Google maps may have left the modern atlas gathering dust, but this collection breathes new life into the maps that guided the way long before GPS. This National Library of Australia collection of more than 600,000 maps is both a testament to the resourcefulness of early explorers and a comprehensive transcript of how the world’s societies evolved.
There are many skilful hand-drawn works of cartographers on paper, others looking as though they should adorn art gallery walls. One example (below) is the rebbelib stick charts, which mark currents, waves or swells and were once used by the Marshallese to navigate the Pacific Ocean by canoe.
Family historians may find Australian state and territory subdivision maps handy. Other maps shed light on land use such as mining, roads, and military use. This comprehensive collection has an Australian focus, but spans all corners of the globe.
Highlighted works include Norman B. Tindale’s 1940 map of the Aboriginal tribes in Australia, the 1655 Martini Atlas of China and Japanese pictorial world war maps and the first Dutch chartings of land that became Australia.
All online maps are freely available for download, in high resolution here.
Originally published by Cosmos as The way we were before Google Maps
Viviane Richter is a freelance science writer based in Melbourne.
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