Long before the emergence of digital technology, it took the genius and efforts of exploration, observation, mathematics, geometry and drawing to be able to create charts and maps of the world. Early cartography illustrator required plenty of ingenuity and perhaps a little interpretation to create maps that are now considered as works of art.
Centuries ago, it was not easy to get a bird’s eye view of Sydney because there were no drones or satellites. A good example is the elevated view of the Garden Palace in Sydney’s International Exhibition that was created in 1880. Together with other intriguing maps of Sydney, the best example of bird’s eye view maps are displayed in an exhibition called Cartographica at Customs House.
The map of Port Jackson in 1935 showed that the port was buzzing with activity. The map included the 3-year old Harbour Bridge, Taronga Zoo and a plane flying over Dobroyd Point as sign of the times. Illustrator Adrian Feint probably wanted to refer to the first commercial air service on Australian National Airways that carried mail and passengers to Brisbane in 1932.
According to Margaret Betteridge, curator of the Civic Collection at the City of Sydney, the exhibition also includes an interesting bird’s eye view of the harbor in 1913 showing Garden Island as a separate island in the harbor before it was joined to the mainland. This did not happen until World War II making it an interesting feature in updating maps.
A map created during 1990 shows the importance of GPO as a marker for maritime transport to Sydney. A system of raising flags on top of the GPO would announce the arrival of steamers carrying mail. Those who were expecting mail would look out for the relevant flag. The clock tower was an indicator of weather because a flag will be raised if there is a thunderstorm coming from the South Coast.
Technology has greatly helped the cartographic illustrator in illustrating maps. In the past, map illustrators have to climb mountains and trees to view prospects. It is surprising how map illustrators centuries ago were able to cover great areas to get their artistic perspectives.