By: Vincenzo Maria Coronelli
Date: 1688 (dated) Paris
Dimensions: 17.5 x 23.25 inches
A superb example of the earliest map to focus on the upper Mississippi River and Great Lakes Region, by Vincenzo Maria Coronelli. Published separately in 1688, many contemporary sources were drawn from for making the map including Joliet, Marquette, Hennepin and La Salle. The map would remain the standard for the next half century as it provides evidence of the robust and multi-faceted exploration of the region by the French in the second half of the 17th century.
The north shore of Lake Erie depicts the three peninsulas for the first time. The Mississippi River system is highlighted, and marks the cutting off point for place names. A long ridge of mountains is drawn to the west of the river, referring no doubt to the Rocky Mountains. Beyond them we find scenes of indigenous peoples going about their daily lives. Considerable attention is given to the various indigenous tribes and the areas they inhabit. To the east of the river is depicted the making of a canoe.
The scale of miles cartouche includes the unnerving depiction of a human torso being roasted on a spit. The title cartouche depicts Europeans with muskets defending themselves at the top of a rocky outcropping, at the bottom of which a group of scantily clad men are aiming their arrows at a small herd of cattle.
The importance of the map is discussed as follows by Burden.
The whole bears a myriad of legends referring to points of interest and events. Lake Frontenac (Ontario) is named after the contemporaneous Governor of New France. Identified near Niagara Falls is Fort Conty, built by La Salle in 1679.
The north shore of Lake Erie indicates the three peninsulas for the first time in print. LAGO ILINOIS, o MICHIGAMI is the first appearance of the Melchisedech Thevenot map of 1681. At its southern point is Chekagou o Portage, the first mention of this name [Chicago] on a printed map. Lake Superior is clearly derived from the account of Father Claude Dablon. Lac Nadovessans to its north-west derives from the account written by Louis Hennepin and published in 1683 of his travels with La Salle up the Mississippi in 1679-80.
Two further forts built by La Salle are identified. Fort des Miamis at the southern tip of Lake Michigan, which would later become Fort Saint-Joseph. Fort Crevecoeur was constructed on the shores of Lake Peoria on the Illinois River. The river is given its alternative name of Seignelay after Jean-Baptiste Colbert, the Marquis of Seignelay, and the most formidable minister in France. Travelling north we pass the Misconsin River identified as the point at which in 1673 Marquette and Jolliet were the first Europeans to enter the Mississippi River. Further downriver the Missouri is labelled Riu. Des Ozages, and the Riviere Ouabache refers to the Ohio.
Virtually the only error of judgement that can be labelled is the placing of a large mountain range along the western shore of the Mississippi, presumably a reference to the Rocky Mountains, about which the explorers had already heard.