De l’Isles landmark map of Canada

De l'Isle, Guillame, Carte du Canada ou de la Nouvelle France. Amsterdam, 1703/ca. 1708-61.
Engraving with etched detail, 19 x 22.25 inches. Outline color.

Dramatic map depicting northeastern North America between Baffin Bay and the latitude of Philadelphia. Shown are extensive details of settlements, forts, waterways (real and imagined), and native American territories. The large cartouche shows flora and fauna, native Americans, and French missionaries at work, all surmounted by the French fleur-de-lis. The strength of the impression and the stark contrast between the extensive detail in the East and the immense emptiness in the West, combine to give this map an exceedingly dramatic appearance.

De l’Isle was known for the rigor of his maps, relying whenever possible on the latest and best reports available. Carte du Canada was the best map of the Great Lakes to date, relying on the reports of French explorers, trappers and missionaries who had pushed down the St. Lawrence and into the vast network of interior waterways. Its value was such that it remained in print through much of the eighteenth century and influenced many other maps of the region.

Relying on the latest reports has its risks, however. Following the recently published reports of Louis Armand, Baron de Lahontan, De l’Isle includes a “Riviere longue” flowing from a western mountain range into the Mississippi. This fictitious river would have fueled belief in a relatively easy water passage to the Pacific. De l’Isle may have been suspicious, however: he is careful to include an extensive note attributing the river’s “discovery” to Lahontan.

De l’Isle’s map was first printed in 1703, and the item offered here was pulled from a very close copy of the original plate engraved in 1708. Both plates remained in use for decades and passed through several hands.

Very good, with nice margins and crisp paper. Small centerfold separations and a tiny ink stain in the cartouche.

McCorkle, New England in Early Printed Maps, 703.5; Schwarz and Ehrenberg, The Mapping of America, pp.135-7, pl. 80.


Very good