Brian Hooker

New Zealand


© Brian Hooker 2006. The text that follows is copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purposes of private study, research, criticism or review, no part may be reproduced without prior permission.



    the Earliest Cartographic Representation and Name for New Zealand in a Printed Map


brian hooker


In a paper entitled “New light on the mapping and naming of New Zealand” published in The New Zealand Journal of History, in October 1972, the author drew attention to the insertion of the name Zeelandia Nova, and part of New Zealand’s western coastline in an updated version of Willem J. Blaeu’s large world map first published in 1619. It was contended that revised parts of the map which derive from charts prepared during Abel Tasman’s voyage of 1642 and 1643 appeared to have been made no later than 1645 or early 1646, and possibly in 1644.

For ease of reference the updated work will hereafter be referred to as Blaeu’s 1645-map.

Tasman discovered Tasmania in 1642 and part of New Zealand in 1642 and 1643. He then steered north-east to discover Tonga and Fiji before heading back to Batavia – now known as Jakarta.

The author also pointed out in the paper that the name “Zeelandia Nova” did not appear to have been used in any earlier map still extant. It was further explained that there was a strong presumption that Joan Blaeu, head of the 17th-century Amsterdam publishing house of Blaeu, possibly in consultation with an official or officials of the Dutch East India Company, played the main part in devising the name Zeelandia Nova. It was not claimed that this was the earliest representation of a part of New Zealand in a printed map.

About the same time Professor Günter Schilder also came to the conclusion that the map was updated in 1645 or 1646 with Tasman’s data. He believed his findings were supported by evidence in Blaeu’s 1646 catalogue a copy of which is preserved in the Vatican Library.

However, Schilder went a step further and declared that this map showed the earliest representation of New Zealand on a printed map. Since Tasman’s data arrived in Amsterdam late in 1643 or early in 1644 it has previously been assumed that Blaeu’s 1645-map must have been the first to show a part of New Zealand. But fresh research, which will be explained later - pinpoints the year 1644 as the time of the first representation – and Blaeu, it turns out, was beaten to the starting blocks by one or more rival Amsterdam publishers.




Blaeu’s 1645-map came to light in 1960 when it was bought in Madrid and taken to the Maritiem Museum “Prince Hendrik” in Rotterdam where it has been restored and remains one of the prize exhibits. It is a huge wall map made up from an assembly of impressions from copper plates. Overall it measures about two by three metres. As well as displaying Tasman’s 1642-1643 discoveries the map delineates northern coastlines of Australia discovered during Tasman’s 1644 voyage. The emerging continent is named Hollandia Nova.

At the time Tasman’s journal and charts were dispatched from Batavia, to the headquarters of the Dutch East India Company in the Netherlands, Joan Blaeu held the position of official cartographer to the Company which gave him access to documents arriving in the Netherlands from explorers. Joan Blaeu received the appointment in November 1638 after the death of his father Willem J. Blaeu who had held the office since 1633. This was a confidential position, as the Company maintained a strict secrecy on the data concerning territories which belonged to its sphere of influence. During the senior Blaeu’s term all the Company’s cartographic material was kept at his home but on Joan Blaeu’s appointment, to maintain even stricter secrecy and to prevent theft it was stipulated that all the maps must be kept at the Company’s headquarters. It will be explained later that these precautions proved useless in preventing leaks at the Batavia end of the link after Tasman returned from his 1642-43 voyage.




Tasman named New Zealand Staten Landt. An entry in his journal of the 1642 - 1643 voyage is quite clear on this point and he gives his reasons  in an entry for 19 December 1642. Tasman explains that the name Staten Landt was given to honour the States General of the United Provinces of the Netherlands and he further mentions in the same entry that his discovery could well be joined to the existing land known as “Staten Landt” at the south of South America. But on this point he says he is unsure.

This other Staten Land was discovered by Tasman’s compatriots Schouten and Le Maire in 1616 but it was not found to be insular until 1643 when Hendrik Brouwer another Dutchman carried out a circumnavigation of the land now shown on maps as Island de los Estados or Staten Island. Brouwner§§’s discovery was not generally known until his journal was published in 1646.




The various manuscript charts contained in and associated with Tasman’s journal also provide the name Staten Landt sometimes with a variation in spelling. The New Zealand charts are usually attributed to Franchoys Jacobsen Visscher, Tasman’s chief navigator on the voyage.


Tasman had no further association with the naming after his return to Batavia.




No document has been found that explains the reason for the change of name. One very plausible possibility is that the new name was given for symmetry with Hollandia Nova - that is, Australia’s earlier name, and to honour the second most important chamber of the Dutch East India Company – the Amsterdam Chamber being the primary chamber. An excellent discussion on this subject is in  Eric McCormick’s 1959 treatise Tasman and New Zealand - A bibliographical Study.

In the 1980s and particularly after the publication of Rodney Shirley’s invaluable book, The mapping of the world, the author became intrigued by the variations in placement of Tasmania and part of New Zealand in some early maps. I obtained photographs of a number of early printed maps of the Pacific and a pattern in the inconsistencies emerged.

It was found possible to separate 17th and 18th century printed maps into two groups. Maps in group “A” place Tasmania and part of New Zealand in longitudes that correspond to data given in Tasman’s manuscript charts and his journal. Group “B” maps delineate Tasmania and part of New Zealand in longitudes about ten degrees too far west. Further interesting features in category “B” maps are the name “Staten landt” engraved beside the part of the coastline shown and the inclusion of the names “Zeehaens bocht” - in the area of present day Cook Strait, the name “Steylen hoeck” – a point at the northern end of Karamea Bight, and in some maps the name “Duijnich land” the present-day Farewell Spit – these names are missing in the earliest Blaeu maps and globes but they are present in manuscript charts made during the voyage or copies of maps made after the voyage.




In the author’s paper entitled “Two sets of Tasman longitudes in 17th and 18th century maps” published in The Geographical Journal in March 1990, attention is focussed on explanations concerning the two groups of maps and some of the maps in each group are listed. Included in the maps with accurately-placed coastlines or group “A” are of course Blaeu maps and group “B” includes publications by Allard, van Keulen, Mortier, Bellin, Colom, and Robert de Vaugondy among others.

In the paper it was suggested that the faulty data in the south-west Pacific area could only derive from surreptitiously-obtained copies of manuscripts acquired after Tasman returned to Batavia in June 1643. A draughtsman and a member of the Great Council on Tasman’s voyage, Isaac Gilsemans independently produced a map of Tasmania with unique features and it is certain that a copy of this map was included in the spoils.




Although entries in Tasman's journal clearly state that he reckoned longitude from Tenerife in the Canary Islands the manuscript charts display meridians and figures only. So when the illegally-obtained copies arrived at Amsterdam late in 1643 or early in 1644 the map-makers who bought them did not know which prime meridian Tasman based his figures on.

At that period there was a general but not universal change by map-makers and navigators to reckon longitude from a line passing over the Peak of Tenerife in the Canary Islands instead of a line passing over Corvo and Flores in the Azores or the islands of São Miguel and Santa Maria also in the Azores. It is interesting to notice that although Tasman used Tenerife he carried out some calculations using a globe and a map based on Corvo. Willem Blaeu had published maps and globes using all three prime meridians at different times and these cartographic tools were in wide circulation during the 17th century.

With several different prime meridians prominently displayed in different maps a situation developed whereby disasters or blunders were waiting to happen and I shall explain details of the error that occurred when the purloined copies of charts arrived in Amsterdam.




Publishers who received purloined copies guessed wrongly that the prime meridian used by Tasman was the line passing over the islands of São Miguel and Santa Maria. The difference in longitude between São Miguel and Santa Maria, and Tenerife or rather the difference reckoned in the 17th century was ten degrees and this figure equals the error in the longitudinal placement of the coasts of Tasmania and New Zealand in group “B” of the maps mentioned earlier.

Apparently another vendor offered more complete sets of Tasman’s charts including a different version of Tasmania, a chart of “Staten Landt” and a chart of the islands of Tonga and Fiji.

There is no direct evidence which links any of several rival publishers to a 1644 publication. However, a suggestion is that Blaeu’s main rival was the Amsterdam printer Jacob Colom since several elements of evidence combine to make a strong case in favour of Colom as one of the publishers who anticipated Blaeu in 1644. (Portrait left.) Born in 1600, Jacob Colom’s enterprising spirit in publishing a pilot guide in 1632 brought him into conflict with Willem Blaeu. He remained on unfriendly terms with the Blaeus.

The representation of Staten Landt and nine place names in Colom’s undated “South Sea” chart relates more closely to Tasman’s original data than any other 17th century map. The only known examples are bound in with Colom’s Atlas Maritimo dated 1669 and noted as chart number 52. The data overall does not match any single extant manuscript. In his 1968 study The voyages of Abel Janszoon Tasman, Andrew Sharp explains that the representation of New Zealand in all the extant manuscript charts apparently derives from a prototype chart or charts drawn by Franchoys Jacobsen Visscher. Sharp’s belief ties in with the suggestion that the map of Staten Landt supplied to Colom was a copy of this now unknown prototype referred to by Sharp.

To summarise: The facts reviewed in this article leave little doubt that the first representation of a part of New Zealand in a printed map or maps occurred in 1644 beside the name Staten Landt. The publisher or publishers are unknown for certain but Jacob Colom must be considered a strong contender for the honour of publicising New Zealand for the first time. This was achieved within about a year of Tasman’s return to Batavia after his discovery of New Zealand. There is little doubt that Blaeu swung into action swiftly after being humiliated and produced his revised map with the new name Zeelandia Nova in 1645, after Tasman’s discoveries in northern Australia were known in Amsterdam.