By: Jacques Nicolas Bellin
Date: 1744 (dated) Paris
Dimensions: 15.5 x 22 inches (39.5 x 56 cm)
This is a fine, uncolored example of Jacques Bellin’s landmark map of colonial America as seen through the lens of French interests. This antique map displays newly acquired information from the exploration of the American interior and massive French claim of La Louisiana by Pierre François-Xavier de Charlevoix in 1720-21.
Examining the Map
The map centers on the Mississippi River and La Louisiane which extends from the Spanish territory of New Mexico in the west to the Appalachian Mountains in the East that separates La Louisiane from the English Colonies along the eastern seaboard. The map extends north enough to include the Great Lakes of Michigan, Huron, Erie, and Ontario but not Lake Superior. All of present-day Texas is depicted in the south as well as most of Florida save for the southern archipelago, the exact shape of which had perplexed map makers for ages.
Some cartographic inaccuracies include the general shape of Michigan and Florida as well as the near connection of the Missouri River and Rio Grande (named R. Bravo or R. del Norte). A multitude of Native American nations and villages can be found throughout the map as well as a smattering of French forts and frontier outposts. Some tribes found in this map worth mentioning are the Iroquois, Huron, Cherokee, Miami, Chickasaw, Sioux, Osage, and Apache to name a few.
Pierre François-Xavier de Charlevoix Travels in North America
Pierre François-Xavier de Charlevoix, a French Jesuit priest set out for the new world under the request of the Duke of Orleans with a mission to determine a viable path to the Pacific and record the current state of the colonies in New Fance and La Louisiane. In September of 1720 he reached Quebec and with information attained by French fur trappers made his way through the Great Lakes, at one point reaching Green Bay before heading to the southern end of Lake Michigan. From there he took the St. Joseph River to the Illinois, reaching the Mississippi River by 1721. He spent time traveling the Mississippi and exploring Illinois country before heading south to New Orleans, effectively ending his expedition.
After his return to France he would eventually compile his notes and maps for the publication of Histoire et description générale de la Nouvelle France in 1744 of which this map along with several others was included. The book would quickly become recognized as the most significant study of the American interior to date and its map would influence many others to follow.
Importance of Bellin's Map
Thomas Jefferson owned a copy of the work and it no doubt helped influence his decision to purchase the Louisiana Territory from Napoléon Bonaparte in 1803. The acquisition of the Louisiana Territory more than doubled the size of the United States and set the wheels in motion for the Lewis and Clark expedition by way of the Missouri that disappears into the top left corner of the map leaving it the only viable option for a waterway to the Pacific.
Condition: This map is in A condition, in its original uncolored state with no tears that extend into the map. The left margin is narrow in places and in two areas comes right up to the neatline. Such narrow margins are somewhat common for this map.
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