One of the rarest maps in the world, the first large-scale map of New Holland, has been acquired by the National Library of Australia and will take centre stage in the Library’s summer blockbuster exhibition, Mapping Our World: Terra Incognita to Australia.
The map, Archipelagus Orientalis, sive Asiaticus (the Eastern and Asian archipelago), created in 1663 by master cartographer for the Dutch East India Company, Joan Blaeu, was found in a storage facility in Sweden in 2010. A few examples of the map were known worldwide – but none had come to light since the 17th century.
Chair of the National Library of Australia Council, Mr Ryan Stokes, described the Blaeu as the most important map documenting Australia’s presence prior to the arrival of the British.
‘It is the map on which all subsequent maps of New Holland are based, the primary source for the mapping that Cook had to complete the picture in 1770. It also has the distinction of including, for the first time on a map, details of the sighting of Tasmania by Tasman’s crew aboard the Zeehaen on 24 November 1642,’ Mr Stokes said.
‘The fact it survived at all is remarkable, and probably owes much to the fact no-one knew it existed for about a century.’
Mr Stokes said expert National Library Preservation staff had examined the map, which is in a very fragile state, and had begun specialised conservation work to stabilise it.
‘Four conservators are working on it full-time so it can safely be displayed in Mapping Our World when it opens on 7 November.’
Many of the other greatest maps in the world will be on show in the exhibition, including treasures which have never before been allowed out of their European vaults.
Maps from the British Library, the Vatican, the Bibliotheque Nationale de France as well as from Australia’s leading institutions will go on show in Mapping Our World.
‘It will be the first time many of these maps have been seen in the southern hemisphere,’ Mr Stokes said.
Mapping Our World: Terra Incognita to Australia, opens at the National Library of Australia, Canberra on 7 November 2013 and runs until 10 March 2014.
Free exhibition but bookings essential.
High-res images of the Blaeu are available here.
A video showing conservation work can be seen here
Media Contact: Sally Hopman, Media Liaison Manager, National Library of Australia
T: 02 6262 1704
M: 0401 226 697