Pars Orbis. Sacrae geographiae tabulam ex antiquissimorum cultor, familiis a Mose recensitis ad sacrorum libror, explicandor. Benedictus ARIAS MONTANUS.

Pars Orbis. Sacrae geographiae tabulam ex antiquissimorum cultor…
Pars Orbis. Sacrae geographiae tabulam ex antiquissimorum cultor, familiis a Mose recensitis ad sacrorum libror, explicandor.

Antwerp: Christopher Plantin, 1571.

Copper-engraved double-hemisphere world map, 335 x 545 mm.; mounted.

An unexplained proto-Australia: a single southern continent for the first time

A very rare sixteenth century map depicting an island roughly in the position of Australia.

A very rare sixteenth century map depicting an island roughly in the position of Australia.

Montanus shows for the first time on a world map a single southern continent rather than an amorphous landmass. The startlingly early map has led to speculation about early knowledge of the continent's existence, a full thirty-five years before the first Dutch discoveries. 'This rare map has a special place in the early cartography of Australia. On the eastern hemisphere the triangular corner of an unknown country is shown emerging from the waves at a point where on modern maps northern Australia is situated. This indicates the northern part of an unexplored country, a suggestion of incomplete discovery which in this form does not appear on any earlier map. In this coastline, rising mysteriously from the sea, some scholars believe there is an indication of the discovery of Australia in the sixteenth century…' (Schilder).

Eric Whitehouse, in Australia in Old Maps, argues that the fragment of the continent depicts the coastline from Eighty-Mile Beach in Western Australia, the Northern Territory, Gulf of Carpentaria, a shortened Cape York Peninsula, Halifax Bay, Cape Conway, Broad Sound and the east coast of Queensland to near Gladstone. According to Robert Clancy in The Mapping of Terra Australis, the map makes 'a significant claim for the inclusion of Portuguese discoveries along the northern coastline, without any hypothetical southern land mass'.

Montanus, eminent Benedictine theologian and the leading Oriental scholar of his time, was also a friend of Abraham Ortelius and would have had access to considerable cartographic resources. This map is notable for its amalgam between theological doctrine (the population of the earth by the sons of Noah) and for its scientific charting of the known world, notably for the inclusion of Tierra del Fuego as an island distinct from an amorphous southern continent. It has been suggested that Montanus' inclusion of the beginnings of a distinct southern continent — a proto-Australia — is based on his own interpretation of the Dieppe maps of 1540, Marco Polo's Journals and those of the Italian explorer Ludovico Varthema who had visited Java in 1505 and there heard reports of people far to the south who navigated by the stars.

The engraved map was prepared for Christopher Plantin's famous eight-volume Polyglot Bible, the huge edition in Hebrew, Greek, Latin and Syriac printed in Antwerp between 1569 and 1573; this is the second state printing of the first edition, identified by the word "gentes" added below the word "Iektan" to a panel in the lower left-hand side. Arias Montanus was appointed by the Council of the Inquisition to supervise its production. Most of the edition was lost at sea en route to Spain, explaining the map's rarity today.

Clancy, 5.7 (illustrated); Muller, 'Remarkable maps of the fifteenth, sixteenth and seventeenth centuries', II/I; Schilder, 'Australia Unveiled', map 20; Shirley, 125 (illustrated); Wagner, 86.

Price (AUD): $19,850.00  other currencies Ref: #4504784

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