Cosmographie universelle, selon les navigateurs tant anciens que modernes par Guillaume Le Testu, pillotte en la mer du Ponent, de la ville francoyse de Grace
Guillaume Le Testu was a French privateer, explorer and navigator. He was one of the foremost cartographers of his time and an author of the Dieppe maps. His maps were distinguished by their sophistication and detail; they influenced generations of cartographers, navigators and explorers. He was one of the last students to be taught cartography at the famed school of Dieppe. Le Testu subsequently took part in voyages of exploration throughout the Atlantic Ocean.
In 1555 or 1556, Le Testu published a world atlas entitled Cosmographie Universelle selon les Navigateurs, tant anciens que modernes and was consequently awarded the title of Pilote Royale by Henry II. The Cosmographie Universelle contained 56 maps reportedly based on charts Le Testu had personally drawn by hand on his expeditions around the world.
This atlas was dedicated to his mentor and patron Admiral Gaspard de Coligny, who had become leader of the Huguenots three years earlier. The manuscript was based on charts from French, Spanish and Portuguese sources supplied by Coligny.
Included in this atlas were twelve charts of Jave le Grand/Terra Australis, which Le Testu located southward of the Moluccas. Le Testu commented:
"However, what I have marked and depicted is only by imagination, and I have not noted or remarked on any of the commodities or incommodities of the place, nor its mountains, rivers or other things; for there has never yet been any man who has made a certain discovery of it."
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Suggestions that Le Testu may have mapped (or even visited) Australia are based on: first, his maps' depiction of a large island (or continent), south of Java, which Le Testu identified as the Jave la Grande ("Java Major" or "Great Java") mentioned by Marco Polo (and was otherwise known at the time as Terra Australis) and second, Le Testu's incorporation in these maps of birds that resemble black swans and cassowaries, which are both native to Australia.
However, he did not claim to have seen Jave la Grande in person and many cartographers at the time incorporated hypothetical, mythological or fantastic elements, a practice that is clearly also true of Le Testu. His maps also showed unicorns and monstrous creatures such as 200 metre long giant snakes, basilisks, satyrs, Blemmyes (headless humans) and Cynocephalics (dog-headed humans).
Cosmographie Universelle selon les Navigateurs, tant anciens que modernes (1555/56).
The present Figure contains a part of Jave la Grande [Java Major], which is situated in the southern part in the Temperate Zone. The inhabitants of it are Idolaters, ignorant of God, and in it grows Nutmeg with Cloves, and several other kinds of fruits and spices... This is La Grant Jave [Java Major], and La Petite Jave [Java Minor] in which there are eight Kingdoms. The men of these two Countries are Idolaters and wicked. Several manner of spices grow in these two Regions, such as Nutmeg, Cloves, and other spices... This Land is part of the so-called Terra Australis, to us Unknown, so that which is marked herein is only from Imagination and uncertain opinion; for some say that La Grant Jave [Java Major] which is the eastern Coast of it is the same land of which the western Coast forms the Strait of Magellan, and that all of this land is joined together... This Part is the same Land of the south called Austral, which has never yet been discovered, for there is no account of anyone having yet found it, and therefore nothing has been remarked of it but from Imagination. I have not been able to describe any of its resources, and for this reason I leave speaking further of it until more ample discovery has been made, and as much as I have written and annoted names to several of its capes this has only been to align the pieces depicted herein to the views of others and also so that those who navigate there be on their guard when they are of opinion that they are approaching the said Land... This piece is a part of the Southland or Terra Australis, from Imagination situated under the Frigid Zone, forasmuch as some are of the opinion that the Land of the Strait of Magellan and La Grande Java [Java Major] are joined together. This is not yet known for certain, and for this Reason I am unable to describe its Resources.
Guillaume Le Testu
Coligny subsequently supported a proposal from the d'Albagno brothers, for an expedition to Terra Australis to investigate the possibility of a French colony there.
Three centuries later, the English scholar Edward Jenks suggested that a chart said to have been created in 1542 and later held by the British Museum may have been Le Testu's source for Jave la Grande. Le Testu's Cosmographie Universelle (1555) and world atlas (1556) are both in the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris. The map, said Jenks, was said to have been "the property of a man named Rotz, a French sailor who passed some part of his life in England". Jenks commented:
"this fact gives some colour to the claim put forward by the French, that their countryman, Guillaume le Testu, was the true discoverer of Australia. The claim is based mainly upon the fact that Testu's name appears on a map dated 1555, on which a southern continent, styled Jave la Grande ("Great Java"), is outlined. But this fact, of course, merely proves that Testu had heard of such a country..."
1 atlas (118 p.) : 57 pl. ms. col. ; 55 x 40 cm
BNF Identifier - ark:/12148/btv1b8447838j
Buisseret, David, ed. Monarchs, Ministers, and Maps: The Emergence of Cartography as a Tool of Government in Early Modern Europe. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992. (pg. 103) ISBN 0-226-07987-2
Jacob, Christian. The Sovereign Map: Theoretical Approaches in Cartography Throughout History. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006. (pg. 146) ISBN 0-226-38953-7; Frank Lestringant, Mapping the Renaissance World, (transl. by David Fausett), Cambridge, Polity/Blackwell, 1994, p.133.
Guillaume Le Testu, Cosmographie Universelle selon les Navigateurs, tant anciens que modernes, Vincennes, Bibliotheque du Service Historique de l'Armee de Terre, DLZ 14, folios 32, 33, 34, 37, 39. Cosmographie Universelle: Terres Australes Translation by David Fausett in Frank Lestringant, Mapping the Renaissance World, (transl. by David Fausett), Cambridge, Polity/Blackwell, 1994, p.133.
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Amy Glassner Gordon, "Mapping La Popeliniere's Thought: Some Geographical Dimensions", Terrae Incognitae, vol.9, 1977, pp.60-73; Numa Broc, "De l'Antichtone a l'Antarctique", Cartes et figures de la Terre, Paris, Centre Georges Pompidou, 1980, pp.136-49.
Jenks, Edward. A History of the Australasian Colonies (From Their Foundation to the Year 1893). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1895. (pg. 5-6)
Clarke, Marcus. History of the Continent of Australia and the Island of Tasmania (1787 to 1870). Melbourne: F.F. Bailliere, 1870. (pg. 4)