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Antique Maps of North America
from the 18th Century

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[ 18th century regional American maps | 19th century maps of North America ]


Jaillot North America
Alexis Hubert Jaillot after Nicholas Sanson "Amerique Septentrionale." Paris: A. H. Jaillot, 1694-[1719]. 18 x 25 1/4. Engraving by Cordier. Original outline hand color. Good margins. Strong impression. Stamped "116" in upper left corner. Ref.: McLaughlin, 55, iii.

Jaillot, in re-engraving and publishing the then less widely known work of his compatriot Nicolas Sanson, brought French cartography forward to compete with the hitherto unchallenged work of the Dutch. Sanson's design, which this map is based on, was the first to show all five Great Lakes, and this reflects Sanson's concern to obtain as current information as was available. This map closes the western shores of the Great Lakes. Still, many geographic misconceptions were prevalent at the time, and these are well illustrated here. Most noticeable is the depiction of California as an island, though the north coast of Baha Bay is almost closed and the northern Pacific coast abruptly ends. This configuration shows that the island theory is coming into doubt in Europe. The legendary cities of Cibola and Quivira are still depicted in the interior of the continent. To the north central part of the continent the map gives a strong hint at the existence of a northwest passage out of Hudson's Bay. The depiction of the Mississippi River shows that information used by Delisle in his 1718 map of the continent had not reached the mapmaker. With its attractive cartouches, and curious mixture of accurate and illusionary geography, this is much a map of its time. $2,600

Moll: Cod Fish Map
Herman Moll. "To the Right Honourable John Lord Sommers...This Map of North America according to ye Newest and most Exact observations." London: H. Moll, ca. 1715. 22 3/4 x 38. Engraving. Outline color. Full margins. Very good condition. Denver.

One of Moll's impressive, very large maps issued at the beginning of the eighteenth century. This map shows North America as it was known at the time. Detail of rivers, lakes, cities, and so forth is excellent. The map is quite accurate in parts, but it is for its myriad geographic myths that the map is most interesting. To the north, Moll is quite conservative in showing the long-sought-for Northwest Passage, indicating that Hudson's Bay did not have an opening to the west and only showing the entrance of the postulated Straits of Anian. Moll is not so accurate in the middle part of the continent, where he shows Baron Lahontan's mythical geography of the Long River and the lake and river of the Mozeemleck Indians. Even more prominently Moll shows California as an island, a cartographic error that lasted over 100 years. These geographic features are nicely complimented by the large, decorative cartouches that appear above the ten inset detail maps. The title cartouche is elaborately drawn showing native Indians including an Eskimo family. Below this is an engraved view of a Cod production plant on Newfoundland. An historically and decoratively wonderful map by one of the leading cartographers of his day. $4,200

Mississippi Bubble map
Georg Matthew Seutter. "Accurata delineatio celeberrimae Regionis Ludovicianae vel Gallicae Louisiane ol. Canadae et Floridae adpellatione in Septentrionali America descriptae..." Augsburg, [1730-50].19 1/2 x 22 1/2 (neatlines) plus platemarks and margins. Engraving. Full original hand color. Slight repair at base of centerfold. Very good condition.

The model for this fascinating map of North America was published by Guillaume Delisle at Paris in 1718. Delisle's map had vital significance for the mapping of America because for the first time on a map one could see the upper waters of the Mississippi basin, now designated as the Missouri and the Ohio. Although inaccurate by today's standards, the map does show rivers flowing in a relatively correct direction, reflecting its derivation from oral reports rather than scientific surveys. In the 1720s, this map by Seutter and one by John Senex in England were both derived from Delisle's map of a few years before, drawing attention to Delisle's breakthrough in the mapping of the upper Mississippi. The Seutter map also put its focus on the notorious scandal called 'The Mississippi Bubble.'

In 1718, the Scotsman, John Law, organized in Paris a speculative company, called The Mississippi Company, on lines similar to the London South Sea Company. This new company was based on discoveries of lead ore in present-day Missouri and Michigan. A carryover from the old alchemist beliefs told explorers that if lead was present, gold could not be far away. The prospect of great riches soon caused a surge in the value of the stock, but this was short lived, for the investors had no idea how difficult it would be to extract and ship ore from that wilderness. The practical impossibility of that project, graphically illustrated in this map, quickly caused the bubble to burst. The results were not all negative, for some fortunes were made in the buying and selling of the stock, and the episode stimulated interest and settlements in the regions.

Law's scheme and its consequences, which William Langer has said forms an introduction to modern speculative finance, are graphically illustrated in the fine title cartouche. The goddess Fame is shown blowing a trumpet and surmounts a statue of Plenty pouring jewels and coins from a cornucopia, a common symbol for the Mississippi. Below her and surrounding the pedestal are speculators either receiving stock certificates or rending their hair and committing suicide in despair. The goddess Commerce is handing out certificates, while at the base of the pedestal Italianate putti are whimsically cutting stock certificates after dumping a wax seal printer onto the ground. For its wonderful cartouche, history, and importance, this is a superb and beautiful map of North America. $3,800

La Louisiane
Guillaume Delisle. "Carte de la Louisiane et du Cours du Mississipi." From Jean Frederic Bernard's Recueil de Voiages au Nord. Amsterdam: J.F. Bernard, 1734. Engraving. 13 7/8 x 15 3/4. Very good condition. Denver.

A slightly reduced version of Guillaume Delisle's seminal map of North America from the first part of the eighteenth century. Delisle is known as the "father of scientific cartography" for his production of maps based upon scientific principles and his role in establishing this as the standard for all cartographers. Delisle's maps had an immense impact on the history of cartography, and none more so than this map which was first issued in 1718. It is seminal in the history of the mapping of America exactly because of Delisle's pioneering method and attitude. It was based on years of research, using all the latest reports of travels, explorations and surveys in the region. Delisle was particularly well placed with respect to gathering information on North America, for with his connections in the French court, especially within the Ministry of Marine, he had access to all the official and unofficial reports coming out of New France. It is not surprising, then, given Delisle's method and connections, that this map is so important in the cartographic history of the continent.

This map is Delisle's final statement on the mapping of America and one of the most influential American maps ever produced. It is a map of superior delineations and many firsts. It contains the first indications of the explorations of De Soto, Cavelier, Tonty, Moscoso and Denis. It includes the best depiction of the Mississippi River of the first part of the eighteenth century, as Delisle for the first time presented a roughly accurate delineation of its entire length as well as a semblance of accuracy about many of the tributaries such as the Ohio, the Missouri, the Platt, and the Arkansas. It is on Delisle's map that the name Texas first appeared in print, with the legend "Mission de los Teijas," indicating a mission established in 1716. This version, from Bernard's Voiages, is slightly reduced but otherwise a duplicate of the first edition It is a nice example of one of the great maps of North America; both an historic glimpse at and a significant part of our continent's history. $2,400

John Mitchell. "Amerique Septentrionale avec les Routes, Distances en miles, Villages et Etablissements Francois et Anglois." Paris: G.L. Le Rouge, 1756. Engravings. Eight sheets, each ca. 26 x 18 3/4. Original outline hand color. Full margins. Very good condition. Stephenson: second French edition, first impression.

An early French edition of the historically most significant map of North America, issued just a year after the first British edition. John Mitchell was commissioned by the Earl of Halifax, the president of the Board of Trade and Plantations, to produce a map defining British claims in North America. The resulting document was very much a propaganda statement, arguing for British control of most of the continent. Mitchell shows British claims to their most extreme extent, foreshadowing the future, for just seven years later the French were defeated and the British gained control of the entire eastern half of North America.

Cartographically the map is excellent, for Mitchell gathered as current and precise information as was available to him. He had access to much manuscript and documentary information, all of which he carefully laid down on this huge, detailed map. With its precise cartography and impressive size, this map had an immediate and significant impact when issued. It was universally accepted as the best depiction of North America from its first appearance right through to the end of the century, and from this comes its historic importance. It was used as the primary political document of America, called upon whenever a border dispute came up. When the negotiations to end the Revolution were concluded in Paris in 1783, it was Mitchell's map upon which the border between Canada and the United States was described, and it was used subsequently in numerous border disputes right into the early twentieth century. This map became in effect the 'official' map of North America during the last half of the eighteenth century and even into the nineteenth, as evidenced by the fact that the map hung in Congress in 1802.

This French edition was published by G.L. Le Rouge just a year after the first edition of 1755. This testifies to the impact of this map, for not only was this very quick to issue an accurate re-engraving of such a large map, but it is interesting that the French would publish a map which had such a British bias. Scarce and impressive, this is an historic document of great importance. $24,000

Reid: North America
John Reid. "A General Map of North America drawn from the best surveys 1795." From American Atlas. New York: John Reid, 1796. State 2. Engraving by [John] Scoles. 14 1/4 x 18. Light outline color. Very good condition. Wheat & Brun: 57. Denver.

This fascinating map of North America on an equal-area projection depicts from the Bering Straits and Baffin's Bay in the north to present-day Honduras and the entire West Indies in the south. The United States is shown containing fifteen states with a dotted line paralleling the Mississippi River denoting the western boundaries. Very little information is given to the vast area that would soon be the Louisiana Purchase, while the Spanish possessions labeled "New Mexico" and "New Spain" are well documented. The border between Canada and New England is vague. The map was prepared originally for John Reid's American Atlas which accompanied William Winterbotham's History of America. $750

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