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  Johann Baptist Homann. “Amplissima Regionis Mississipi seu Provinciae Ludovicianae”
(1720 [1763]).
Johann Homann, Regionis Mississipi
Johann Baptist Homann. “Amplissima Regionis Mississipi seu Provinciae Ludovicianae . . .” (Nuremberg: Io. Bapt. Homanno, c. 1720 [–1763]). Published in Atlas geographicus major Norimbergae Homannianis heredibus [1763]. Double-page copperplate engraving with bright original full and outline hand color. 19 x 22 3/8" at neat line. Framed size: 34 1/2 x 35 1/2". Uncolored title cartouche, u. l., shows Father Hennepin with allegorical figures related to the exploration of the New World and below them a famous view of Niagara Falls. An uncolored vignette, l. r., presents a very early representation of an American bison flanked by Indians. Latin and French text. Very minor surface soiling. Overall, fine (by sight). Handsome archival presentation in gold-tone frame.

German cartographer Homann’s “Louisiana Province” is one of the most attractive early maps of the American interior—as well as being politically provocative. It represents essentially the eastern half of the United States, but focuses on the enormous region called “La Louisiane,” the ownership of which had been a political hot button between Spain and France throughout the 1700s.

Homann’s model for his map was Delisle’s important “Carte de la Louisiane et du Cours du Mississipi” of 1718. Delisle’s labeling of the territory west of the Appalachians as “La Louisiane” assumed a French proprietorship that provoked angry protests from the Spanish and British governments. Homann repeated the label on the present map, thus perpetuating a cartographic war in which the mapmakers of each country issued publications showing their preferences toward political claims.

Homann departs from the Delisle model, however, in his delineation of the Spanish territory of Florida, which he shows as occupying primarily the Southeast. (A variant issue of the map indicates a much more extensive northern boundary, i.e., reaching as far north as the Appalachians.) Further details include a very early form of the word “Texas,” seen in the legend reading “Mission de las Teyas, etablie en 1716” near present-day San Antonio. Routes of early explorers are shown and dated; the New Mexico pueblos are named as far north as Taos, as are the locations of Indian tribes and of many early settlements.

Homann dedicated the map to the French priest Louis Hennepin, who explored the Great Lakes regions and claimed to have reached the mouth of the Mississippi River. The dedication is actually a reinforcement of French proprietorship of the Louisiana region. Hennepin also claimed to have made the first drawing of Niagara Falls, an accomplishment recognized on the map by the inclusion of a much-copied view of the falls pictured below the title cartouche featuring Hennepin.

Homann’s ornamental flourishes are, in fact, the hallmark of his style, and his maps are particularly notable for their well-engraved thematic cartouches. The depiction of New World symbols on this map is especially engaging, as for example in the fascinating representation of an American buffalo flanked by male and female Indians with a pelican in the foreground. This is a wonderfully detailed map, especially fine for the Mississippi Basin and the Great Lakes region. An outstanding and dramatic example that represents 18th-century mapping of the area before the great explosion of knowledge in the later period of colonization.

Refs.: Christie’s Antique Maps, p. 86 (variant ed. illus.); Cumming, The Southeast in Early Maps, p. 213; Goss, Mapping of North America, map 49 (variant edition illus. in color); Lowry, p. 333; Martin and Martin, p. 99 (for Delisle map); Wheat, Mapping the Transmississippi West, no. 144, p. 146 (note).

Copyright 2003, William R. Talbot