TASSIN, Jean-Baptiste Athanase (1800-1868) — Calcutta & San Francisco
Lithographer, cartographer and publisher. Lithographed Thomas Prinsep, Map of the suburbs of Calcutta east of the circular road from Barnagore to Balligunge 1830; Prinsep, Map of the Soondurbuns from actual survey 1830 for the Government Lithographic Press; W. Garden, Simla 1831; drew and lithographed Map of the city and environs of Calcutta … with the latest improvements and topographical details 1832; T. I. Taylor, Map of the Post Office Stations and Post and Bangy Routes throughout British India 1832; To his Excellency the Right Honourable Lord William Cavendish Bentinck … this new and improved map of various routes between Europe and India, comprehending western and northern Asia 1834; A geological map and section of the eastern frontier of the province of Kumaon 1835; A new map of the country fifty miles round Calcutta 1836; lithographed the large folding plan of Singapore, four other maps and a chart in 1836 for John Henry Moor (ed.), “Notices of the Indian archipelago, and adjacent countries; being a collection of papers relating to Borneo, Celebes, Bali, Java, Sumatra, Nias, the Philippine Islands, Sulus, Siam, Cochin China, Malayan Peninsula” 1837, printed at the Mission Press, Singapore; Anglo-Persian Map of India 1837; Hind ba Hindusthán ká Nakshá 1837; Map of the North Western Frontier of British India including the protected Sikh States, Lahore, Cashmeer, Cabul, Herat, Candahar, Shikarpore & Bhawulpore 1838; R. Lloyd, Chart of the Aracan Coast and inland navigation comprised between the Aracan and Sandoway Rivers 1839; Map of upper Assam, comprising the districts of Joorhat, Luckimpore and Sudiya, shewing the tea tracts 1839; Map of eastern Asia, comprising China, parts of Tibet and Mongolia, Bootan, Assam, Burma and Eastern Bengal with Anam, Cambodia, Siam, Laos, the Malay Peninsula and the Indian archipelago 1840; Map of Assam and Muneepore and the adjoining countries on the north-east frontier of Bengal 1840; Chart delineating the river navigation to Assam from the presidency by the Soundurbun passage as well as by the Jellinghee and Matabhanga rivers 1840; “The new Bengal atlas” 1841; A new and improved map of the provinces of Bengal and Bahar, with Benares and adjoining territories, exhibiting the district divisions the civil and military stations and police thanas, and likewise the principal indigo, silk, and sugar works 1841, on twelve sheets; drew A newly constructed and improved map of the state of California … with a corrected and improved delineation of the gold region 1851, lithographed by “Pollard and Peregoy” — C. J. Pollard and Charles E. Peregoy — for William B. Cooke and Josiah J. LeCount. Also supplied illustrations, including natural history studies for Gleanings in Science, and notably for the Journal of the Asiatic Society. The Journal vol. x contains a list of maps offered for sale by “Messrs. P. S. d’Rozario”, with prices.
Described as a native of Aix, born on 3 May 1800. Tassin was originally a naturalist on a French ship bound for the Far East. His ship was wrecked in the Malayan Archipelago and Tassin found himself destitute in Singapore before managing to reach Calcutta in or about 1828. On hearing that Tassin understood lithography, Henry Thoby Prinsep (brother of Thomas) set him up in business with a loan to enable Tassin to print his brother’s maps — a business which, as the “Oriental Lithographic Press”, soon expanded to take on work for the Asiatic Society and the Government — the Surveyor General’s office often preferring to give work to Tassin rather than the Government’s own Lithographic Press. It was remarked at the time that, “He is a very superior artist … There is no draughtsman in the office of the Lithographic Press capable of executing this work; nor even in the office of the Surveyor General … is there any one capable of competing with Mr. Tassin as a draughtsman, add to which he has had some experience in drawing on stone, the river maps now publishing by Captain Prinsep … being executed by him”. James Nathaniel Rind took a similar view — “His great quickness in drawing enables him to make his terms extremely moderate. The late-lamented Captain Prinsep often declared to me that he never in India met with a man who drew maps so rapidly or so well as Mr. Tassin”. He remained in Calcutta until 1842, when he returned to France, “with £16,000 made by his own industry in this line”. The Calcutta Journal of Natural History, vol.ii, 1842, contains a tribute to Tassin, “being about to return to Europe”. He was appointed head of mapping for the French army. Caught up in the 1848 Revolution he left France and is found in San Francisco in 1851, probably there earlier. He remained until 1856, or thereabouts, but was certainly back in Paris in 1860, and died in France on 25 Jan 1868. Tassin left little trace of his time in California: the Sacramento Daily Union recorded “The Adelphi Theater building, in Dupont street, near Clay, was burned to the ground early this morning the fire breaking out in a restaurant, in the lower story. It was owned by a Frenchman named Tassin, now in Paris, and valued at $5,000” (3 Jun 1858). A French emigré, Ernest de Massey, left a gossipy account of San Francisco, “Another silhouette … This one is of Sieur Tassin, Chevalier of the Legion d’Honneur, ex-engineer of geography of the French government, commissioned in the Orient. He seemed to do his work with honesty. He was in haste to leave his business which must have been repugnant to him. Very ingratiating, pleasant and polite, he would have been better suited to a drawing room than a gambling house. He made a fortune and went away. In 1860 I met him on the street of Paris. He was then a “big” Monsieur Tassin. If I had met him in a drawing-room his face would have shown much more embarrassment, as I do not believe he advertised his ability at the green-covered table where the nuggets were easier to gather than they were in the mines”.
Oriental Lithographic Press, 99 Durrumtollah, Calcutta — 1830-1832
El Dorado Street, San Francisco (home) — 1854
COPAC. Orsini. Phillimore. Tooley.