First Australian map to be restored in Melbourne

By AG Staff Writer 18 May 2016
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A priceless, 353-year-old map of New Holland – on which all subsequent mapping of Australia is based – has arrived in Melbourne for restoration.

A 1663 MAP of New Holland – the first-ever published reporting of New Holland and New Zealand in the Dutch language – has arrived at the University of Melbourne for analysis and restoration.

The map, Archipelagus Orientalis, sive Asiaticus (Eastern and Asian archipelago) was created by master cartographer for the Dutch East India Company, Joan Blaeu, in 1663 and includes for the first time details of the sighting of Tasmania by Abel Tasman’s crew aboard the Zeehaen on 24 November 1642.

This is the first large-scale map of New Holland, on which all subsequent mapping of Australia is based – until Captain Cook successfully mapped the eastern coast. The priceless artefact is renowned as one of the best general maps of Dutch sea power in South East Asia.

1663 New Holland map

NLA staff carefully secure the Blaeu map in a crate for transport. (Image courtesy National Library of Australia)

The fragile, 353-year-old map was found in a storage facility in Sweden in 2010, where it was believed to have spent most of its life. It was acquired by the National Library of Australia in 2013.

This week, the map arrived at the University of Melbourne where three expert conservators will analyse and identify the material components of the map before determining the best conservation treatment options.

Libby Melzer, a senior paper conservator at the University of Melbourne, said the map is particularly fragile due to the damaging effect of the original blue-green paint, believed to be verdigris, which was used to highlight the coastlines and various details.

“Derived from copper and typically exposed to wine vapors to achieve its vibrant colour, verdigris is chemically unstable and has darkened and corroded the surrounding paper, eating through it entirely in some places,” said Libby, who is from the University’s Grimwade Centre for Cultural Material Conservation.