The first published map of Detroit

[Jacques Nicholas Bellin], LA RIVIERE DU DETROIT Depuis le Lac Sainte Claire jusqu'an Lac Erie, [Paris, 1764].
Engraving, 8"h x 12.25"w plus very wide margins, outline color

Founded in 1701 by French-Canadian settlers under Antoine de la Motte Cadillac, Detroit occupied a critical location on the Detroit River between Lakes Erie and Huron. For decades it remained one of North America’s most strategically-significant settlements, controlling a key route from Canada to the Old Northwest and the Mississippi Valley. Captured by the British during the French and Indian War, by the 1760s it had grown to some 800 inhabitants, making it the largest population center between Montreal and New Orleans.

Based on surveys made by French engineer Gaspard-Joseph Chaussegros de Lery (1721-97) just before the outbreak of the War, this is the first printed map to focus on Detroit and its environs. The main map depicts the River and its immediate surroundings, including the many islands and safe anchorages, as well as farms, villages and other landmarks along both shores. Detroit may be seen on the north bank of the river near its head at Lac Ste. Claire. It is shown surrounded by settlers’ farms, many taking the typical French Canadian form of long, narrow strips running inland from the water. The large inset plan depicts the fortified town of Detroit in detail, about 400 by 600 feet with very narrow streets. Buildings are shown in plan view, with five of the most important identified by name.

Jay’s Treaty (1796) committed the British to abandoning their remaining forts on United States territory and finally brought Detroit under American control. The town was almost completely destroyed in an 1805 fire, and the rebuilding process effaced almost all traces of the French settlement and its surrounding farms.

This is the second state of the map, with the plate number engraved above the neatline at upper right. It was published in Volume I of Bellin’s Petite Atlas Maritime.

Richard B. Arkway, Catalog 50, #139. Karpinski, Michigan, pp. 154-5. Reps, Urban America, pp. 71-73. Sellers and Van Ee, #777. Tooley, America, p. 210.


Mild offsetting, else excellent