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Controversial first map of Australia on display this September in Brisbane

A controversial map from 1593 that casts doubt on when Europeans discovered Australia will be displayed down under for the first time.

The map, called ‘Novae Guineae Forma and Situs’, depicts a large, unnamed land mass that some experts believe could be Australia. Predating the earliest confirmed map of Australia by over a decade, this map could potentially reshape our understanding of European knowledge of Australia prior to Dutch landings on the west coast in the early 1600s.

Dr Martin Woods, curator of maps at the National Library of Australia, said that Novae Guineae Forma and Situs was created by Dutch cartographer Cornelis de Jode on the basis of unverified Portuguese maps.

“It shows a southern continent below New Guinea complete with people, monsters and the Great Dividing Range,” Dr Woods said. “The map was created about 15 years before Australia was thought to be first mapped. It seems to contradict official thinking that Europeans were unaware that Australia existed prior to the 1606 Dutch landing on the west coast of Cape York Peninsula.”

The map, which was donated to the National Library in 1911, is just one of the cartographic treasures set to be displayed for the first time outside Europe.

Two maps by Dutch cartographer Hessel Gerritsz from the 1620s – 150 years before Cook’s landing – will also be featured, as well as maps that reveal Matthew Flinders’ cartographic sources: partly copied Dutch charts, made a century before his own chart of Australia.

Many other historic maps sourced from institutions such as the British Library, the Vatican and Bibliotheque Nationale de France, among others, will also be on display.

An exhibit at Ozri, Australia’s eminent spatial event, in Brisbane this September will provide a sneak peek at these priceless early maps of the continent, before the National Library of Australia’s much-anticipated exhibition ‘Mapping Our World: Terra Incognita to Australia’ which is set to open in early November.

Flinders' early chart of Australia. Image courtesy of National Library of Australia
Flinders’ early chart of Australia. Image courtesy of National Library of Australia

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Source: Esri press release, 25 July 2013.

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