2010/11 Winter Catalogue, William R. Talbot Fine Art, Antique Maps & Prints Home

2010/11 Winter Catalogue > 6. DELISLE’S 1714 PROJECTION of the NORTHERN HEMISPHERE


Guillaume Delisle [de L’Isle]. “Hemisphere Septentrional pour voir plus distinctement Les Terres Arctiques Par Guillaume Delisle de lAcademie Rle. des Scien. ces A Paris Chez l’Auteur sur le Quay de l’Horloge/ avec Privilege/ Juillet 1714” (Paris: 1714, first edition). Copperplate engraving, with outline hand color. 18 1/4 x 18 1/2" at plate mark. Sheet: 20 1/4 x 26 1/2." Slight transference. Some marginal soiling. Printer’s wrinkle at l.c. Excellent.

Price: SOLD.

The eagerness of the Spanish crown for secrecy had maintained a veil of obscurity over these regions. . . Nicholas Frondat, who was captain of the Saint Antoine, had gone as far as China and Japan to trade. On his way back, following a northern route, even more northern than the route taken by the Manila Galleon, he was able to observe the islands off California, as stated in his logbook. He was the first Frenchman to do so. . . — Sally M. Miller

Guillaume Delisle’s 1714 projection of the northern hemisphere reveals the most recent discoveries in the north Pacific region. In his adherence to scientific cartographic methods, Delisle saw fit to leave terra incognita incomplete in his maps, which in this case includes everything from the southern tip of Kamchacta to northern California.

Delisle is known for obtaining data from original sources such as ships’ logs and eyewitness accounts. Information concerning North America had been gathered for his important map of 1703 from d’Iberville, Le Sueur, and surviving members of La Salle’s final expedition. The most recent news concerning the north Pacific would have come from Nicholas de Frondat, who captained the first French voyage across the Pacific in 1709.

After Nicholas de Frondat’s voyage eastward across the Pacific in 1709 Delisle made a radical change, no doubt because of the information obtained from him. C. Mendocino was removed in 1714 to about 251° E, . . C. San Lucas was also moved to about 265° E, thus shortening the longitude of California to about 14°, nearly the actual difference. —Henry Wagner

Delisle’s superiority as a mapmaker arose from his utilization of observations made at the Royal Observatory of Paris. The establishment of the Académie Royale des Sciences in 1666 had ushered in a new era of scientific methods, and the career of Guillaume Delisle was instrumental in France’s ascent to dominance in the science of cartography. By the age of nine, Delisle had decided to dedicate himself to the study of geography, and under the tutelage of Jean Dominique Cassini, he was early on exposed to the teachings of the Académie Royale des Sciences. Delisle became a leader in scientific methods of map making, and was eventually appointed Premier Géographe du Roi (royal geographer) to Louis XIV.

Copies of Delisle’s seminal maps appeared throughout the century, and were issued in many countries. The present impression is a fine early state of this historic and influential map by one of the most important geographers of the eighteenth century.

Refs.: Brown, The Story of Maps, p. 242; Miller, Studies in the economic history of the Pacific Rim, p. 107; Phillips, Atlases, no. 535; Rumsey, no. 4764.006; Tooley, The Mapping of America, pp. 4–6; Wagner, Cartography of the Northwest Coast, no. 504, p. 142.

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