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Striking, Detailed Map of Sydney at the Turn of the Twentieth Century

Fine large-format map of Sydney and its environs printed and published by John Scott & Co. in Sydney.  

This map captures Sydney at a vibrant moment in its development. Published after the Australian gold rush, at a time of significant prosperity, shortly before the depression of the 1890s, Sydney is shown as a dynamic, thriving metropolis. 

The map extends to Manly, Bondi Bay and Long Bay in the east, and to Ryde, Concord and Canterbury in the west. Botany Bay is to the south. The map shows the built-up city, focused on Sydney Cove and shown in red, as well as the many municipalities that surrounded it and would eventually be swallowed by the larger city.

The many parks and green spaces reflect how much land the city initially had for expansion and the value placed on park land. The map also illustrates boundaries, railways, tramways, bus routes, and public buildings, all of which had been established in just one century.

The map captures the growth of the city. In 1890, the outlying areas shown here were connected to the transportation network but still sparsely developed; in the coming decades these would be absorbed into the larger city.

Sydney in 1890

Indigenous peoples have lived in the area for 30,000 years and the Gadigal of the Eora Nation are the traditional custodians of the land that is now called Sydney. 29 clan groups inhabit the land now covered by metropolitan Sydney.

James Cook was the first European known to have contacted the East Coast of Australia, landing at Botany Bay as shown on this map. His reports made the area the preferred site for the settlement of a convict colony. The First Fleet landed at Botany Bay in January 1788, but the company found that it lacked sufficient fresh water and arable soil. They sailed north to Port Jackson, the central harbor shown on this map. There, the fleet’s leader, Captain Arthur Philipp, decided to settle his complement of convicts. He founded and named Sydney, after Thomas Townshend, 1st Viscount Sydney, on February 7, 1788.

In 1790, Lieutenant William Dawes produced a town plan for the new settlement. However, the colony’s leaders did not take this plan to heart, leading to a more organic expansion of the city from Sydney Cove that can be seen in this map.

More indications of the early history of the settlement are written into the landmarks and streets of this map. Fort Macquarie was a square fortress whose construction began in 1817 and finished in 1821. It was named for Lacklan Macquarie, the governor of New South Wales from 1810 to 1821. Streets near the fort still bear Macquarie’s name. The fort was demolished in 1901, just eleven years after this map was made, to be replaced by electric tramway sheds. Those, in turn, were demolished in 1959 to make way for the iconic Sydney Opera House.

The railways shown here with black lines were some of the first on the continent of Australia. The Sydney Railway Company began the line from Sydney to Parramatta in 1849; it was completed by the New South Wales colonial government in 1855. On this map, it is the northern prong of the two lines shown.

Convicts were brought to the colony until 1840, when Australia became a prime destination for immigrants from many countries. In 1851, gold was discovered, sparking a boom in the city’s development and expansion. In 1840 the city had 35,000 people; in 1871, it had 200,000.

The 1890s witnessed a large-scale depression in Sydney and the other British colonies in Australia. This led the six existing colonies to band together as the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901. Thus, this map shows Sydney at the height of its nineteenth-century power, wealth, and prestige, just before it was hit by economic hardship.


The map is rare. OCLC locates examples at the National Library of Australia, State Library of New South Wales, University of New South Wales, and Historic Houses Trust of NSW.

This map captures Sydney at a vibrant moment in its development. After the gold rush and before the depression of the 1890s, Sydney is shown as a dynamic, thriving metropolis. This map would make a striking addition to any collection of Sydney or Australia maps.

Condition Description
Folding Map in original covers, with printed advertising on covers and several pages of advertising text.