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FIRST and EARLY ENCOUNTERS between Pacific Peoples and Europeans
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Cartes et commentaires pour illustrer l’histoire de l’ “invention” européenne de la distinction arbitraire entre “Polynésie” et “Mélanésie”.

La version française a été publiée dans le dossier cartographique qui conclut l’ouvrage publié à Papeete, Au Vent des Iles, 2008: L’invention française des “races” et des régions de l’Océanie. On se reportera à cet ouvrage pour la version française:

http://www.auventdesiles.pf/notre-catalogue/42-culture-oceanienne/386-polynesiemelanesie-linvention-francaise-des-qracesq-et-des-regions-de-loceanie-xvie-xxe-siecles.html

La version anglaise, inédite, est présentée ci-dessous. (translated by Stephanie Anderson)


MAPS AND NOTES to illustrate the history of the European “invention” of the Melanesia / Polynesia distinction.

This collection of maps and commentaries have been published in French (see reference above)  
This collection of maps first presents Oceania from a modern perspective (maps 1-7); it then takes an historical approach (maps 8-23).


Pacific Map 1: Oceania on the globe


Agrandir Oceania covers almost half the globe. An observer looking down from the sky would not be able to see both its westernmost extremity (the whole of Australia) and the east coast of America. Cartographically the distance between the west coast of Australia and Easter Island is 136 degrees. If we calculate the distance reaching to as far as the South American coast, it becomes 175 degrees, which is, in fact, almost half the world. It can be seen that the subdivisions inherited from Dumont d’Urville (we shall call this the “DU” model) appear on this contemporary school map of the world: “Melanesia” and “Micronesia” (on the far left of the photo) and “Polynesia” (in the centre).

Serge Tcherkézoff 2007, personal map of the world, unsourced]

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Pacific Map 2: Satellite view of Oceania


Agrandir A NASA photograph enables us to appreciate the actual size of the different land masses above sea level (it is an optical illusion that Australia and New Guinea appear to be joined due to the fact that the sea is very shallow at that point and the resulting colour on the photo is as pale as that of dry land).

[Serge Tcherkézoff 2007, information shown on a NASA photograph, not ©]

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Pacific Map 3: Political Oceania


Agrandir Representation of the political entities of Oceania. The contours are simplified and do not show the precise limits of the legal application of maritime rights, etc.

[Serge Tcherkézoff 2007, information shown on a general map, 1997, from the World FactBook, not ©]


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Pacific Map 4: The Dumont d’Urville model in textbooks


Agrandir Contours of the subdivisions of Oceania (DU model) according to the simplified presentation usually found in textbooks. It is easy to understand why people often talk about the “Polynesian triangle”.

[©Lorenzo Brutti 2007, map drawn up by L. Brutti, CNRS engineer at CREDO]


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Pacific Map 5: The Dumont d’Urville model on the map


Agrandir More realistic contours of the same DU model subdivisions.

[Serge Tcherkézoff 2007, information shown on a general map, 1997, from the World FactBook, not ©]



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Pacific Map 6: Remote/Near Oceania


Agrandir Contour of the division which should replace the DU model in all textbooks, but which remains the specialist knowledge of archeologists and linguists. The “Remote/Near Oceania” model was proposed by the archeologist Roger Green and the linguist Andrew Pawley (see concluding chapter).

[Serge Tcherkézoff 2007, information shown on a general map, 1997, from the World FactBook, not ©]


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Pacific Map 7: “Austronesian” migrations


Agrandir Diagrams showing the migrations of the “Austronesian” speakers who crossed the border of Near Oceania, sailing for the first time beyond the south of the Solomon Islands. The dates relate to the present.

[Serge Tcherkézoff 2007, diagrams shown on a general map, 1997, from the World FactBook, not ©]




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We now turn to the history of the Western cartographic view of Oceania (maps 8-23).

An important first phase clearly precedes the explorations of the Pacific. It has its origins in notions laid down in antiquity and produces the richly decorated maps of the 15th and 16th centuries (maps 8-9). Some maps of the world, dating from the Middle Ages, are different, being simply pious illustrations of the Book of Genesis; they do not concern us. Others are part of a strictly geographic pre-Christian tradition, going back to Greek antiquity, and are of interest because they suppose the existence of a southern continent. On the one hand, we have the tradition of maps representing the continents as islands surrounded by primordial oceans, which would seem date back to Eratosthenes, Posidonius, Strabo, etc., and on the other, the so-called “Ptolemy” tradition (Crates, Hipparchus, Ptolemy…) of a world dominated by the land masses, with Africa and Asia continuing southward in an immense southern continent.

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Pacific Map 8: 1521: The world surrounded by oceans


Agrandir The first model, a very simple one, is a conceptualisation involving both primordial oceans surrounding the three continents (very small in size) as well as three distinct climatic zones: cold or even frozen (frigida), temperate (temperata) and torrid (perusta).

The idea of one great ocean surrounding three small continents (Europe, Asia and Africa) goes back to very ancient times. Later, the hypothesis of unknown lands located beyond these was added and, during the latter centuries BC, developed into the hypothesis of a continent situated beyond the South Seas, a continent which could not be reached but whose existence was supposed.
The names antipodes (“opposite feet), antichthones (“those from the other side of the earth”), antarktos (the arktos being the North Pole, from the Greek word for “bear” referring to the constellation of stars forming the Little Bear in which we find the pole star indicating the north), terms already employed by the Greek philosophers and geographers, were used to designate this continent. People were convinced that this world “on the other side” would never be known as it lay beyond the impassable ocean—impassable because it was “torrid” or, at least, on the edges of the “torrid” lands—and which flowed around the middle of the world. The existence of the world “on the other side” was nevertheless certain, for reasons concerning the “balance” of the world (a key notion in Greek philosophy): the land masses of Eurasia had to have a counterweight elsewhere, as all those who supposed the existence of the Antipodes asserted.

Presented here is a map from 1521, in a new edition of a fifth-century work by Macrobius. As on all the maps of this “Macrobius” model, the ocean waves flow right around the world, but also right across the equatorial region. On these maps, the polar extremities are declared “uninhabitable” (inabitabilis) and, of course, frozen (frigida). The torrid (perusta) zone includes southern Africa, the equatorial ocean and the north of the southern continent.  But Africa is entirely in the northern hemisphere.  It will be noted that the southern continent, with its three parts, including that of the temperata antipodum nobis incognita (“the temperate zone of the Antipodes which is unknown to us”), continues a long way up and therefore also possesses, like the Europe-Asia-Africa block, a “temperate” (temperata) zone, as well as the “torrid” zone above and the “frozen” zone below: unknown but therefore, in theory, inhabitable and perhaps inhabited since it is temperate (the belief in a southern continent so vast that part of it had a temperate climate would persist until the time of the classic eighteenth-century voyages). The view of Africa as being so abbreviated, reduced to a territory smaller than Europe, is a result of the belief in the great equatorial ocean thought to go right round the centre of the world, while another circled the world via the poles. It was not until the end of the 15th century that the Portuguese voyagers would realise the full extent of the African continent.

This map, drawn up on a pictorial model that can be traced back to the 11th century, was published in a new edition of a work from the 5th century AD which was widely read because it represented a veritable neo-Platonian treatise: the commentary by Microbius (a philosopher and high-ranking official of the Roman Empire in Spain) of “Scipio’s Dream” by Cicero: Macrobii Aurelii Theodosii viri consularis in Somnium Scipionis libri duo, et septem eiusdem libri Saturnaliorum (1521, Sanctam Coloniam, Eucharium Ceruicornum).

[© James Ford Bell Library, University of Minnesota, call number 1521fMA, photograph provided with kind permission to be published here]

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Pacific Map 9: 1482: The world surrounded by southern lands


Agrandir What is referred to as the “Ptolemy” tradition uses concepts set out in Ptolemy’s Geography, dating from the 2nd century AD, which were themselves based on those of earlier authors. The texts, preserved and rediscovered by Byzantine scholars at the end of the 13th century (though some had already been translated in the Arab world) had a strong influence on Europe from the very beginning of the 15th century onwards (with the first translation into Latin). Maps have been reconstructed from the text of the Geography (the original maps do not appear to have been preserved). They show a great southern continent “terra incognita secundum Ptolemeum”.

The map presented here is characteristic of this tradition. Africa in the west and India in the east widen out in their southern parts into one enormous continent which occupies the whole of the known southern world and which, on all these maps, is marked terra incognita secundum Ptolemeum (“unknown land [mapped] according to Ptolemy”), a note added, in very small letters and with some typographic abbreviations, in the western part of the continent, in the southern most part of Africa, above the name Ethiopia interior and, in the eastern part, above the inscription Mare prasodum).

This kind of map which attributes half the globe, 180 degrees, to the expanse of land between the west coast of Europe and the east coast of India, that is twice the area that there in fact is, may have led Christopher Columbus to believe that, by going “round the other side”, by navigating westwards, the sea route from Europe to India would be only 180 degrees and therefore not too long. When he sighted land, after his long voyage, he very logically thought he was at the doors of India, when in fact he was discovering what would soon be called a “new world”.

This map, a wood engraving, is part of the Ulm edition of Ptolemy’s Cosmographia, produced in 1482 by Nicholas Germanus, a cartographer and illuminator.

[© Bibliothèque royale de Belgique/KBR, call number Inc. C 94 LP, open access photograph <cartanciennes.free.fr>,with the permission of the KBR for its publication here]

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Next there begins the era of maps resulting from maritime exploration, traced here from 1536 to 1845 (maps 10-23).

This era can be divided into:
1 – the period before the great voyages of the 18th century (Bougainville, Cook, etc.), up until the 1760s (maps 10-16),
2 – next the maps postdating these great voyages, produced at the beginning of the 19th century with the almost definitive contours of the archipelagos, but predating the division which the Dumont d’Urville (DU) model would create (maps 17-19),
3 – finally, appearing in 1832, the DU model whose extremely rapid dissemination shall be traced until 1845 (maps 20-23).

During this period Africa was to be detached from the southern continent from the 16th century onwards, as the Portuguese sailed round it in 1498. But America would remain attached for a long time. America was “discovered” in 1492 and what was known of it appeared on the maps from 1502 on. In 1520, Magellan sailed round South America, through the straits which would then bear his name, but geographers will believe that the land he saw to the port side (the “Land of Fire”, Tierra del Fuego) was a projection of the southern continent. Consequently, on most maps the southern tip of America was to remain joined to it until the end of the 18th century.

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Let us examine the first set of maps which concerns the period before the great voyages (maps 10-16).

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Pacific Map 10: Maritime exploration routes


Agrandir Outline of the maritime routes and the first dates of these exploratory voyages. Once the old overland route to the Indies (see the dotted line) was closed to the western world, one voyage of maritime exploration followed another. Before the end of the 15th century the Spanish were in Central America (1492), the English and the French had reached the Canadian coasts (1497, 1534) and the Portuguese had sailed around Africa (1488). In the 16th century Magellan had sailed round America (1520), crossed the Pacific and touched at Micronesia and the Philippines. The route from Mexico to the Philippines had been established (1564). The Spanish reached Polynesia (the Marquesas) in 1595. The Dutch were in Australia in the 17th century. Wallis “discovered” Tahiti in 1767.

[© Serge Tcherkézoff 2007, routes and dates shown on the general map Physical World of World FactBook, not ©]

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Pacific Map 11: 1536: The appearance of Terra australis


Agrandir The first time the existence of the southern continent was declared with certainty (as everyone was convinced that the land sighted, to port side, in 1520 by Magellan was the tip of this continent) seems to be on a map in the 1530s. This is the cordiform map of the world (drawn up on a German mathematic model of 1514) made by Orontius Finus (1494-1555), the first person to hold the chair of mathematics and astronomy at the Royal College founded in 1530. The Bibliothèque Nationale de France (BNF) dates it at 1536. On the southern continent can be read in capital letters: Terra australis nuper inventa sed non dum plene examinata (“Southern continent recently discovered but not yet completely examined”). The “not yet completely” will be appreciated when, on this map, the whole continent is lacking any local names, except on the tip of America (Tierra del Fuego, where the following inscriptions are engraved in very small letters: Terra del fier, C. de los fuegos, Serras de vaolas).

[© BNF Recens et integra orbis descriptio, Paris, 1536. Carte gravée sur bois et aquarellée (51 x 57 cm en 2 f. assemblés), BNF, Cartes et Plans, Rés. Ge DD 2987 (63), photograph purchased from the BNF, with permission for its publication here]

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Pacific Maps 12a, b: 1570: Typus Orbis Terrarum


AgrandirAgrandir Abraham Ortelius (1527-1598), the founder (with Mercator soon after) of Flemish cartography, is the author of this first production of maps on the same scale, which thus constitutes in fact the first atlas in history (Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, Anvers, 1570). The Typus Orbis Terrarum map of the world can also be found in it. As can be seen, Africa is henceforth detached from the southern continent, but America remains attached. The names in the Pacific are in Spanish: Mar del zur and (below) El Mar Pacifico. There are but two land groups above sea level on it, the only ones that had been found at this period of the late 1560s. The most visible is the big Nova Guinea, drawn as if it were slightly detached from the continent, but it could have been drawn attached because we can read (on the right) the inscription (see the close-up 12b): Nova Guinea nuper inventa que an sit insula an pars continentis australis incertum est (“… recently discovered, but it is not known whether it is an island or a part of the southern continent”). Just above, is a second group: the few islands sighted and named by the Magellan expedition, in Micronesia and the Philippines, such as I. Ladrones (“Rascals Island”, to immortalise the impression that the inhabitants wanted to take all the visitors’ belongings from them). The great southern continent is Terra Australis non dum cognita (“… not yet known”).

[© National Library of Australia (NLA), call number ID 1180467 / nk 10001; photograph purchased from the NLA, with permission for its publication here]

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Pacific Maps 13a, b: 1589: Maris Pacifici


AgrandirAgrandir In 1589 Ortelius produces the first map which, recognising the existence of the Pacific Ocean, is devoted to this part of the world and called Maris Pacifici (Maris Pacifici cum regionibus circumiacentibus, insulisque in eodem passim sparsis, novissima descriptio, with the date marked under the title, “The Pacific Ocean with the regions surrounding it, studded with islands… an entirely new description… 1589”). In the south of America, Terra del Fuego [sic] clearly remains a coast of the southern continent. The Pacific is Mare Pacificum quod vulgo nominant Mar del Zur (“the Pacific sea commonly called the South Sea” [with the Spanish form of the name]. The southern continent is Terra australis sive magellanica non dum detecta (“the southern or Magellan continent which is not yet known”). For the archipelagos, a newcomer appears in addition to the two land groups marked in 1570: the Solomons archipelago (Insulae Salomonis), encountered by Mendaña in 1568 (see the close-up 13b). (This map would also be Plate 6 of the next edition—the fourth—of the Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, Anvers, 1609.)

[© NLA, call number ID 130523 / nk1528; photograph purchased from the NLA, with permission for its publication here]

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Pacific Maps 14 a, b, c: 1755: The known world according to Bellin


AgrandirAgrandirAgrandir








Nearly two centuries later, but still before the beginning of the great classic voyages (Cook, etc.), the Pacific also included part of Australia (“New Holland”), where various Dutch voyagers had landed, then Dampier, and part of the New Zealand coast, where Tasman had landed, as well as the Marquesas, which Mendaña sighted in 1595 and the islands of western Polynesia which Le Maire and Schouten came across on their voyage. Depending on the maps produced at the time, the unknown sections are nevertheless either drawn in according to the cartographer’s imagination, as in this map of the world by Bellin from 1755 (see 14 a, b, c: general map and two close-ups of the Pacific), or left uncontoured, as in the map by Boullanger from 1760 (see below). As the cartouche of the Bellin map indicates, Jacques-Nicolas Bellin (1703-1772) was an “Engineer of the Navy and of the Plans Depository”; the map was commissioned by the “French Minister of Justice, the Minister and Secretary of State having the Department of the Navy” and entitled “Reduced map of the known parts of the globe, drawn up at the Charts, Plans and Journals Depository for the Navy”.

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Pacific Maps 15 a, b: 1760: The known world according to Boullanger


AgrandirAgrandir The second map (15 a, b: a general map and a close-up of the Pacific) indicates in the cartouche “drawn up by Mr Boullanger, his Majesty’s engineer, in Paris, by Lattré engravers… 1760). The BNF attributes it to Nicolas-Antoine Boulanger (despite the spelling difference) (1722-1759), a civil engineer, the author of historical and religious texts and a keen geologist, but he is not known to have been a cartographer.  The map is entitled “New map of the world dedicated to the progress of our knowledge”. The note printed below it certainly seems to be the work of a non-specialist: he finds it remarkable—and calls for this “law of nature” to be studied—that America and Asia form the borders of one of the hemispheres and that the other consists solely of sea; he also finds it remarkable that the “Paris meridian” should thus be perfectly situated in the middle. This gives us the impression of him being a novice confronted with a model which is not his own—and indeed, this model of the world in two hemispheres, centred on France, had existed for a long time.

[© BNF, call number GeDD2987 (0105)B / IFN-7710426, open access photograph <cartanciennes.free.fr>,with the permission of the BNF for its publication here]

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Pacific Maps 16 a, b: 1756: the Charles de Brosses model


AgrandirAgrandir During this period before the classic voyages, the first subdivision of Oceania (not yet so named) was proposed by Charles de Brosses in 1756 and presented on the map, drawn up by Robert de Vaugondy, “his Majesty’s ordinary geographer, member of the Royal Academy of Science and Literature of Nancy” which can be found at the end of volume 1 of his Histoire des navigations aux Terres Australes: “General map representing the seas of the Indies, the Pacific and the Atlantic, and principally the Southern World, divided into Australasia, Polynesia and Magellania”. Our region then is divided into two blocks: “Australasia” for the whole region of the archipelagos of Southeast Asia, of Australia, of the lands above (New Guinea and other neighbouring islands) and the coasts of New Zealand, and “Polynesia” for all the archipelagos to the east of Australia. We saw in Chapter 5 that de Brosses divides the “southern world” (which extends across the whole south of the globe) into three land groups, each linked to one of the three seas, as the title of this map reminds us. For the maps of Oceania, the “Australasia/Polynesia” model (which will often also be written as “Australia/Polynesia”, this “Australia” including “New Holland”, New Guinea and New Zealand) would last a long time, until it was replaced by the Dumont d’Urville (DU) model. We find this “Australasia/Polynesia” model up until the last third of the 19th century in Anglo-American atlases before they adopt the DU model, but in France it gives way to the DU model as soon as this appears (see below). De Brosses’s map is presented on two pages, with its title on the first page (end of volume 1, map pages unnumbered, following page 463). We have slightly enlarged this first page.

[Copyright BNF, call number 4-P-12 (1 & 2) and NUMM-75140, with the permission of the BNF for its publication here]

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Pacific Map 17: 1804: The “Great Ocean”


Agrandir This is a map from 1804, drawn up by Arrowsmith and revised by J.-N. Buache “of the National Institute of Sciences and the Arts”, appearing as Plate no. 30 in the Atlas published in 1804 in Paris by Dentu which accompanied the French translation of J. Pinkerton’s Modern Geography, drawn up on a new plan

[© Serge Tcherkézoff 2007, document owned by the author]



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Pacific Map 18: 1809: The “Oceanic” (the invention of the names “Oceanic” and “Oceania”)


Agrandir In the same year, 1804, Malte-Brun proposed the name “Oceanic” for the whole of de Brosses’s Australasia + Polynesia. In 1813 Malte-Brun confirmed and insisted on the name (see references, Chapter 8). While many atlases were nevertheless to retain de Brosses’s division, and then replace it by the DU model after 1832, the maps produced under Malte-Brun’s authority abolish it.

We see here the first map to bear the name “Oceanic”. It was drawn up by P. Lapie in 1809 (engraved by Chamouin) and published in 1810 in the Atlas which accompanied the publication of the first two volumes of the Précis de la Géographie Universelle… par M. Malte-Brun: Collection de cartes géographiques dirigées par M. Malte-Brun, dressées par M. Lapie et Poirson… [Summary of the Universal Geography…by Mr Malte-Brun: Collection of geographical maps edited by Mr Malte-Brun, drawn up by Mr Lapie and Mr Poirson…] Paris, Buisson, 1810 (the maps are not numbered; the map of the “Oceanic” is the 19th out of 24.

[© Serge Tcherkézoff 2007, document owned by the author]

This one map of the “Oceanic” is then divided into three parts, “western” (Southeast Asia), “central” and “eastern”, in the next atlas, published in 1812 (Malte-Brun, Atlas supplémentaire de 51 cartes dressées par P. Lapie, Paris, Buisson). These maps are not presented here as they add nothing, and in Chapter 8 I have described the content of this proposed three-part division. This division would not gain widespread acceptance with these names and the “Australasia/Polynesia” (or “Asia/Australasia/Polynesia”) terminology still prevailed.

The other notable fact during the years 1810 to 1830 is the rapid appearance of the term “Oceania” instead of the “Oceanic”, but on the same type of map. Its first appearance dates from 1816 and is the work of Adrien Hubert Brué to whom we therefore owe this modification of the name. The title of the map is “Oceania or the fifth part of the world, including the archipelago of Asia, Australasia and Polynesia (or the continent of New Holland and the Islands of the Great Ocean)”. It is made up of four plates, numbered 37-40 in the Grand Atlas Universel, ou collection de cartes encyprotypes générales et détaillées des cinq parties du monde, published by the same A. H. Brué (Paris, Desray, 1816). In the map’s cartouche is written “1814, revised and enlarged in 1816 and 1817, Desray… and J. Goujon”. As the title indicates, the regional denomination was still the one we know: “the archipelago of Asia, Australasia and Polynesia”. A note below the title gives details about the division. The “great archipelago of Asia” includes… What the list includes covers everywhere we today call Southeast Asia.  “Australasia” includes “New Holland and Van Diemen’s Land, taken from the maps… of Freycinet and Flinders, New Zealand according to the maps of Cook…, New Guinea according to… , New Britain, the Solomon Islands, the Louisiade Archipelago, Santa Cruz, the Land of El Spiritu Santo, New Caledonia, taken from the maps… Finally, “Polynesia” includes… Here the list of the names of archipelagos covers what today is called Micronesia, Polynesia and the Fiji Islands (see the details about reproduction, with possible enlargements, offered by the NLA, call number MAP RM 575A).

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The third and last set of our collection of maps is that of the DU model (maps 19-23). In 1832 a new division was proposed, by Dumont d’Urville. It stemmed from a racial rather than a geographic view; that is why we must first present the contribution of Bory de Saint-Vincent who, from 1825-27, largely prepares the ground for the invention of “Melanesia”.

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Pacific Map 19 a, b, c: 1825-27: Bory de Saint-Vincent’s racial model


Agrandir AgrandirAgrandir







The years from 1810 to 1830 saw the beginning of competition between scientists to propose models of the human “races” throughout the world. We saw in Chapter 7 that Bory de Saint-Vincent undoubtedly holds one of the records for the number of races listed (15 races, several of which have subdivisions), presented in his article of 1825 (see ref. in Chapter 7). It was there that he explained his invention of the “Melanian” race (pp. 323-325). These races were placed on the map of the “Distribution primitive du genre humain à la surface du globe” [Early distribution of the human race on the surface of the globe], published in 1827 (Atlas Encyclopédique contenant les cartes et planches relatives à la géographie physique, par M. Desmarest de l’Académie des Sciences et M. le Colonel Bory de Saint-Vincent, Paris, Mme Veuve Agasse, 1827) (this map would also be published in 1831 in the last of the volumes of the Dictionnaire1822-1831 quoted above). Each race was identified by a colour (shown on key to the left of the map) which defined the contours of the place assigned to these populations on the map. This atlas presented the term “Melanian” for the first time on a map and the habitat of the Melanians, who occupied New Guinea (apart from the far western region), New Ireland, the Solomons, the New Hebrides, New Caledonia, the Fijis and, in the south of Australia, Van Diemen’s Land (as for Australia, called here “Australasia”, it was inhabited by a different race termed “Australasian”). Dumont d’Urville would simply have to put Australia together with the first list and change “Melanians” to “Melanesians”.

[© BNF, call number 4-G-1203, with the permission of the BNF for its publication here]

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Pacific Map 20: 1832: Dumont d’Urville’s “Oceania”


Agrandir The presentation of the subdivisions proposed by Dumont d’Urville published in the Bulletin de la Société de Géographie included, on the first page, a map carving out the new regions of “Malaysia, Melanesia, Micronesia, Polynesia” by means of a dotted line. The same map, showing differently coloured areas for better differentiation, was published in 1833 in the account of the Voyage of the Astrolabe.This is the map presented here: “Carte pour l’intelligence du mémoire de M. le Capitaine d’Urville sur les îles du Grand Océan (Océanie), J. Tastu Editeur, D & G [dessiné et gravé] par A. Tardieu: Voyage de l’Astrolabe – partie historique” [Map for understanding Captain d’Urville’s memoir on the islands of the Great Ocean (Oceania), J. Tastu Publisher, D & G [drawn and engraved] by A. Tardieu: Voyage of the Astrolabe – historical part], included in the Voyage de La corvette l'Astrolabe executé pendant les années 1826-27-28-29… par M. Jules Dumont d’Urville, Partie historique, Paris, J. Tastu, 1833.

[© NLA, call number nk2456-73, with the permission of the NLA for its publication here]].

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Pacific Map 21: 1832: “Oceania according to the last discoveries”


Agrandir This model became established in France surprisingly rapidly, which shows the extent to which it corresponded to expectations formed by a long history of racial ideas in scientific thought. Its incorporation into the scientific atlases happened in a matter of months. In 1832 (date marked on the map) the “Carte de l’Océanie d’après les dernières découvertes, publiée par J. Andriveau-Goujoun, Paris, 1832” [Map of Oceania according to the latest discoveries, published by Andriveau-Goujoun, Paris, 1832] was produced. It marks out with a dotted line, accentuated by the use of colour, the four regions of the DU model. The names of the four regions are not written on the map itself but shown in a box inserted in the bottom left-hand corner, each name being followed by a note on the type of “peoples” and “races” which repeats the characteristics given by d’Urville. This is worth quoting at length:
“DIVISION OF OCEANIA BY PEOPLES according to Captain d’Urville:
Malaysia [with an orange line]: Yellow race, Originating in Asia: the languages used are the Malay language in the Sunda Islands and the Moluccas; the Tagalog and Visayan languages in the Philippines.
Melanesia [with a red line]: Black Race. Wretched, fierce and stupid peoples. No form of government or laws or religious culture is found among them.
Polynesia [with a yellow line]: Copper-coloured Peoples, who speak a common language and are slaves to the Taboo superstition.
Micronésie [with a blue line]: Copper-coloured Peoples, who speak different languages and have no knowledge of Taboo.”
This legend epitomises the thinking of the time. For the regions of the “yellow race” or “copper-coloured peoples”, only the languages and the presence or absence of the society of the Taboo are mentioned. But, for Melanesia, it has to be pointed out, if only briefly, that everything there is abominable and contemptible! The map was later published in 1835 in the Atlas Classique et Universel de Géographie ancienne et moderne… publié par J. Andriveau-Goujon, à Paris, chez l’Editeur [Classical and universal atlas of ancient and modern geography… published by J. Andriveau-Goujon, in Paris, at the Publisher’s].

[© Serge Tcherkézoff 2007, document owned by the author]

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Pacific Map 22: 1835: “Melanesia”


Agrandir Soon after, in 1835, the first map with the name “Melanesia” was produced, with the drafting faithfully following the DU model. Engraved by Thierry, it will appear as map no. 86 in all the atlases “by Malte-Brun” (but posthumously: “new edition revised and corrected by J. J. N. Huot” etc., the editions of 1837, 1843, etc.). The 1843 edition is reproduced here: Précis de la Géographie Universelle ou Description de toutes les parties du monde sur un plan nouveau… par Malte-Brun, nouvelle édition revue, corrigée et augmentée… par J.-J.-N. Huot [Summary of the Universal Geography or Description of all of the parts of the world according to a new plan… by Malte-Brun, new edition, revised, corrected and augmented… by J.-J.-N. Huot], Paris, Bureau des Publications Illustrées, 1843.

[© Serge Tcherkézoff 2007, document owned by the author]

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Pacific Map 23 a, b: 1843-45: From scientific societies to colleges and schools


AgrandirAgrandir The new model passed swiftly from scientific atlases to school textbooks: it took no more than a decade. The map presented here is of great interest because it makes this transition visible by reproducing both the old and the new model. Depending on where one of the two boundaries is situated, the Fijian archipelago is in “Polynesia”… or is no longer there.

In 1843, V. Monin, a member of the Société de Géographie, published the Atlas Classique de la Géographie ancienne, du Moyen Age et Moderne, A l’Usage des Collèges et Pensions, pour servir à l’étude de la géographie et de l’histoire, année scolaire 1843-1844 [Classical Atlas of ancient Geography, Geography of the Middle Ages and Modern Geography, for Use in Colleges and Schools, for the purpose of the study of geography and history, school year 1843-1844] (Paris, Perisse Frères, n.d.). The 22nd map is entitled “Oceania by C.V. Monin” (some of the other maps in this atlas edited by Monin are shown as “drawn up by…” other names) and “engraved by Laguillermie” (other maps in the atlas are “engraved by Lale”, etc.). The general name for the ocean is “Great Ocean”, followed by (in smaller letters) “Pacific Ocean or South Sea”. The map has a dual system of division. First, with a line alternating dots and long lines, in green, we find the long-established division between Australasia and Polynesia (unnamed), the western part (Australasia) including New Zealand but not Fiji. At the bottom of the map on the left, under the title “Divisions of Oceania”, the legend explains:
“in the North and in the East, Polynesia; in the Centre, Australia or Australasia; in the West Gt. Indian Arch. (=Archipelago), Malaysia, etc.: Division adopted by the geographers”.

And then, with a line alternating dashes and vertical lines, we find the four regions of the DU model (with each contour drawn in a different colour), and in the legend, placed just below the first, is written:
“in the North, Micronesia; in the East, Polynesia; in the Centre, Melanesia; in the West, Malaysia: Division by race of men adopted by Mr. d’Urville”.

[© Serge Tcherkézoff 2007, document owned by the author]

This is the last French map, it would seem, still mentioning the old “geographers’” division. It is also the last time that the Fijian archipelago could remain in “Polynesia”. The enlargement in the central part (our map 23b) is a good indication of the Fijian issue. Let us note that, at the time, everyone is aware that the new division proposed by Dumont d’Urville is a division “by race of men”, different from the “geographers’” division. But later, once this division had been constantly reproduced and remained the only division marked on the maps of the Pacific, it would become a de facto “geographic” one—and its origin “by race” would be forgotten.  This is still the case today in all textbooks.

From 1845 onwards, school atlases only mark the DU model, as we can see for example on the “Oceania” map, the 35th map in the Atlas Universel de géographie ancienne et moderne à l’usage des pensionnats [Universal Atlas of ancient and modern geography for use in schools], by Alexandre Aimée Vuillemin (Paris, J. Langlumé and Peltier, 1845). Around this time illustrated atlases appear, the most popular being Victor Lavasseur’s, published in Paris (A. Combette) in numerous editions from 1846 on. The “Oceania” map, engraved by Laguillermie, naturally reproduces the DU model and remains unchanged through the different editions of the Levasseur atlas, with the decorative scenes left in black and white or hand-coloured depending on the editions, the only notable change being, as in all atlases from the 1850s on, the appearance of coloured areas for maps and the abandonment of the coloured line drawn with a fine brush, by hand, on the contours of continents and islands. The 1846 edition has been used for the cover of the present work.

[© Serge Tcherkézoff 2007, document owned by the author]

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