Brian Hooker
New Zealand

The Tasman-Bonaparte map
Brian Hooker

© Brian Hooker 2006.

 (Reproduction below.)


Since controversy has raged over the years about the date of preparation of the Bonaparte map it is appropriate to add this note.

The original map is preserved in the Mitchell Library Sydney. As at the time of writing in 2006 nothing has changed and early and recent suggestions that the map was prepared under the supervision of Tasman or by an associate or associates of Tasman or around 1648 have no foundation.

Certainly the map contains data which is recorded nowhere else

Detailed studies of the Bonaparte map have been carried out by Crone (1948), Sharp (1968) and Schilder (1972) Destombes (1941), and all agree on a date of around 1695.

The best explanation is given by Crone one of the most eminent map historians of the twentieth century:

The map shows the tracks of the two voyages (1642-42 and 1644). A legend on the map implies that it was drawn at the order of Anthony van Diemen, and it also bears the date 1644, but not the name of a draughtsman.
[fn.1. G. R. Crone, “The discovery of Tasmania and New Zealand” (in) The Geographical Journal cxi (1948) pp. 257-263. Crone’s explanation has been abbreviated.*]

The north coast of New Guinea is accurately placed in latitude, and its longitudinal extent, e.g. between New Ireland and westen New Guinea, is also remarkably correct. On adjusting the outline of the chart to this base, it will be found that the coastline of northern and western Australia fits quite closely to that on a Mercator projection. It appears therefore that this portion of 'the chart was originally drawn on a Mercator projection, but that a plane grid (with constant latitudes) has been laid down upon it. The latitude readings therefore progressively increase towards the south. The southern and eastern portions however appear to be drawn on a plane chart, as the degrees of latitude do not increase between the parallels of New Guinea and New Zealand.

The latitude scale on the chart applies to this portion, with the exception of Tasmania, for the latitudes of points on it, as read from the scale, are remarkably accurate. Tasmania seems to have been fitted in erroneously from a sectional chart. Owing to the difference of the projections, therefore, Tasmania and New Zealand, in relation to the north of Australia, fall too far north. The map is plainly a compilation from several sources.

M. Marcel Destombes, in his study of Dutch charts of this period points out several other faults in orthography, style of writing and general characteristics from which he concludes that the map was drawn in Batavia about 1695. He does not consider it possible that Tasman or any of the pilots associated with him could have put their material together so carelessly.
[fn. 2. M. Destombes, “Cartes hollandaises; la cartographie de la Compagnie des Indies Orientales, 1593-1743,” Saigon, 1941.] □

*The following is an extract from the Obituary for G. R. Crone published in the Geographical Journal (vol 49), July 1983: Gerald Roe Crone (1899-1982), was a scholar of the old school whose encyclopaedic knowledge came more readily from his well-stored brain than anything hatched in a modern computer. His reputation in his chosen field of historical cartography was worldwide.


This is a reproduction of a facsimile of the

Tasman-Bonaparte Map.