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The First Map of Australia and New Zealand--Rare Second State!

Detailed map of the coastline of Australia and New Zealand, showing the voyage and discoveries of Abel Tasman. It was published by the travel collection compiler Melchisédech Thévenot in his famous Relations de divers Voyages. Thi s is an example of the second state of the map and it is particularly rare. 

Thévenot's map of Australia is the first published large-scale map of Australia and the first French map to record Tasman's 1642-43 and 1644 discoveries in both Australia and New Zealand. The only other map to focus so minutely on Australia to precede Thévenot's map is the little-known miniature map by Claes Visscher “T'Landt van Eendracht,” published in his 1649 Tabularum Geographarum. . .  which survives is a single known example.

Thévenot's map was the first map devoted entirely to Australia and New Zealand. Previous maps that showed the extent of knowledge of Australia's coast had been maps of the world or of the South Asian or East Indies region. This map shows all of the Dutch encounters in Western Australia, North Australia, Tasmania, and a small section of the South Australian coast to the islands of Saint Francis and Saint Peter (Nuyts Archipelago). The map also includes the west coast of New Zealand (the two islands shown joined), and the south coast of New Guinea, which appears as if it may be joined to Australia.

Thévenot's map therefore holds a significant place in not only the charting of Tasman 's voyages, but also in the mapping of the Australian continent as a whole. It records a shape of Australia that would remain unchanged until the grand exploits of Captain Cook some one hundred and ten years later.

It also continues the aspirational hunt for a huge southern continent. Hollandia Nova is noted as being discovered in 1644, the date of Tasman’s second voyage. While commanding this mission, Tasman skirted the north coast from De Wit’s Land to the Gulf of Carpentaria, showing it have a continuous coastline and massive size. He had also sailed south of the continent on his first voyage, showing that no southern continent existed south of there. Thus, the possible location of a larger landmass had to shift, and here it is shown in the vast space between Van Diemen’s Land, New Zealand, and New Guinea. This Terre Australe is also labelled as discovered in 1644.

The geography of Thévenot’s map

Much of the coastline and the vertical scale depicted here are taken from the charts and globes of Joan Blaeu, the cartographer to the Dutch East India Company (VOC). This particular outline was copied from one that was inlaid in the pavement of the Stadt House, a representation of the Low Countries’ global reach. It accompanied accounts of the Dutch exploits on the west coast of Australia, namely the disastrous wreck of the Batavia in 1629.

The VOC tried to limit the cartographic information it allowed to become public, but their official hydrographers, like Blaeu, were also employed in private trade. Thus, the structure of the VOC’s cartographic repository made it a sieve for geographic secrets.

One of these secrets that the VOC attempted to keep were the discoveries of Abel Tasman, who sailed for the VOC on two reconnaissance voyages in the early 1640s. Tasman was supposed to find new trading opportunities for the VOC; while he failed in this, he did prove the insularity of Australia by sailing south of it, and was the first European to see New Zealand.

In the first of two voyages in the early 1640s, Tasman landed at Van Diemen’s Land, named for the VOC governor who organized the mission and which was not known to be an island, and then, briefly, in New Zealand. He returned to Batavia, the VOC’s main trading port, via Papua New Guinea. On the second voyage, Tasman coasted along the north of the Australian continent. This is the first French chart to show his discoveries.

Father north, an arm of Australia juts north and nearly touches New Guinea. It is called Carpentaria, so named in 1623 by Jan Cartensz after Peiter de Carpentier, the VOC governor of the East Indies at that time. Carstensz was not the first Dutchman in this area, however.

That would be Willem Janszoon on his voyage of 1605-6 in what is today Queensland. Janszoon was in command of the Duyfken, a Dutch East India Company (VOC) ship, and he explored the eastern shore of the Gulf of Carpentaria, just below the Cape York Peninsula. This venture was famously the first recorded European contact with Australia.

The outline of New Guinea was based on information brought back from another Dutch voyage, that of the merchants Willem Schouten and Jacob Le Maire. These two circumnavigated the world in 1615-1617. They discovered an alternative route to the Pacific by sailing round Cape Horn, as opposed to through the Strait of Magellan, and left Dutch place names all along the north coast of New Guinea, as seen here.

Carpentaria and New Guinea nearly touch, but their actual relationship is left unfinished. Thévenot could not know that Luís Vaz de Torres, who sailed with Pedro Fernandes de Quiros on a voyage for the Spanish in 1605, had passed through the straits between New Guinea and Australia. However, the Spanish had suppressed his report in the hopes of maintaining power via geographic secrecy and the Strait was only rediscovered by Alexander Dalrymple in 1762 when he was researching documents captured from the Spanish in the Philippines during the Seven Years’ War. Later, Cook sailed through the Strait, confirming its existence to the Western world, during his first voyage.

Continuing west around Australia, Arnhems Landt refers to the Arnhem, a Dutch East India ship, which sighted the area in 1623. This was one of the two ships that sailed with Carstensz. To the west is Terre de Wit, which recalls Gerrit Frederikszoon de Witt, captain of the Vianen, which sailed in 1628.

To the west is Dirk Hartogs Ree cap. D Eendragt. The Endracht was the second recorded European ship to contact Australia (1616), and the first in western Australia. The Eendracht was blown off course en route to the East Indies in that year. It was commanded by Dirk Hartog, whose name is included in the place name. The crew commemorated their discovery by erecting a post with a pewter dish inscribed with their ship’s information—the earliest physical record that historians have of any European landing in Australia.

Houtmans Abrolhos and I. de Edels landt both refer to the same voyage. Jacob d’Edel, in the Amsterdam, along with Frederik de Houtman in the Dordrecht came within sight of the western coast and called the stretch of land d’Edelsland. The Houtmans Abrolhos are an archipelago, as shown here with x marks, and named for the navigator who sighted them, or at least it was Houtman who reported the islands to the VOC. It was here that the Batavia wrecked. The name Houtmans Abrolhos, as used on this chart, was first used in Hessel Gerritszoon’s 1627 chart Caert van't Landt van d'Eendracht. Also included on Gerritszoon’s chart is the shoal sighted by and named for the Tortelduyf, which is labeled here as Turtelduyf.

Farther south, Landt van de Luewin is named for the Leeuwin, whose crew charted some of the southwest coastline in 1622; Flinders would later name Cape Leeuwin, the southwestern most point on the Australian mainland, after the ship. A note in the south mentions Pieter Nuyts, a Dutch navigator who commanded the Gulden Zeepaert along the southern coast in 1627.

This map was the first French map to show Tasman’s discoveries and the first map to focus solely on Australia and New Zealand. It was included in France’s most important voyage collection to that date and is considered an important contribution to the histories of exploration and cartography.

States and Rarity

There are three states of the map, although Tooley only lists two states. All three are rare on the market, but this second state appears to be rarest.  

  • State 1 (1663):  No Tropic of Capricorn or rhumb lines.  
  • State 2 (circa 1672):  Rhumb lines and the Tropic of Capricorn added. Also, the printing error in latitude has been corrected, meaning they go up to 44 instead of 43.  
  • State 3 (1672):  Adds Tasman’s first voyage track. 
Condition Description
Several fold splits and minor tears repaired at lower left.
Australia in Maps: Great Maps in Australia’s History from the National Library’s Collection (Canberra: National Library of Australia, 2007), 32-33; R. V. Tooley, Printed Maps of Australia, Part V (London: The Map Collectors' Circle, 1972), p. 156, maps 1247 and 1248; Gunter Schilder, Australia Unveiled: The Share of the Dutch Navigators in the Discovery of Australia (Amsterdam: Theaturm Orbis Terrarum Ltd., 1976), map 85, 198, 203; R. Clancy, The Mapping of Terra Australis (Macquarie Park: Universal Press, 1995), 75, 77, 82; Thomas Suarez, Early Mapping of the Pacific (Hong Kong: Periplus, 2004); Lawrence C. Wroth, “The Early Cartography of the Pacific,” The Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America 38, no. 2 (1944): 87-268.