22 Feb, 2021

Before Oz was Oz …

I mentioned that I like old maps.  I own a few.  They’re mostly of lands where I’ve lived and worked, mainly in North Africa and the Middle East.  What was the attraction?  I used to pore over them, looking for stories and then thinking of my predecessors, those westerners who had visited or lived there centuries earlier, and the cartographers who had tried to reveal to a curious world everything that was known at that time, often including wild guesses and fantasies such as the delightful sea creature above.

Each map has stories to tell.  Here’s one, but it’s an exception.  Yes, it shows those countries, my old abodes, but for me the real interest is in the bottom right corner, a large island coloured yellow and called ‘Nouvelle Hollande’.

 

It was 1644 when Abel Tasman, from the Netherlands, sailed in to the west coast and named it after his homeland (actually ‘Holland’ was, and still is, only a part of what we now know as the Netherlands).  The Dutch had visited years earlier but they never settled there, before or after Tasman.  It took another 120 years before the British started settlements on the east coast, which they named New South Wales.

I’ve just done a quick internet browse, and was surprised to find this: “New Holland continued to be used semi-officially and in popular usage as the name for the whole land mass until at least the mid-1850s”.  Who would have thought it?

This map does have other stories to tell though, at least to me.  From 1969 to 1971 I lived and worked in a small, rather ramshackle township called Sennar on the Blue Nile in the Sudan.  It’s named on the map!  How come?  It’s because for about 250 years from the early 16th century it was the capital of the Sultanate of Sennar, the Funj Sultanate, stretching into Ethiopia and Eritrea.  The sultanate weakened and then finally collapsed in the early 19th century.

So let’s be curious.  What is this document?  It’s French, but there aren’t many other clues. There’s no date or cartographer name on the map, although it does show that it’s page 24 of some publication.  It must have been produced when the Funj Sultanate was still active, but that stretches over a long period. The map might have references on the back, but it’s framed and I don’t want to take it out.  If it’s part of a book the other side might be full of text, which could help; but if it’s from an atlas it might be blank. So I’ve drawn a blank.

You can help!  There’s a lot of detail there, in many countries.  You might have knowledge of them in a way that I don’t.  Can you find clues?  This is how to do it:

Just click on it.  It will open in a new page.  With the mouse, click once to magnify, then click and drag to the area you want to see in more detail.  Search the world.  Do a Sherlock act.  Have I missed something?  Any clues?  Any answers?

4 Comments

    • Looks like Rigobert Bonne’s map published 1787 – a few copies on ebay. There is avery similar map based on 45 degrees south whch seems to be more readily available if you want to coplete the set!

      Reply
  1. Well, it certainly looks like it. Not sure about the description in P’s example though, where it says there are ‘decorative celestial models in the corners’. All I can see, bottom left and right, are two not very decorative and not very celestial cartographic measurements. Or have I missed something?

    Reply
  2. So pleased you’ve restarted the Marvels of Molyneux St series. And this really is marvellous – the age, beauty, and incredible clarity and prominence of Sennar right there! Interesting to read about New Holland, which will also give new nuance to some of the tractors we see round here.. I still love looking at the old maps you so kindly gave me of Cornwall and China many years ago – also beautiful and fascinating in what was selected to be prominent in those days of thick ink! Look forward to reading about your next selection… X

    Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Other posts

Happy families?

Happy families?

Prince Harry is in the news again, and again at his own instigation.  He’s now talking about emotional pain inherited from his parents, and presumably pain they inherited from their parents, and so...

read more
Voice rediscovered – again!

Voice rediscovered – again!

Another big, very welcome, and somewhat embarrassing surprise! Last week, out of the blue, a link arrived by email. It was another recording of my voice, this time from eleven years ago but this...

read more
Pigeon posts and more …

Pigeon posts and more …

Looking for anything to hang a blog entry on, yesterday I noticed a small story in the press about an English town that is so tired of pigeon droppings that it is going to trap the birds and...

read more