, in the year 1828, being with difficulty procurable in England, it has been thought that the following account of that Collection might not be unacceptable to those persons who feel an interest in the subjects which it was intended to illustrate, and who may not be aware of its nature and extent.

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* See Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, No. I. p. 165.

This sentiment is in Tacitus, I think (from recollection), in a speech of Tiberius.

* The lamented Kavelli Venkata Boria, a Bráhman, then almost a youth, of the quickest genius and disposition, possessing that conciliatory turn of mind that soon reconciled all sects and all tribes to the course of inquiry followed with these surveys. After seven years' service he was suddenly taken off from these labours, but not before he had formed his younger brothers and several other useful persons of all castes, Bráhmans, Jainas, and Malabars, to the investigations that have since been so satisfactorily pursued.

* See Gentille's Opinion on the Geography of India. Voyages aux Indes.

* For instance, Hollollkaira, ceded to the Mahrattas; Gúdikatta, on the N.W. of Chitteldrúg, mistaken for a small part north of Kolar, in the east of Mysore; and many other instances, whence some knowledge of the country rendered a survey indispensable.

Mr. Mather, Lieutenant Warren, and Lientenant Arthur, assistant-surveyors; and Dr. Heyne, surgeon and naturalist.

* In the regulations of survey of 9th October, 1810, no less than twenty military officers were attached to the quarter-master-general, exclusive of the military institution and the establishment of native surveyors under the revenue department. The results arising from those departments, compared with that of the Mysore survey, would afford the most just means of judging of the utility of either of the works.

* And of the measures adopted at Madras in 1806, that I considered adverse and contradictory to the hopes held out to me for years back.

* In the very first year, ending 1st December 1810, the annual expense was reduced from 85,000 or rather 100,000 pagodas per annum, to 55,000 pagodas, by the operation of the plan submitted, and this with more effect than in the former unconnected system—as appears from a table of five years' expense, presented to government on 30th April 1816.

* The survey of Dindigul recently finished, and materials of which are about to be sent home, completes it, that of Barramahl being done several years ago.

* This correspondence on literary subjects has been exempted from postage in India, by order of Government, and approved of by the Court of Directors, since 1808.

* The history of Khárí Khán includes the annals of the celebrated Aurungzib's reign, hitherto a desideratum in Indian history, excepting the first ten years.

The position of Banawassi is laid down in Ptolemy's Tables.

* In the ruined city of Mahabálipuram in this vicinity, specimens of the Roman and China coinage are found at present, together with other ancient unknown kinds.

* This register was presented to the government at Fort William of the 10th February, 1815.

The whole of the voluminous minutes, correspondence, and proceedings of the commission sent from Holland in 1793, of which Mr. Medenburg was president, and which terminated in 1800, are deposited in a great almyra or cabinet. Mr. Medesburg afterwards returned to Holland, and was one of the leading members of the Secret Committee on India affairs that sat at the Hague, whose final report in 1807 seems to have been the basis on which the plans adopted by the late government of Holland for their oriental colonies were founded.

* This is one of the works translated at Serampore since January last, and sent to government April 1816.

* An ingenious native of Java has since this accompanied Colonel Mackenzie to India, and has already made some progress in translating from the Javanese.

* Several of these here enumerated are in paper sections, quarto, and octavo, and Colonel Mackenzie has got them bound up at Calcutta into portable volumes for their better preservation; probably the whole may amount to forty volumes.

* It is necessary to observe, that all these are exclusive of the memoirs and reports belonging to the Committee of Tenures, which are official and belong to government, though every liberal indulgence was granted by the governor, Mr., afterwards Sir Stamfoud Raffles, and access given to official records. The collection here specified is wholly distinct from these, and entirely private property.

* Attempts are making to form a Javanese and English Dictionary from this, but for want of assistants the work is delayed; Colonel Mackenzie has brought a Javanese with him, who assists to render it, by means of the Malay, into the English language.

Thunberg's Voyages.

* In addition to this the ceded districts have since been completed on the same plan, containing about 30,000 square miles, with maps, &c. without any consideration for Colonel Mackenzie's direction of that work, and sent home to England in January 1816.

* Colonel Mackenzie does not intend such a publication without some prospect of encouragement to so extensive a work; but materials have been since added that will nearly complete the peninsula. He conceives, however, that the publication of the work would be ultimately economical to the East India Company, exclusive of its advantage to the public and to science.

* This collection has heen augmented in a quadruple proportion since 1808, both in the peninsula in Hindústán, and ultimately extended to a new field, the oriental islands, seas, and coasts of Asia.

There can be no doubt of their authenticity; not an instance of forgery has been discovered or even suspected, save one, (and that rather assists history). As they are all before 1620, there is no inducement to fraud; and no one has yet adduced any claims upon them.

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Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society
  • ISSN: 1356-1863
  • EISSN: 1474-0591
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-the-royal-asiatic-society
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