One of the earliest maps of parts of the Australian coast, as seen by the first European explorers, has been acquired by the National Library of Australia.

The map is part of a compendium of travel writings and sketches published in France in the late 1600s.

Titled, Relations de divers voyages curieux, it was compiled by French author, scientist and cartographer, Melchisédech Thevenot. Thevenot was also Royal Librarian to King Louis XIV and inventor of the spirit level.

Curator of Maps at the National Library of Australia, Martin Woods, said the compendium had been sitting in a French chateau for 200 years before it made it on to the open market and to the National Library – via a gallery in New York.

Dr Woods said the Dutch United Provinces dominated the early coastal mapping of Australia from the early 1600s, and by 1700, New Holland was largely defined, aside from the east coast.

‘Thevenot’s travel anthology brought this map and others to a wider reading public, and were used for reference by James Cook aboard the Endeavour, in 1770. This edition of Thevenot's anthology includes accounts of travel in the East Indies, the wreck of Pelsaert's ship Batavia on Houtman's Abrolhos, and extracts from Abel Tasman's journal,” he said.

‘The 'Hollandia Nova' map is one of the earliest devoted entirely to Australia. There have been at least five versions identified, each with minor differences. The map extends in the east as far as ‘Zeelandia Nova' (New Zealand).

‘This is an excellent example of the final, rarest and complete ‘state’, which includes the voyage tracks and day by day positions of Tasman's first voyage in 1642 around southern Australia and New Zealand. ’

High-resolution image (839KB)

Media Contact:
Sally Hopman, Media Liaison Manager, National Library of Australia
02 6262 1704 or 0401 226 697 or shopman@nla.gov.au