Map of Australia by Johnson & Browning, 1861
Australia from Johnson's New Illustrated Family Atlas, published by Alvin Jewett Johnson and Ross C. Browning, 1861.
The Commonwealth of Australia consists of mainland Australia, Tasmania, and several nearby islands. It is located in the southern hemisphere and lies between latitude 9˚-44˚ S and longitude 112˚-154˚ E. Australia is the world's smallest continent but as a country it is the sixth largest by total area. Indonesia, East Timor, and Papua New Guinea are to the north, while the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, and New Caledonia lie to the northeast, and New Zealand is situated in the southeast. Regarded by some as the planet's largest island, Australia has twenty-one thousand two hundred sixty-two miles of coast. While a large portion of Australia is dominated by a semi-arid or desert climate, there are several other climate zones on the continent including temperate and tropical regions. Since Australia is an island it is geographically isolated and therefore many of the species that live there are endemic, meaning they only occur naturally in one location. This makes them particularly susceptible to environmental changes and increases the possibility of extinction. Examples of endemic species are the kangaroo and platypus.
Australia's earliest settlers reached the mainland somewhere between forty thousand and sixty thousand years ago according to archeological evidence. They were the ancestors of the indigenous peoples that Europeans would encounter in the seventeenth century. Indigenous Australians subsisted on hunting and gathering and were very conscious about using their resources sustainably. Their art is considered the oldest continuing artistic tradition in the world and often reflects their mythological beliefs, called the Dreamtime. At the time of European contact there were two hundred fifty individual Aboriginal nations. Each nation was comprised of multiple clans and had one or more languages unique to it. Population estimates range from three hundred fifty thousand to potentially seven hundred fifty thousand indigenous Australians prior to colonization. As Europeans began to arrive on the continent in greater numbers, Aborigines began to suffer rapid population decline. The British policy of terra nullis issued by the colonial office, in 1835, destroyed any possibility of indigenous Australians forming treaties with colonists, since it declared the land did not belong to anyone prior to European settlement. It has only been in the last several decades that injustices toward Aborigines have begun to be addressed and efforts made to improve treatment of indigenous peoples.
Dutch navigator, Willem Janszoon, was the first European to land in Australia, in 1606. Later that year a Spanish expedition, conducted by Pedro Fernandez de Quiros and Luis Vaez de Torres, was the first to navigate the straight between Australia and New Guinea. Several other Dutch explorers charted the coast of Australia (1616-1644) until they had collected enough information to compose a map of what they called New Holland. Pierre Purry proposed a plan for Dutch colonization, but it was dismissed, because the area lacked trade incentives. In 1770, James Cook charted the eastern coast of New Holland, which had been largely unexplored by the Dutch, and claimed it for Great Britain. Seventeen years later plans to establish a penal colony were put into motion. The First Fleet, carrying seven hundred seventy-eight convicts, arrived at Sydney Cove on January 26, 1788. New South Wales, as it was christened, was governed by Captain Arthur Phillips. These early settlers suffered from lack of supplies and illness in the beginning stages of the colony. However as more free settlers arrived conditions improved. Eventually Britain claimed control of the entire Australian continent and convict transportation was phased out from 1840 to 1868.
Western Australia was formed as a colony in 1826 and portions of New South Wales gradually broke off to form new colonies. The Port Phillip District established in 1834, would become Victoria in 1851, South Australia was established as a free colony in 1836, New Zealand became its own colony in 1840, and Queensland was established in 1859. Following federation in 1901 the colonies located on the mainland and Tasmania would become the six states that make up the Commonwealth today. Each state has its own parliament and a representative of the crown. This is a governor in the states, an administrator in the Northern Territory, and a governor-general in the Commonwealth.
Alvin Jewett Johnson (1827-1884) was an active and successful map publisher. In his youth he had received only a basic education. After briefly teaching, he went to work for J. H. Colton & Company as a book canvasser and salesman. In the mid-1850s Johnson began to publish maps with D. Griffing Johnson and in 1859 the firm negotiated a deal with J. H. Colton & Company. The exact terms of the agreement are uncertain, however, Johnson and his partner Ross C. Browning (1832-1899) obtained the right to publish Colton. To extend the life of the steel plates and decrease production costs, Johnson had the maps engraved onto lithographic stones to be used in printing. Johnson and Browning's first successful atlas was the New Illustrated Family Atlas, which was first published in 1860. Benjamin Ward bought out Browning's share in the company sometime in 1861 becoming Johnson's new partner. However, it wasn't until the 1864 edition of the New Illustrated Family Atlas that all of the Browning material was completely phased out. Johnson bought out Ward the following year, finally being the sole owner of the company. His Family Atlas enjoyed twenty-seven years of publication. In addition to atlases Johnson also began publishing cyclopedias in the 1880s. His son carried on the business for a few years following his death.
- Naomi Bean