The Great South LandPublished on 16 Aug. 2011
This catalogue of books and maps tells the story of a New World. Unlike the American discoveries to which that phrase is often taken to refer, this New World is the result of a push to the east and the south. The story of its development from theory to actuality is also the story of the exploration, exploitation, and occupation of the East Indies, South East Asia, and the Pacific as the competing national interests played out their grand battle.
As this catalogue amply attests, the early modern voyages have a fascinating pre-history which stretches back to the classical geographers, whose works became some of the most important early printed books in the late 1400s and 1500s. Gradually the early imaginings became replaced by the belief that a vast Southern Continent could contain riches and exotica: the Ophir of King Solomon, the lands reported by Marco Polo and golden islands, reputed to have been known to the Incas, lying somewhere in the South Pacific. When Quirós though he had found it he grandly named it Austrialia del Spiritu Santo.
This catalogue is arranged in sections that will approximately tell the story of these speculations and discoveries. There are separate sections for the major exploring nations - the Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese and English. It makes a splendid roll-call: Marco Polo, Mandeville, Varthema, the first Dutch trading fleets chronicled by Lodewijcksz and Spilbergen, Jansz and the Duyfken, Quiros, Mendaña and Torres; Schouten and Le Maire showing another way across the Pacific; Tasman; Pelsaert's Batavia and the first noteworthy - and hair-raising - events in west Australia; King Manuel and Pope Leo X, Drake's great voyage, and finally William Dampier, the first English landing on the Australian continent at the cusp of the eighteenth century.