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John Arrowsmith: Van Diemens Land

Map: AUNZ2855
Cartographer: John Arrowsmith
Title: Van Diemens Land
Date: 1842
Published: London
Width: 19 inches / 49 cm
Height: 23 inches / 59 cm
Map ref: AUNZ2855
Large map of Tasmania, the most detailed map of the colony available at the time of publication. Compiled from manuscript surveys in the Van Diemen's Land Company Office and the Colonial Office. The island is partly subdivided into counties, though western Tasmania remains largely uncharted and unsettled. Land granted to the Van Diemens Land Company are shaded in brown and are listed in an index near the upper edge of the map.

Original hand-colour. [AUNZ2855]

John Arrowsmith (1790-1873)

John Arrowsmith, one of the greatest 19th-century English cartographers, was born in Winston, County Durham, in 1790. At the age of 20, John moved to London to join the prestigious mapmaking firm founded by his uncle, Aaron Arrowsmith. There, working alongside his cousins Aaron II and Samuel, he developed his expertise in engraving, lithography, globe-making, and publishing.

On the death of his uncle in 1823, John left the firm and decided to set up on his own; there is a suggestion that he became a dealer of prints and paintings in Paris between 1824 and 1826 but he must have returned to England shortly after as he was cited as one of the founders of the Royal Geographical Society in 1830. He became a highly influential member of the Society, acting as its unofficial cartographer for the next forty-three years and participating in its Council between 1851 and 1868; in 1863, he was awarded the Society’s Patron’s Medal. This position enabled him to access, engrave, and publish manuscript maps sent back to London by many of the foremost explorers of the age, including Burke & Wills, John Henning Speke, and David Livingstone.

Arrowsmith then obtained another powerful connection which gave him further privileged access to important manuscript maps: in 1837, he began to produce maps for Hansard, the firm charged with publishing Parliamentary reports and papers. Maps from the Colonial Office and the Honourable East India Co., among others, would first pass through Arrowsmith’s hands. This gave him an enormous advantage over his commercial rivals.

Arrowsmith’s own commercial enterprise culminated in the production of the “London Atlas of Universal Geography” first issued in 1834. As his prestige and contacts grew, so did the contents of this work. The importance of the above atlas cannot be overstated. There are maps dedicated to individuals whose names still resonate today. These include Captain Robert Fitzroy and the Officers of the Beagle, John Septimus Roe, first Surveyor General of Western Australia, and Lieut. Alexander Burnes, the legendary Burnes of Bokhara.