The 'secret' map

Nova Tabula, Insularum Iavae, Sumatrae, by Willem Lodewijcksz is an engraved copperplate chart printed by Cornelis Claeszoon in Amsterdam in 1598. It focusses on southern Malaya, Sumatra, Java, southern Borneo and the islands east of Java through to Sumbawa around Java. It includes the first accurate detailed record of the north coast of Java and includes seven scenes depicting the experiences of the first Dutch fleet to enter the region.

Nova tabula Insularum Iavæ, Sumatræ, Borneonis et aliarum Malaccam, suque, delineata in insula Iava, ubi ad vivum disignantur vada et brevia scopulique interjacentes descripta a G.M.A.L. ... : by Willem Lodewijcksz ; Cornelius Nicolai exud. ; Baptista Doetechum Sculp.

The First Dutch Expedition to Indonesia was an expedition led by Cornelius de Houtman from 1595 to 1597. This voyage opened up the Indonesian islands to the European spice trade, later giving rise to the United Dutch East India Company.

The Dutch expedition under de Houtman carried with it a manuscript detailing trading information and sailing routes by Jan Huyghen van Linschoten who had travelled in the region while in the employ of the Portuguese. Linschoten’s experiences advised the de Houtman expedition to enter the region via Sunda Strait, rather than the Malacca Strait, in order to avoid detection by the Portuguese. The Dutch were the first to use this route.

In 1598 Willem Lodewijcksz published an account of this voyage, D'eerste boeck : Historie van Indien waer inne verhaelt is de avontueren die de Hollandtsche schepen bejeghent zijn. William Lodewijksz was a clerk on board the ship Mauritius.

The chart (amongst others) was created to illustrate the achievements of the voyage of the Dutch fleet to the East Indies under Cornelius de Houtman from 1595 to 1597. The original intention was to include the chart in the published account of the voyage. However, Nova Tabula, Insularum Iavae, Sumatrae was withdrawn from publication prior to distribution as the the Dutch wanted to restrict access to information which could be used by rival trading companies. Dutch authorities claimed it had unique and confidential information about the area which could jeopardise the Dutch economic hold over the region.

No copies of the map appear in any copies of the book for which it was originally intended, although the intended inclusion of the chart is indicated at the end of Chapter 18 – ‘Here follows the chart of Java and Sumatra’.

The chart shows the Duyfken – the smallest of the ships in the Dutch fleet, which played a significant role in the early European history of Australia. In late February or early March 1606 Willem Janszoon made the first recorded European landing on the Australian continent, sailing from Bantam, Java in the Duyfken. According to later accounts the Duyfken sailed into a river on the western shore of Cape York Peninsula in Queensland, near the modern town of Weipa.

This map is so rarely available on the market that it is considered virtually unobtainable.

Towards the end of 1598 Theodor de Bry published a map based on the original chart by William Lodewijcksz. The de Bry map has survived in larger numbers and is more readily available.

The State Library of NSW is the only institution in the Southern Hemisphere to hold a copy of this chart – particularly significant when it represents an important period in the history of the Pacific.

This map was purchased with the generous support of the State Library Custodians.

Emma Gray, Librarian, Original Materials Branch