Monthly Archives: December 2017

The Quest for the Northwest Passage Continues

arctic vintage map reproduction

Map of the North Pole and the Adjoining Regions of Europe, Asia and North America, 1803.

This map shows the Arctic region in the early 19th century. Whereas the northernmost parts of Europe and Russia had already been well mapped when the map was first released in 1803, the northern coastline of North America is only marked by a dotted line suggesting the probable position of the coastline.

The Northwest Passage that would connect the Atlantic and Pacific oceans had been quested for centuries; there had been a number of voyages in the area aiming to explore the passage. The explorers Robert Bylot, Henry Hudson, and William Baffin mapped a large part of what is now eastern Canada in the early 17th century. Another important step in mapping this area was done by Samuel Hearne who was the first European to cross northern Canada to the Arctic Ocean shore in 1774. A more detailed mapping of the region, however, did not take place until the mid-19th century and it was not until 1903 – one hundred years after this map was printed – that the famous Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen set off on his voyage to be the first human in recorded history to complete the Northwest Passage.

The remoteness and the complicated access to the region are clearly described in Samuel Hearne’s memoirs: “A Journey to the Northern Ocean: the Adventures of Samuel Hearne“.

Buy restored reproduction of this map printed on a high quality handmade paper here.

The First Circumnavigation of Australia

vintage map reproduction australia south east asiaMap of Southeast Asia and Australia, 1803.

This map depicts Southeast Asia and Australia as it was known to European mapmakers in 1803. There were several voyages aimed at exploring and mapping the continent; starting with Willem Janszoon who, as the first European, landed on Australia’s Cape York Peninsula in 1606, followed by Dirk Hartog’s navigation to the coast of what is today the North West Division of Western Australia in 1616 and Abel Tasman’s second voyage to map the continent’s northern coastline in 1644. The eastern coast was charted by Captain James Cook in 1770. The entire coastline had not been drawn into maps before the first voyage of Captain Matthew Flinders (1801-1802) during which he mapped the remaining part of the southern coast and proved that Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) was separated from Australia by a strait, named after Flinders’ fellow navigator George Bass. The strait is already depicted in this map. During his second voyage in 1803, Flinders circumnavigated Australia as the first European. After completing the circumnavigation, Flinders set off to sail back to England. However, he spent six years in French captivity after he stopped in Mauritius because of the poor condition of his vessel.

The life story of this famous navigator and cartographer is captured in Miriam Estensen’s “Mathew Flinders: The Life of Mathew Flinders“.

Buy restored reproduction of this map printed on a high quality handmade paper here.

The Spice Trade Booms in the 16th century’s Asia

asia antique map reproduction

Map of Asia, 1579.

A map of Asia by the famous Flemish cartographer Abraham Ortelius. The islands that are today part of Indonesia and the Philippines are shown on a larger scale compared to the size of the rest of the continent. This may be due to their relative importance for the spice trade that flourished in the 16th century. The Moluku islands became a special source for spice traders as cloves, mace, and nutmeg could originally only be found in the Moluccas. Long debates related to the position of the islands followed after the division of the World into the eastern Portuguese and western Spanish spheres as both superpowers attempted to keep the revenue from the spice trade.

This period of Maluku and European history is narrated by Charles Corn in his “The Scent of Eden: A History of the Spice Trade”.

Buy restored reproduction of this map printed on a high quality handmade paper here.