Recent updates - Blaeu Map Conservation Project 

Through the generous support of donors, the Library now has the funds to commence investigation of conservation treatment options for the 1663 map of New Holland created by Joan Blaeu.  The prior work done on the map following its acquisition in 2013 identified the need to undertake further, more intensive conservation work to ensure the long term preservation of this significant map and particularly to address the corrosive effects of the green (verdigris) pigment that was used in the creation of the map.  The donor-funded conservation work will therefore focus on this aspect.
 
Intensive research and investigation of treatment options, particularly for the verdigris corrosion will commence in early 2015 followed by the implementation of the appropriate treatment plan by expert conservators. The public will be invited to follow progress of the conservation treatment, likely to be over a 12 month period, via the Library’s Behind the Scenes blog. As a final step, the map will be digitised for access purposes and when not on display it will be stored in custom-made housing.

Joan Blaeu, Archipelagus Orientalis, sive Asiaticus (Eastern and Asian archipelago), 1663

The Library's exhibition Mapping Our World: Terra Incognita to Australia features one of the Library's recent major map acquisitions Archipelagus Orientalis, sive Asiaticus (Eastern and Asian archipelago), 1663, created by master cartographer Joan Blaeu (1596-1673).

This remarkable wall chart - one of only four surviving copies in the world, is in an exceedingly fragile state, but conservators from the Library's Preservation Branch have embarked on a meticulous and time-consuming preservation treatment to stabilise it for display.

Fortunately, the areas of greatest interest illuminating the story of the Dutch discovery of Australia - the mention of the first sighting of Tasmania and the text naming the continent - are intact and clearly visible.

What is the significance of the map?

Over 1.5 metres in width, the map is the first large-scale map of New Holland, and one of only four complete copies known to exist.

Professor Gunter Schilder, the foremost expert on Dutch cartography, describes Archipelagus Orientalis as possibly the most important map of the United East India Company, and the best general map of Dutch sea power in South East Asia executed in the 1600s. It is the earliest large-scale map of Abel Tasman's discoveries, and is regarded as the first wall map of Australia. As the map on which all subsequent maps of New Holland were based, it can rightly be considered as the 'birth certificate' of New Holland.

How did this 350-year-old map survive?

Survival of this wall map is remarkable, and owes much to lack of awareness of its existence over perhaps a century. The map was found in 2010 on a property in Sweden owned by the late Richard Du Rietz, who ran the long established antiquarian bookshop Thulins Antikvariat. A few examples of the map were known worldwide - but none had come to light since the seventeenth century. This copy was sold at auction to a private vendor who recognised it as a Blaeu and offered it to the Library.

How you can help

We need your help to complete preservation of the map to ensure its future survival. Your support will provide further treatment: the varnish (which has become yellowed and brittle) will be removed; the map's backing will be repaired; a long-term storage and display system will be developed; and the original display rods will be reattached.

 

This appeal closed on 30 June 2014.