'First map of Australia' arrives in Melbourne for conservation

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Melbourne, May 16 (IANS) The first map of Australia, produced by Dutch explorers in the 17th century, arrived in Melbourne on Monday for expert analysis, as historians look to preserve the priceless document.

The map of New Holland, the name given to the Australian mainland by famous seafarer Abel Tasman, is the first published record of the previously unexplored continent in the Dutch language, Xinhua news agency reported.

Created by Dutch East India Company cartographer Joan Blaeu, the 1663 map has formed basis of all subsequent mapping of Australia.

But since uncovered in a Swedish storage facility six years ago and acquired by National Library of Australia in 2013, historians have identified that the priceless artefact is in serious decay.

Subsequently, the National Library of Australia has launched a conservation effort to preserve the important document as an historical record for the benefit of future generations.

Senior Paper Conservator from the University of Melbourne, Libby Melzer, explained that the map had deteriorated due to the cartographer's choice to use blue-green paint, believed to be verdigris, to highlight the Australian coastline and other distinguishing features.

"Derived from copper and typically exposed to wine vapours to achieve its vibrant colour, verdigris is chemically unstable and has darkened and corroded the surrounding paper, eating through it entirely in some places," Melzer, from the university's Grimwade Centre for Cultural Material Conservation, said in the statement.​

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