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Unrecorded State of Desnos' Spectacular Double Hemisphere World Map, With an Extravagant and Fictitious Australian East Coast.

A remarkable Wall Map of the World by Densos, in an unrecorded variant state, with an unusual depiction of Australia and equally fascinating joinder of New Zealand to Terra Australis, along with the addition of Bouvet's inland Antarctic Sea. The map also includes an Antipode projection of the principal cities of Europe, including Paris, London, Madrid, Rome, Constantinople, Stockholm and Petersburg, all of which appear to the east of New Zealand within the southern landmass.

An Overview of Desnos's Wall Map of the World

Desnos first issued this magnificent wall map in 1760 in what appears to be a unique example. This 1760 first state follows the typical post-Tasman, pre-Cook depiction of Australia and New Zealand. /gallery/detail/23657

The prototype for Desnos' 1760 first state map was issued in 1694 by the prolific French cartographer, Nicolas de Fer. De Fer's map was an attempt to reflect the current European fascination in the world's place in the universe. Engraved in the first state by Hendrik van Loon, De Fer's map is surrounded by lavish scenes, engraved by Nicolas Guerard. At the top are the heavens, with representations of gods and goddesses, zodiac and cherubic figures. The six known planets feature, as do representations of the sun and the moon. At the bottom are earthly scenes depicting a hive of human activity. All manner of business, trade, leisure and academic study is represented, many of the scenes with their main emphasis being on the French interaction with the various peoples encountered.

De Fer's map was later released in the 1730s by Danet, with several changes to the geography of the original de Fer plate, including the placement of Tasmania from the Western Hemisphere to the Eastern Hemisphere. Desnos has copied the Danet version of de Fer's map, with slight modifications but essentially keeping the same geography.

It was generally believed by most commentators that Desnos' plate was a re-working of the de Fer plate and that while the decorative borders had been retained, the two hemispheres have been entirely re-engraved and now record the more recent discoveries made during the early to mid 18th century. However, this believe is not correct. The Desnos plate is a totally new engraving and a comparison with the original de Fer map clearly shows the superiority of Guerard' engraving ability.

Desnos re-issued his map six years later in 1766. Apart from the change to the date, there appear to be no other changes to this more common state of the map.

In 1772, Desnos again re-issued his map (our map), adding an extraordinary Australian eastern littoral which joins New Guinea and Terre Australe ou du S't Esprit (the New Hebrides), in a contiguous coastline with Tasmania. Tasman's discoveries in New Zealand are now formed into a large Antarctic landmass in a configuration used by Buache in the 1760s.

In 1785, another Frenchman, Jean-Baptiste-Louis Clouet, engraved his own direct copy of the 1772 Desnos map utilizing the same strikingly hypothetical coastlines found on the Desnos original. Issuing even later editions, Clouet's maps are anachronistic and were published long after knowledge of Cook's first, second and third voyages and are therefore far less important than the Desnos map.

A Timeline of Early Australian Cartography on Printed Maps

Of great interest to the mapping of Australia is the unique position that the 1772 Desnos map sits on the time line, showing the development of the charting of her coastlines. Following Tasman's discoveries from both his first 1642-43 and second 1644 voyages, Australia was universally represented on Dutch maps with no hypothetical coastlines. Only those parts charted by Tasman and by the earlier Dutch expeditions, were included.

In 1700, Jean-Baptiste Nolin introduced his magnificent wall map, Le Globe Terrestre, the first printed map to give Australia a hypothetical east coast (Gowrie PWIV cat; NLA RM 3605). This extravagant depiction was made popular in the mid 1700s by the French school of hypothetical geography, which included mapmakers such as Vaugondy, Bellin, Buache and others. Although the British mapmakers tended not to follow this rather radical depiction of Australia's east cost, opting instead for the more conservative Dutch approach, a couple of exceptions stand out.

The first is a terrestrial globe published by Richard Cushee in 1731 (Gowrie Galleries GL1; NLA map globe 6). Cushee lavishes in the French approach. The second is a twin-hemispherical world map by Thomas Kitchin dated 1771 and published one year before the 1772 Desnos wall map. Kitchin also adopts the French depiction.

Following the return of Cook's first voyage in June 1771, mapmakers around the world clambered to be the first to incorporate Cook's discoveries on their maps. The Desnos fits neatly into this time line. Published just one year after Kitchin's map and the year following the return of Cook's voyage, it would appear to be the last conscious pre-Cook depiction to show a hypothetical east coast of Australia. Clouet published world maps with this depiction even later, but these are simply a copy of the Desnos map.

Unchanged in this 1772 edition are most of the other geographical features found on the earlier Desnos states. The tracks of Schouten and Le Maire (present also in de Fer's edition), Magellan, Bouvet (1739) and Admiral Anson (1740), are now added. Tasmania has been re-engraved onto the eastern hemisphere and significant changes have been made to the northwest coast of America including a large inland seaway almost extending to Hudson's Bay, indicating the continuing urge to discover a northwest passage.

California is now shown to be attached to mainland America instead of its island status shown on the de Fer original. Australia is represented in typical post Tasman form with many of the early Dutch discoveries noted. 'Terre de Concorde' (Hartog 1616), 'Terre Blanche' (de Wit 1628), 'T. d'Edels' (Houtman 1619), Leuvin (Leeuwin 1622), T. de Nuits (Nuyts 1627). Some of Carstensz' 1623 discoveries on Cape York Peninsula are recorded, as are some of the discoveries made by Tasman during his 1642-43 and 1644 voyages.

New Zealand and The Great Inland Antarctic Sea

The other unique features of the map is the attachment of New Zealand to the mainland of Terra Australis and the depiction of a massive inland sea in the midst of the imaginary Antarctic landmass.

In the interior of the imagined southern continent, Buache postulates a large Antarctic Sea, larger than that found in the northern polar regions.

The map reflects the report from the 1738-9 expedition of Bouvet de Lozier, which mentions the discovery of icebergs between two and three hundred feet high and half a league to two or three leagues in circumference. The map places Cap de la Circoncision at 54° south, below Africa, a northern promontory of the smaller of his two land masses, next to one of the openings of his polar sea, where Bouvet had recorded his many great icebergs. The map also shows the route of the voyage of Abel Tasman (1603-1659), in 1642-3, as a source for information about the southern lands. The other opening into the inland sea, to the southwest of South America, was placed where Sharpe and Davis had reported icebergs in 1687.

The map reflected the writings of Philippe Buache, who believed that the icebergs must have derived from a floating ice sheet, as in the Arctic, rather than from the newly discovered land. This led him to conclude that the southern continent was not a single landmass but two islands separated by a frozen inland sea, from which icebergs detached themselves to float northwards.

The sea shown in the center of Antarctica was based upon a hypothesis Buache had developed over a number of years. His paper ' Geographical and physical observations, including a theory of the Antarctic regions and the frozen sea which they are supposed to contain' was published by The Gentleman's Magazine in 1763. In it, he hypothesized that the southern pole must contain a frozen sea, fed by mountain ranges and huge rivers, in order to produce icebergs of the size reported by Bouvet; the large sea (Mer Glacial, 'Glacial Sea') depicted on the 1739 map is an early version of this hypothesis. Buache described this sea as a Bassin terrestre ('Land-locked basin'), connected to the Southern Ocean by two débouquements ('outlets'). He believed that Antarctica must possess rivers "as considerable as those of Siberia, which create the icebergs of the North". The map states that the sea is conjecturée.

We gratefully acknowledge Simon Dewez for this description, which has been adapted from his original.

Condition Description
Old Color. 4-sheet map, joined. Minor repairs and discoloration. Extra title at the top.
Shirley 560, pl.390; Sheldon map 51, illus. p.61.