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Exploring The Australian Alps in 1839

Rare first edition of this important map of Sir Paul Edmund de Strzelecki's explorations in the Australian Alps, which appeared in the House of Common Papers in 1841.

The map illustrates the travels of Paul Edmund de Strzelecki, a seminal expedition in the history of the discovery of the interior parts of Australia and also an important chapter in the history of the first discovery of Gold on the Australian continent.

Strzelecki discovered gold in the Bathurst district in 1839, but he did not publicly disclose his discovery because the Governor (Sir George Gipps), fearing a gold rush, requested the explorer to keep it secret.

The map illustrates Strzelecki's route from Sydney to Port Phillip, the road between Sydney and Port Phillip and the encampments of Strzelecki's party.

Sir Paul Edmund de Strzelecki

Sir Paul Edmund de Strzelecki (1797-1873) was the son a of Polish Nobleman who briefly joined the Prussian army.   In 1834 he left for North America, where he travelled widely, analyzing soil, examining minerals (tradition claims he discovered copper in Canada), and visiting farms to study soil conservation and to analyze the gluten content of wheat. In South America in 1836, he visited the most important mineral areas and he went up the west coast from Chile to California.  

In 1839 he was the guest of James Busby in New Zealand, and reached Sydney in April, with letters of introduction to Governor Gipps who treated him with some reserve, and to P. P. King and Stuart Donaldson, who became his close friends.

In August 1839, he told Adyna Turno that he planned a geological survey of the country, and in December, after a visit to the Bathurst-Wellington district, stated to the geologists, W. B. Clarke and J. D. Dana, that the local mineralogy was 'very tame', a surprising statement in the light of later events. The field-work for his geological map took him in zigzags across New South Wales, and to the Australian Alps, where alone he ascended what he considered the highest peak, calling it after the Polish democratic leader, Tadeusz Kosciuszko. He thereafter travelled through Gippsland, partially crossed previously by McMillan, and arrived at Westernport weary and starving. Strzelecki then went to Van Diemen's Land, where he became a close friend of the Franklins and did important work as explorer, geologist, and scientific farmer, and like the earlier Lhotsky made analyses of coal deposits. He left Sydney for Singapore in April 1843, reached London in October, and found most of his private means lost in a French bank failure.  

In 1845 he became a British subject, and published in London his Physical Description of New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land, for which he received the founder's medal of the Royal Geographical Society. The book laid the basis of Australian paleontology. Strzelecki thought it would be an important aid to the immigration of capital and men. 

The discovery of payable gold by Hargraves and others started Strzelecki on a long struggle, ably supported by friends in Sydney, to prove his own priority of claim. After publication of his Gold and Silver (London, 1856), his scientific priority was acknowledged; McBrien's discovery was probably still unknown, but no credit was given to Lhotsky, who in 1834, before Strzelecki had left England, had gold extracted from his specimens in Sydney.

John Arrowsmith Biography

The Arrowsmiths were a cartographic dynasty which operated from the late-eighteenth century to the mid-nineteenth. The family business was founded by Aaron Arrowsmith (1750-1823), who was renowned for carefully prepared and meticulously updated maps, globes, and charts. He created many maps that covered multiple sheets and which were massive in total size. His spare yet exacting style was recognized around the world and mapmakers from other countries, especially the young country of the United States, sought his maps and charts as exemplars for their own work.

Aaron Arrowsmith was born in County Durham in 1750. He came to London for work around 1770, where he found employment as a surveyor for the city’s mapmakers. By 1790, he had set up his own shop which specialized in general charts. Arrowsmith had five premises in his career, most of which were located on or near Soho Square, a neighborhood the led him to rub shoulders with the likes of Joseph Banks, the naturalist, and Matthew Flinders, the hydrographer.

Through his business ties and employment at the Hydrographic Office, Arrowsmith made other important relationships with Alexander Dalrymple, the Hudson’s Bay Company, and others entities. In 1810 he became Hydrographer to the Prince of Wales and, in 1820, Hydrographer to the King.

Aaron Arrowsmith died in 1823, whereby the business and title of Hydrographer to the King passed to his sons, Aaron and Samuel, and, later, his nephew, John. Aaron Jr. (1802-1854) was a founder member of the Royal Geographical Society (RGS) and left the family business in 1832; instead, he enrolled at Oxford to study to become a minister. Samuel (1805-1839) joined Aaron as a partner in the business and they traded together until Aaron left for the ministry. Samuel died at age 34 in 1839; his brother presided over his funeral. The remaining stock and copper plates were bought at auction by John Arrowsmith, their cousin.

John (1790-1873) operated his own independent business after his uncle, Aaron Arrowsmith Sr., died. After 1839, John moved into the Soho premises of his uncle and cousins. John enjoyed considerable recognition in the geography and exploration community. Like Aaron Jr., John was a founder member of the RGS and would serve as its unofficial cartographer for 43 years. Several geographical features in Australia and Canada are named after him. He carried the title Hydrographer to Queen Victoria. He died in 1873 and the majority of his stock was eventually bought by Edward Stanford, who co-founded Stanford’s map shop, which is still open in Covent Garden, London today.