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One of the Earliest Obtainable Maps of New Zealand

Finely-wrought map of New Zealand showing James Cook's initial route around the islands, with four insets showing Mercury Bay, Cook’s Strait, the Bay of Islands, and Tolaga Bay.

The map appeared in Bonne’s Atlas Supplement, published following the three voyages of Cook. Eighteenth-century maps of New Zealand are scarce, and this is one of the earliest and most detailed available.

The map shows the outline of the North and South Islands as surveyed by Cook on his first voyage in the Endeavour (1768-1771). The map itself is based on Cook’s, which appeared in the official voyage account by John Hawkesworth (1773). Cook returned to the archipelago on all three of his voyages.

Mountains are shown inland; many peaks were visible from ship and shore, even if few Europeans had ventured inland to this date. Soundings depths, variation measurements, and the Endeavour’s track surround the archipelago.

Unlike the source map, this one includes inset maps. Mercury Bay is where James Cook and astronomer John Green observed a Transit of Mercury on November 9, 1769. Tolaga Bay (Uawa) is where Endeavour anchored on October 23, 1769. There, the ship’s artists drew artifacts and the landscape, including famous sketches of an arched rock. The Endeavour passed through Cook Strait, proving to Europeans that it was a passage and not a bight, as Abel Tasman had thought. Cook also visited the Bay of Islands, which was the first area in New Zealand to be settled by Europeans.

James Cook and the early mapping of New Zealand

New Zealand (or Aotearoa, as the Māori call it) had been first encountered by Europeans in the early 1640s, when Dutch explorer Abel Tasman named the land “Nieuw Zeeland” after the Dutch province. Importantly, Tasman only sailed up the west coast of the North Island and had little notion as to the nature of the islands or their broader geographical context. A small number of Tasman’s place names were preserved by Cook (and remain in place to this day), including ‘Cape Maria van Diemen’ (the northernmost point of the North Island) and the ‘Three Kings’ islets, where Cook and his men celebrated the Christmas of 1769—the first Europeans to visit the islands for nearly 130 years.

The central impetus for Cook’s first expedition was to observe the Transit of Venus from Tahiti and then to proceed to explore Terra Australis Incognita, the supposedly rich southern continent. Whereas the first part of the voyage was to be conducted under the auspices of international scientific cooperation, the second part was entirely clandestine and was only communicated to Cook via “Secret Instructions” to be opened once at sea.

Cook’s party left Plymouth in August 1768 aboard the converted coal collier HMS Endeavor and proceeded to Tahiti by way of Cape Horn. They arrived in time to observe the Transit of Venus, which occurred June 3, 1769. Cook then proceeded towards New Zealand, to the coordinates recorded by Tasman. As New Zealand was quite conceivably part of Terra Australis, it was Cook’s intention to carefully explore and map the region.

On October 6, 1769, the Endeavor sighted the North Island (Te Ika a Maui) at Turanga Nui, which Cook renamed Poverty Bay. He and his crew had arrived on the opposite shore to where Tasman had met the island. Cook proceeded to the South Island (Te Wai Pounamu), carefully mapping both landmasses with a running survey. He used soundings, visual observations, and triangulation regulated by astronomical observations to create his manuscript charts.

Despite being constantly buffeted by wind and rain, and after having some hostile interaction that caused Māori deaths, Cook and his crew managed to circumnavigate both the North and South Islands, proving that they were separate islands divided by the Cook Strait. They also proved the islands were not connected to any southern continent. On March 31, 1770, Cook wrote in his journal that the Endeavour's voyage:

…must be allowed to have set a side the most, if not all, the arguments and proofs that have been advanced by different Authors to prove that there must be a Southern Continent; I mean to the northward of 40 degrees South, for what may lay to the Southward of that Latitude I know not (Cook, Journals I, 290).

The Endeavor left New Zealand at Cape Farewell, sailing west towards Australia, where Cook’s crew would become the first Europeans to explore that region. In total, they had surveyed over 2,400 miles of New Zealand coastline in six months.

Upon the Endeavour’s return to England in July 1771, Cook became a national hero. He would go on to lead two further voyages that would succeed in illuminating most of the Pacific Ocean to European eyes. On the second expedition, Cook would put to rest the myth of a southern continent. On the third, he kick-started the fur trade in the Pacific Northwest of North America while searching for the Northwest Passage. He was killed by Hawaiians at Kealakekua Bay in 1779.

The chart and its publication in England and in France

Cook returned to England with over 300 manuscript charts and coastal views. The original manuscript chart of New Zealand is now held by the British Library (Add MS 7085, f. 16-7). The chart was drawn, at least in part, by Isaac Smith (1752-1831), a draftsman of considerable skill who worked with Cook in Newfoundland, sailed on the Endeavour and Cook’s second voyage, and was related to Cook’s wife. Of the New Zealand chart, Cook wrote:

The Chart which I have drawn will best point out the figure and extent of these Islands…beginning at Cape Palliser and proceed round Aehei no mouwe (North Island) by the East Cape &ca. The Coast between these two Capes I believe to be laid down pretty accurate both in its figure and the Course and distance from point to point. The oppertunities I had and the methods I made use on to obtain these requesites were such as could hardly admit of an error… some few places however must be excepted and these are very doubtfull …(Cook, Journals I, 275-6)

The overall delineation is impressively accurate, correctly capturing many of the bays and promontories, and making insightful observations of the interior. Many of the names given by Cook survive to this day, including the Alps (the great mountain chain of the South Island), the Bay of Islands, the Bay of Plenty, Hawke’s Bay, and most intriguingly, Cape Kidnappers (a point on the North Island where Māori warriors attempted to abduct a member of the Endeavor’s crew).

This map does improve on Cook’s, however. The British navigator had thought Banks’ Island a true island, whereas this map shows it correctly as a peninsula. Still, some portions of coast line remain unfinished.

The chart was initially printed as part of the official account of Cook’s first voyage, which was edited by the literary critic John Hawkesworth and underwritten by the British Admiralty. An Account of the Voyages undertaken by the order of His Present Majesty for making Discoveries in the Southern Hemisphere… (London: W. Strahan and T. Cadell, 1773) recounted the voyages not only of Cook, but of Byron, Wallis, and Carteret who had also ventured to the Pacific for the Royal Navy earlier in the 1760s.

The Hawkesworth account was an instant success and was quickly translated into the other major European languages. The French edition appeared less than a year after the English first edition, in 1774. It was published as Relation des voyages entrepris par ordre de sa Majeste Britannique… by Sailllant and Nyon (rue Saint-Jean-de-Beauvais) and Panckoucke (Hotel de Thou, rue des Poitevins). This French edition and further works, like Bonne’s Atlas Supplement, included their own versions of the map.

J. C. Beaglehole, ed., The Journals of Captain James Cook on his Voyages of Discovery, vol. I (London: Hakluyt Society, 1955); Andrew David, et al., The Charts and Coastal Views of Captain Cook’s Voyages: The Voyage of the Endeavour 1768-1772 (London: Hakluyt Society, 1988). KAP
Rigobert Bonne Biography

Rigobert Bonne (1727-1794) was an influential French cartographer of the late-eighteenth century. Born in the Lorraine region of France, Bonne came to Paris to study and practice cartography. He was a skilled cartographer and hydrographer and succeeded Jacques Nicolas Bellin as Royal Hydrographer at the Depot de la Marine in 1773. He published many charts for the Depot, including some of those for the Atlas Maritime of 1762. In addition to his work at the Depot, he is  best known for his work on the maps of the Atlas Encyclopedique (1788) which he did with Nicholas Desmarest. He also made the maps for the Abbe Raynals’ famous Atlas de Toutes Les Parties Connues du Globe Terrestre (1780).

More than his individual works, Bonne is also important for the history of cartography because of the larger trends exemplified by his work. In Bonne’s maps, it is possible to see the decisive shift from the elaborate decorations of the seventeenth century and the less ornate, yet still prominent embellishments of the early to mid-eighteenth century. By contrast, Bonne’s work was simple, unadorned, and practical. This aesthetic shift, and the detail and precision of his geography, make Bonne an important figure in mapping history.