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Maps of Australia & New Zealand

Australia and New Zealand existed in cartography only as unknown places in the south until the 1400s. Flemish cartographer Abraham Ortelius published a world map in 1570 showing "Terra Australis Nondum Cognita," meaning south land not yet known, as a gigantic continent. The need for new trade routes providing access to spices led Dutch explorers to map Australia’s coasts after 1581. An accurate outline of Australia was represented in Dutch explorer Able Tasman’s map, after which Tasman’s explorations were incorporated into Cornelis Dankert’s double hemisphere world map of 1648. Dutch interest in the southern land waned in the 1700s due to the territory’s perceived emptiness and unfriendly climate.

The scientific revolution brought a new approach to cartography, leading to deeper exploration of Australia by European governments and commercial enterprises. Mapmaker Matthew Flinders finished the first chart of the coastline in 1810 with the help of Bungaree, an Aboriginal man. This was the first time the continent was called Australia. The Age of Discovery continued to produce maps revealing that Australia was not such a dry and unyielding land as previously believed.

Some early maps of Australia are proposals on how to split up the land, including New Zealand, showing a distinctly colonial preoccupation with claiming territory. One 1838 proposal from the journal of the Royal Geographical Society suggested Australia should be divided into 10 principalities. Many such proposals were submitted until the Federation cemented the borders as they stand today. Some entrepreneurial spirits are still trying to stake a claim on a piece of the southern continent.

Quick Facts

  • A map of eastern Australia by John Arrowsmith published between 1838 and 1862 sold for $375 at Old World Auctions in 2012
  • An 1850 map of the colony of Western Australia by John Arrowsmith sold for $850 at Old World Auctions in 2012
  • A 1930 wall map of Australia by Sir T.W. Edgeworth David sold for $1,200 at Old World Auctions in 2012

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