Australia’s inland sea: Some maps are purely speculative, but the cartography can be striking nonetheless. This map accompanies Thomas J Maslen’s The Friend of Australia (1830), a work of pure theory in which the English writer suggests that there could be a wealth of river and fertile paradise lying hidden in the heart of Australia. The centrepiece of this colonial fantasy is a great lake the size of a small sea, placed plum in the desolate centre of what is now known as the Simpson Desert.
The history of cartography is littered with mistakes, myths and mendacity. From the magnetic mountain at the north pole to Australia’s inland sea, Edward Brooke-Hitching charts five centuries of misrepresentative maps...