This attractive and colourful large format map embraces a great expanse of Southeast Asia, all Australia, New Zealand, Polynesia and Hawaii. It is an extremely rare ‘boutique’ production, drafted by a Professor Franz Behr and published by a small, provincial lithographic press in Canstatt (today ‘Bad Canstatt’, a suburb of Stuttgart).
The ‘Zeichenerklärung’ (Explanation of Symbols), in the lower-left corner, keys the colour-coding used the to identify the territories owned by, or associated with, various European powers, with German – Red; British – Orange; Dutch – Yellow; French – Blue; Spanish – Green; Portuguese – Light Brown; and American – Dark Brown. The map labels all cities, towns, international boundaries and topographic features, while various lines chart railways; land and submarine telegraph lines; German steamship lines; and lines run by other countries. At the very bottom of the map runs a topographical cross-section of Australia, labeling major peaks and their heights, running Southeast to Northwest.
An interesting feature of the map, in Australia, is the depiction of the unofficial Australian territory of ‘Alexandra Land’, in the southern part of today’s Northern Territory. In 1865, at the urging of the explorer John McDouall Stuart, the government of South Australia declared the lands under its jurisdiction between the 16th and 26th southern latitudes to be Alexandra Land, in honour of Alexandra of Denmark, the Princess of Wales, and later Queen consort to Edward VII. While the term was used for the region on and off until 1911, it was never developed, nor did it ever have any government apparatus. Alexandra Land become part of the Northern Territory and was henceforth confined to the realm of historical curiosities.
While not explicitly stated, the seminal purpose of the map seems to be to showcase the recently established German colony of Deutsche-Neuguinea (German New Guinea) within the geographical context of the greater region. The colony, which occupied the northeastern quarter of New Guinea and adjacent islands, has pride of place on the map, outlined in bold red, in the centre.
New Guinea was first encountered by Spanish mariners in the 16th Century, but its reef-guarded coastlines, impenetrable jungle and the hostility of some its indigenous peoples (including Head Hunters!) ensured that it was one of the last non-polar places on Earth to be colonized. While Europeans occasionally reconnoitred and traded along its coasts over the succeeding centuries, they avoided setting down roots.
This all changed in the early 1880s, during perhaps the most comprehensive period of colonialism, when various European powers were obsessed with claiming every square inch of the globe. In 1883, the British colony of Queensland, Australia, declared Papua (the southeastern quarter of the island) to be a part of the British Empire, and proceeded to set up outposts that would form the basis of British New Guinea. This move was reluctantly and belatedly embraced by Westminster, which dreaded the cost of carrying the project. The Dutch claim to the western half of New Guinea (later Irian Jaya) was considered secure, even if little had been done to advance it on the ground.
Meanwhile, Germany, which had only been unified in 1871, began to project its power all around the world, with private trading companies gaining a fixed presence in Africa and the Asia-Pacific region. It was not long before these players turned their gaze towards the islands of New Britain and New Ireland, adjacent to the coasts of northeast New Guinea. Notably, from 1876 to 1883, the Hamburg firm of Hernsheim & Co. founded several trading posts on the northern part of New Britain’s Gazelle Peninsula. Further bases were established near the northern tip of New Ireland. The trade in tropical commodities (notably palm products), which were very much valued by Germany’s highly industrialized economy, was brisk and lucrative.
The German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck was initially opposed to Germany gaining overseas possessions, believing them to be costly distractions to the nation’s ambitions in Europe. However, as many of the main investors in Africa and New Guinea were also his leading political supporters, he reluctantly agreed to authorize Germany to make certain lands into ‘schuztgebeit’ (protectorates), colonies in all but name. He insisted, however, that private concerns should bear the responsibility for administering and funding the colonies.
On November 3, 1884, The Germans moved by stealth to formally declare northeastern New Guinea and the adjacent islands of New Britain and New lreland, etc., to be a schutzgebeit called Deutsche-Neuguinea. The colony was to be governed by a private chartered company, the Deutsche Neuguinea-Compagnie (German New Guinea Company).
This move angered the Australians, who resented the German presence in their neighbourhood, although Whitehall was ambivalent, so allowing Berlin’s designs to proceed.
Deutsche-Neuguinea was conquered by Australian troops, in 1914, in the early days of World War I. Combined with Papua, it remained under Australian administration until 1975, when the nation of Papua New Guinea gained its independence.
A Note on Rarity
The present map is extremely rare; it was a boutique production that seems to have been made in only a small number of examples. We can trace only 2 institutional examples, held by the Bibliothèque nationale de France and the Universitätsbibliothek Bern. Moreover, we are not aware of any other examples as appearing on the market.
References: Bibliothèque nationale de France: département Cartes et plans, GE C-1054; Universitätsbibliothek Bern: Sektor E5 BeM ZB Kart IV 127; OCLC: 605459629; Das Ausland: Eine Wochenschrift für Kunde des geistigen und sittlichen Lebens der Völker, Band 61, Ausgabe 2 (1888), p. vi; Deutsche geographisch Blätter, Bände 13-15 (1890), pp. 135-6; Mitteilungen der Kaiserlich-Königlichen Geographischen Gesellschaft, Band 31 (1888), p. 194; Verhandlungen der Gesellschaft für Erdkunde zu Berlin, Band XV (1888), pp. 362-3.