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Previously Unrecorded Late State of The Best General Map of New Zealand Extant (New Zealand Journal)

Important state of the so-called McDonnell-Wyld of New Zealand, published by James Wyld in London. 

This would seem to be the latest extent state we could locate, based upon the completion of certain railroad lines in the North Island (see below).

Brian Hooker, in his study of Wyld's Chart of New Zealand, identifies 27 states of the map, noting that "As a series, they graphically illustrate the vast changes of occuring throughout [New Zealand] 1834 and the 1860s.  Since that time, states have been identified as late as 1879. 

The map includes seven inset charts titled as follows: - Plan of the Enrrance to Port Manouako - Plan of Victoria Bay of Islands - Port Nicholson - Oyerri or Pelorus River - Plan of Dusky Bay - Plan of Southern Port, Stewarts Island - Plan of the Bar and Part of the Hokianga River.

Dating The Map

The present map would seem to date to no earlier than 1885 and no later than 1887, based upon an examination of the completed railways and railways under construction in the North Island.

The present state of shows several lines completed in the North Island which suggest a date of 1885 or later. These include the fully completed Marton-New Plymouth Line (completed in 1885) and the partially completed Palmerston North–Gisborne Line (constructed between 1872 and 1891).  Most notably, the map shows the PN-GL line from Napier to the south as being completed to Matamau (June 23, 1884), Dannevirke (December 1, 1884), and a bit further south to Tahoraite (Tahoraiti), but not yet reaching Woodville at the north end of the Manawatu Gorge (March 22, 1887).

We note a number of other railroad details throughout the map which seem to be more advanced than other extant states we have located.

The McDonnell-Wyld Map History

The McDonnell-Wyld map, first published in 1834, is one of the most important and influential early maps of New Zealand. Between 1834 and 1870, the map was issued in at least 27 different states, showing the evolution of New Zealand's early exploration and settlement. As a series, the maps graphically illustrate the vast changes between 1834 and the 1860s. 

The map received excellent reviews in the New Zealand Journal (London). A review in the June 20, 1840 issue describes it as: "... the best general map of New Zealand extant." The review of the third edition in the November 12 1840 issue notes "This edition is executed with Mr Wyld's usual care. No pains have been spared to collect the best information, ... "

The chart was originally compiled by the early New Zealand trader Lieutenant Thomas McDonnell. After retiring from naval service in 1815, McDonnell spent some years in the service of the East India Company and in 1831 became a resident at Hokianga. J. O'C. Ross in his book This Stern Coast notes that in 1834 McDonnell took his chart to England and persuaded James Wyld the Elder, to publish it. But as noted by Brian Hooker in his Note on the Original and Revised issues of the McDonnell-Wyld 1834 Chart of New Zealand,

there is no evidence to support either the idea that McDonnell compiled the chart in New Zealand or that he persuaded James Wyld to publish it. .. McDonnell compiled the chart some time after publication of Dumont d'Urville's 1833 atlas. McDonnell visited London early in 1834 and it seems more likely that he consulted d'Urville's atlas and other publications in London than at Hokianga.

John Tattersall in his booklet Lt. Thomas McDonnell and the Naming of Ahuriri points out that the pressure could have been the other way round and that McDonnell was pressed by Wyld to produce a chart. If McDonnell compiled the chart in London, as seems likely, then probably the idea for compiling the chart came from Wyld.

The only single-sheet general chart of New Zealand issued previous to 1834 was an unnumbered Admiralty chart published in 1816. There no doubt was a demand for a new general chart of New Zealand by 1834. But McDonnell's chart became more than just a new general chart; it served as the prototype for many charts subsequently published and influenced chart makers for fifteen years or more after it was first issued. McDonnell's influence was so strong that when the Hydrographic Office finally brought out a new general chart in 1838, they virtually published McDonnell's chart below the seal of the Hydrographer of the Navy.

* * *

The printed date on the chart probably bears little relationship to the actual date of issue or printing. The original month and day of October 31 were changed to February 9 probably for the 1837 issue and changed again to February 19 for the 1852 and subsequent issues.

Some time after 1834, but before 1838, Wyld re-engraved parts of the copper plate and issued the chart with alterations and the added words: 'second edition'. The second edition example held by the Royal Geographical Society, London, is dated 9 February 1837 but whether any second edition charts were issued previous to 1837 is at present unknown.

In an article in the Map Collector P. L. Barton notes that the first known issue of the 'third' edition was published on 9 February 1840 and Wyld's name replaces McDonnell's in the title. (fn. 21) But the National Library of Australia, Canberra, holds a 'third edition' issue which pre-dates the issue referred to by Barton, and which closely resembles the 'second edition'. It still retains McDonnell's name in the title but has a little more adm erditional data than the 'second edition'. Comparing the Turnbull 1840 issue with the Canberra 1840 issue it can be seen that a considerable amount of re-engraving of the copper plate was carried out before the 1840 Turnbull issue was printed. One explanation for the two 1840 issues of the chart is that Wyld preparing for his 'third edition' changed the word 'second' to 'third', '1839' to '1840' and then impatiently printed a few charts before continuing with the major alterations and additions to the copper plate.

. . . By early 1841 the copper plate had been re-engraved on five separate occasions and fresh impressions made, thus giving a total of six different states of the chart to this date. . . . . With considerable re-engraving being carried out during the seven years after the chart was first issued and fresh information constantly arriving from New Zealand it seems highly probable that the copper plate was revised and impressions made other than those listed 1 to 6 . . .

In the original chart four insets were included. With state 5 in 1840, the insets increased to seven. Some of the insets were updated. The Port Nicholson inset plan, for example, has a vague broken outline of a plan in state 5; by state 20 in 1860 it has a detailed plan. R. V. Tooley in his The Mapping of Australia (London, 1979), pages 172-173, lists some changes and additions in the different issues. At times the alterations were substantial; Tooley mentions that for the 1852 issue Stewart Island was redrawn.

. . . The Alexander Turnbull Library holds an issue dated 1865 and a print possibly issued in 1870.

As noted above, the map was modified a number of times over its 5 decade history.  Wyld's series of maps of New Zealand rank in importance with the maps of Arrowsmith, which provided the basis for subsequent exploration and mapping by later cartographers.


8The present example of the map would seem to be the only extant example published in the 1880s.

While pre 1870 examples of the map are not rare, the states of the map dating to after 1870 are apparently extremely rare.  We were not able to locay te any examples of a post 1870 map offered for sale at auction or in a dealer catalog in any database.

OCLC locates the following late states:

  • 1873 (National Library of New Zealand)
  • 1873-1876? (National Library of New Zealand)
  • 1876 (University of Otago, NZ)
  • 1879 (National LIbrary of New Zealand; National Library of Australia)
Condition Description
Dissected and laid on linen, with original slipcase, as issued. Slightly toned.
Brian Hooker, Some preliminary notes on the original and revised issues of the McDonnell-Wyld 1834 chart of New Zealand. TURNBULL LIBRARY RECORD, VOLUME 16, ISSUE 2, 1 OCTOBER 1983.
James Wyld Biography

James Wyld Sr. (1790-1836) was a British cartographer and one of Europe’s leading mapmakers. He made many contributions to cartography, including the introduction of lithography into map printing in 1812.

William Faden, another celebrated cartographer, passed down his mapmaking business to Wyld in 1823. The quality and quantity of Faden’s maps, combined with Wyld’s considerable skill, brought Wyld great prestige.

Wyld was named geographer to His Majesty George IV and William IV, as well as HRH the Duke of York. In 1825, he was elected an Associate of the Institution of Civil Engineers. He was one of the founding members of the Royal Geographical Society in 1830. Also in 1830, his son, James Wyld Jr., took over his publishing house. Wyld Sr. died of overwork on October 14, 1836.

James Wyld Jr. (1812-87) was a renowned cartographer in his own right and he successfully carried on his father’s business. He gained the title of Geographer to the Queen and H.R.H. Prince Albert. Punch (1850) described him in humorous cartographic terms, “If Mr. Wyld’s brain should be ever discovered (we will be bound he has a Map of it inside his hat), we should like to have a peep at it, for we have a suspicion that the two hemispheres must be printed, varnished, and glazed, exactly like a pair of globes.”