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The Classic Robert Logan Jack Map Collection.

The Classic Robert Logan Jack Map Collection, by Ross Thomas.

Melbourne: Ross Thomas, 1999. 1000 numbered copies. xii, 106 p. : ill, port., maps ; 420 x 297mm, hard bound. ISBN 0646370146. $300. Available from: Ross Thomas, Operations Manager, Mansell Mining and Shotcrete Services, PO Box 308, Mount Isa, QLD 4825. Ph 07 4749 1150 or 0405 550 4332.

Robert Logan Jack (1845-1921) was born in Scotland, and after studying law at the University of Edinburgh (but not geology) he worked from 1867 with the Geological Survey of Scotland, and then came to Australia in 1877. He was Geological Surveyor for Northern Queensland for two years, and then Queensland Government Geologist from 1879 to 1899, a total of 22 years. He explored and mapped the geology of the north of Queensland, and found many new mineral deposits (Jack, 2002; Hodgson, 1999a & b).

Ross Thomas, working almost a century later as an Inspector of Mines in the same government department, has collected Jack's maps and researched and edited the collection to produce this self-published book. The 47 maps, each reproduced in colour on a right-hand page, have a description and discussion on the facing left-hand page, each with a small outline map of Queensland indicating the area covered.

Short "chapters" or notes on Logan Jack, and his publications and maps, are illustrated with old photographs, and other additions include a bibliography and index. An epilogue (p. 97) includes photographs of Jack's gravesite in Waverley Cemetery in Sydney, now restored by the family (Branagan 2001), and also of the Memorial Cairn to Jack in the old Palmer River Goldfield in Queensland.

The book of 117 pages is attractively hardbound and gold-lettered in an A3 landscape format on a creamy-white paper. With all the attention given to presentation, a slipcase might have been a finishing touch.

The maps in this book are geological surveys of coal and mineral areas, mainly in the northern part of the colony. They also include details Jack observed while travelling en route and on side trips in the field. Logan Jack had a special interest in the eastern part of Cape York Peninsula. He mapped the route of the proposed transcontinental railway from Townsville to Cloncurry, and also reported on possible artesian water which later led to the Great Artesian Basin becoming a major resource for Queensland and beyond.

As much of the colony beyond the agricultural or pastoral lands was unmapped, he often had to carry out the initial topographic mapping himself. Later, to save the time of geologists, he requested that topographic mapping by surveyors should precede geological mapping, and in 1894 he had a lithographic draftsman appointed to prepare field maps for publication, also saving time for the field geologists. In coastal Queensland Jack used Admiralty Charts, filling in the land areas with dead reckoning, star sights, bearings to coastal headlands, and aneroid barometer altitude readings. He also mapped grass cover and water availability as an aid to those who would later use the maps.

Thomas describes the original map reproduction process (p. x). "A majority of the maps was produced by way of lithography whereby they were drawn on a flat, fine grained limestone slab in the reversed format. After the application of the required coloured ink, suitable printing paper was rolled onto the slab, thereby receiving the impression that constituted the final drawing. The maps were sometimes glued to a calico cloth backing to provide improved durability."

The maps in the book have been reproduced from the best available originals, by photographing the maps using a photoreprographic process to produce A3 size colour prints, which were then scanned. The final maps reproduced in the book show damage to the originals such as folds, repairs, foxing, fading (e.g. p. xii) and offsetting (e.g. p. 35). More important to the user, they sometimes appear to have lost their original edges--as examples, maps IV and V have detail obviously missing at the printed margins.

Most maps have been reduced or enlarged in scale, and this varies from map to map, without any indication being given. The aim has apparently been to fit all maps to the book's A3 format, so some maps are now overlarge and others are hard to read (a small magnifier is provided with the book). Where a bar scale and a representative factor (e.g. "Scale 8 Chains to an Inch") are given, it is possible to determine if the map has been enlarged or reduced in reproduction. However, some maps have a bar scale without numerals, or have no indication of the representative factor, making it difficult or impossible to determine the degree of enlargement or reproduction without a comparison with some other published map of the area.

Ross Thomas mentions "numerous cross-sections associated with his (Jack's) publications but these are not the subject matter of this book ..." (p. xii). To a geologist this is disappointing. Geological cross-sections are the deductions which justify the making of geological maps, by showing what is (probably) to be found below the surface. Geological sections also spell out the sequence of the region's rock units, and their relationships in space and time, allowing the map user to predict what may be found in areas covered by superficial and younger materials. In this sense they are part of the map legend, and indeed some early geological maps used an annotated cross-section as a legend. The geological map, however attractive, is only the field data set, but the cross-sections are the story! In fact, one small sketch-section does make its way into the book, in a corner of a map sheet where they are often to be found today.

The second part of the Appendix lists the "Complete Robert Logan Jack Maps"--a total of 74--with their dates of publication; the list includes 26 maps "excluded from this CLASSIC collection", some of which were only reprints of earlier (included) maps. Mention is made of other excluded maps (p. xii), including maps of underground mine workings, and maps that were too large to reduce to A3 size. Trying to follow the listing confused this reviewer!

Some maps not included in this book are Jack's maps of China (Branagan, 1997), and other maps he made after leaving the Queensland survey. One of his major Queensland maps has still not been located (p. xi)--Jack's 1879-1880 map of the Cape York Peninsula was lost before the accompanying report was tabled in Parliament, and although Jack was able to reconstruct much of the detail, it is still (one hopes) awaiting rediscovery. Later in life Jack was to use material from the lost map, and produce a series of maps which were incorporated into his book "Northmost Australia", published in 1922, a year after his death. On these maps he showed the routes of early explorers, from Dutch coastal explorers to Leichhardt and Kennedy, and also the routes of prospectors on Cape York (p. ix). These later maps are discussed briefly in the book under review, but not reproduced. They can however be found in the 1998 Hesperian Press facsimile reproduction of "Northmost Australia".

This is an attractive and useful book, but with some problems in its use. Most will find it fascinating to read, but less easy to use as a reference, given the scale problems in map reproduction. Some discussions in the text are difficult to follow, and the use throughout of ligatures (letters joined together when printed, e.g. s & t), a function of the type used, was annoying to this reviewer.

Despite idiosyncrasies of presentation the book will be valuable both for reference and reading pleasure. The presentation of the maps harks back to the original printed maps of the period, with their distinctive watercolour-like tones, hachures and lettering, and their fascinating historical and geological information.


Branagan, David, 1997, "Robert Logan Jack, geologist in China". In Wang Hongzhen, D.F. Branagan, Ouyang Ziyuan and Wang Xunlian (editors). Proceedings of the 30th Geological Congress volume 26. Comparative Planetology, Geological Education, History of Geology. VSP Utrecht. pp. 177-186.

Branagan, David. 2001. Three Geological Graves. The Australian Geologist, No. 121, p. 6.

Hodgson, Sandra. 1999a. Robert Logan Jack: not incurious in God's handiwork, The Historical Society, Cairns North Queensland Inc. Bulletin, no. 455, March 1999.

Hodgson, Sandra. 1999b. Robert Logan Jack: not incurious in God's handiwork, Royal Historical Society of Queensland Journal, vol. 17, no. 3, pp. 97- 116, August 1999.

Jack, Felicity, 2002. William Logan Jack: a biography. Logaston Press. Herefordshire. (Robert Logan Jack is also discussed in this family history.)

Jack, Robert L., 1922. Northmost Australia. George Robertson & Co. Brisbane. (2 vols). Facsimile edition published in 1998, by Hesperian Press, Victoria Park, WA., see rthmost_australia.htm

Bernie Joyce

Senior Research Fellow, School of Earth Sciences

The University of Melbourne, Vic, 3010
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Author:Joyce, Bernie
Publication:The Globe
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jan 1, 2003
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