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One of the Library’s most valued possessions, the Tasman Map, displays the results of Dutch explorer Abel Tasman’s two voyages to the southern ocean between 1642 and 1644.
The Tasman Map shows remarkably accurate sections of the Australia's western and northern coastlines, and forms the basis of most charts produced over the next 100 years until Captain James Cook’s Endeavour voyage charted the east coast of Australia in 1770.
The Tasman Map measures 73 x 95 cms and is hand-drawn on Japanese paper. As there is no date or cartographer written on the map, it is not certain when the map was drawn. It may have been drawn by Isaac Gilsemans, a merchant on Tasman’s second voyage in 1644 or under the supervision of Franz Jacobszoon Visscher, Tasman's chief pilot. Maps were often copied and circulated amongst members of the East India Company making it difficult to confirm the exact date of creation. The detailed wind compasses, sea monsters and decorative features indicate that it was used for display or publication rather than for practical navigation.
The location of the map between the time it was drawn and 1859 is unknown. In 1859 Hulst van Keulen, a mapmaker in Amsterdam, was in possession of the map. The map was acquired by Frederick Muller when the Van Keulen company went out of business.
In 1891 Frederick Muller then sold the map to Prince Roland Bonaparte, President of the Geographical Society of France and grand nephew of Napoleon. Prince Roland had every intention of giving the map to an Australian collection after he died, but it took some luck and a major effort from the Principal Librarian for the donation to go ahead.