Rare 17th-century map of Australia goes on display

The map, which was created in 1663, took 21/2 years to restore.
The map, which was created in 1663, took 21/2 years to restore. PHOTO: REUTERS

SYDNEY • A 17th-century map of Australia, predating British settlement, has gone on display for the first time after suffering extensive damage while purportedly housed for hundreds of years in a Swedish warehouse.

The map, which was once so fragile that restoration experts refrained from even breathing on it, is one of just two known wall maps of Australia to have survived the 350 years since being created during the period of Dutch exploration and mapping.

The map is known as the "birth certificate of New Holland" and is on display at the National Library of Australia in Canberra.

Created by Joan Blaeu, chief cartographer for the Dutch East India Company, in 1663, the map was displayed briefly in Australia in 2013.

Ms Denyl Cloughley, manager of preservation at the National Library of Australia, said the map took 21/2 years to restore, including removing varnish which had corroded into a brown crust and was "literally eating away at the paper".

The library said the map was found in a Swedish warehouse in 2010 after it was thought to have spent most of its life stored away and forgotten.

The map includes details of the first sighting of the southern island of Tasmania by the crew of Dutch explorer Abel Tasman in 1642.

A reduced version of the map was used by Captain James Cook, who claimed Australia for the British empire when he reached the east coast almost 130 years later.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 08, 2017, with the headline 'Rare 17th-century map of Australia goes on display'. Print Edition | Subscribe