December 5, 2011

Map of Australia

Adrien Brué (1786-1832) accompanied the French explorer Nicolas Baudin on his 1803 voyage to Australia. Baudin described Brué as “a young man of good disposition and with a zeal for geography,” and named the Brué Reef off Australia’s northwestern coast in his honor. Brué returned to France to become the royal geographer and an important publisher of high-quality maps. The detailed notes on this 1826 map identify its sources. Brué calls Australia “New Holland,” the name first given to it in 1644 by the Dutch explorer Abel Tasman. Only in the 19th century did the name Australia come into general use.

Map of the Three Arabias: Excerpted Partly from the Arab of Nubia, Partly from Several Other Authors

This map of “the three Arabias” by French royal geographer Nicolas Sanson d’Abbeville is one of the few 17th-century maps of the Arabian Peninsula. Despite its importance as a crossroads of trade between three continents, the geography of Arabia remained largely unknown to European cartographers until the era of European exploration and expansion in the 15th century. Although published in 1654–by the Parisian printer and engraver Pierre Mariette-Sanson’s map remained largely based on the medieval work of the 12th-century Arab cartographer Al-Idrisi (1099-1164), whose work Geographia Nubiensis was first translated into French only in 1619. By the 17th century, French silk weavers had begun to challenge the long-standing predominance of Italian silkmakers, and French involvement in the silk trade fostered a new interest in its Arabian epicenter. The three Arabias referred to in the map’s title are Arabia Petraea, the northwestern area encompassing the Sinai Peninsula and Jordan, Arabia Deserta, the northernmost area just south of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, and Arabia Felix, by far the largest territory covering most of the peninsula and extending from the holy cities of Mecca and Medina in the northwest to the coasts of the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman. “Bahraim” (sic) is also separately demarcated along the northwestern shore of the Persian Gulf.

Map of the Belgian Congo

Little is known about the actual cartographer and engraver of this map, Léon de Moor. More is known about the publishing house, J. Lebègue and Co. The firm published many geographical documents, including maps and travel accounts. In 1896, when this map was published, the Belgian Congo–known as the Congo Free State–was actually a personal possession of King Leopold II and not an official Belgian colony. The king was engaged in a vigorous publicity campaign aimed at convincing the other European powers to recognize the legitimacy of his rule, a difficult task in view of the notorious brutality of his administration in Africa. A close look at the legend of the map reveals J. Lebègue and Co. as the publisher, but the “Office of Publicity” as its editor. The map includes detailed insets of the provinces of Leopoldville in the lower Congo and of Elisabethville in Katanga.

Central America, the West Indies South America and Portions of the United States and Mexico

This 1909 map, published by the United Fruit Company, shows the extensive shipping, railroad, and wireless telegraph network built and maintained by the company to carry out its main business, the production and marketing of bananas. United Fruit was founded in 1899 by the merger of the Boston Fruit Company and several other firms involved in the banana industry in Central America, the Caribbean, and Colombia. The history of the company goes back to 1872, when Minor C. Keith began to acquire banana plantations and build a railroad in Costa Rica. Through sophisticated marketing and its complex logistical network, United Fruit managed to make bananas, previously an unknown tropical fruit, into a basic food in the United States and Western Europe. Notwithstanding these achievements, United Fruit was often the target of political opposition in the countries in which it operated, accused of neglecting its workers and manipulating governments for its own ends, hence the term “banana republic.”

Central Africa after the Newest Research

Dr. Joseph Chavanne’s map of central Africa, most likely created in the early 1880s, is a product of the European imperial “scramble for Africa.” Although the Dutch and Portuguese established trading posts along the coasts of Africa as early as the late 15th century, the European race to claim significant tracts of territory in sub-Saharan Africa began in earnest only in the late 19th century. Belgium, Britain, France, and Germany all carved out competing claims, based on the discoveries of inland explorers whose expeditions Chavanne documents. Originally from Vienna, Chavanne was both a geographer and a traveler in his own right. His work was admired in Europe not only for his geographic knowledge and cartographic skill but for the ethnographic insights he drew from his own travels. Chavanne continued his work on central Africa with more extensive mapping of the entire Congo region.

Chart of the Galapagos: Surveyed in the Merchant-Ship Rattler and Drawn by Captain James Colnett of the Royal Navy in 1793, 1794 ; Engraved by T. Foot

In 1793, Captain James Colnett of the Royal Navy in the merchant ship Rattler undertook a survey of the Galapagos Islands. Colnett was on an extended voyage to the Pacific that he chronicled in a book published in 1798 under the lengthy title A voyage to the south Atlantic and round cape Horn into the Pacific Ocean, for the purpose of extending the spermaceti whale fisheries, and other objects of commerce, by ascertaining the ports, bays, harbours, and anchoring births in certain islands and coasts in those seas at which the ships of the British merchants might be refitted. This map, published in 1798 by the famous London map-maker Aaron Arrowsmith, traces the route of the Rattler and is the first accurate navigation chart of the islands. The Galapagos Islands are a province of Ecuador.