Accurata delineatio celeberrimae Regionis Ludovicianae vel Gallice Louisiane
Early map of colonial North America satirizing an one of the first real estate “bubbles”.
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This fascinating map provides a detailed overview of colonial North America east of New Spain and New Mexico. Place names represent an interesting mix of native words spelled phonetically and European “discoveries.” Forts and Native American tribes are shown competing for space in the interior, while the coastal areas are becoming heavily populated with incoming settlers from across the Atlantic.
An inset map of the Gulf Coast shows further detail between the delta of the Mississippi River and the Apalachicola River in Florida, while a text box in a baroque cartouche describes the early, predominantly French, exploration of Louisiana. The larger, title cartouche is perhaps the most interesting feature of the map.
This elaborately engraved bit of satire is referencing the disastrous “Mississippi Bubble” that burst about a decade prior to publication, in 1720. Without going into extensive details, Scottish financier John Law convinced the cash-strapped French monarchy (technically regency) of Louis XV to provide a monopoly on the settlement of the Mississippi Valley. The theoretical profits would be able to pay off the debt of the national bank, which had been frantically printing more paper currency than could be represented in hard specie.
Law formed the Compagnie des Indes (commonly referred to as the Mississippi Company) in 1717 and quickly began exaggerating the wealth and economic prospects of the colony. Promising returns as high as 120 percent, demand for the 50,000 available shares skyrocketed, and the national bank continued to recklessly print paper currency, fueling the price inflation. By 1720, a run on the bank forced the French government to admit there was over twice as much paper currency than the value of available hard coinage, and the bubble burst. The resulting financial fallout devastated many upper class families in France and throughout Europe, and the cartouche is one large allegorical reference to the story.
A figure (possibly a personification of the Mississippi River) sitting atop a winged bubble can be seen pouring out a stream of wealth, while cherubs flit about and distribute stock notes to well-dressed speculators eagerly awaiting them. The foreground shows similar cherubs lazily blowing bubbles and cutting up what can only be the same stocks, now worthless. The story continues to the right side of the cartouche, which shows several men in anguish and in various acts of self-harm. Above them, a cherub hangs an empty money bag. In the background, further suicide attempts are seen as men fling themselves from the tops of trees.
The three scrolls in Latin read, in order, “Fame and Fortune proclaim the Age of Gold”, “Fortune Favors the Brave”, and “What a Thing is Hope.” A dark, but prescient reminder of the saying that “if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.”
Publication Date: c. 1730
Author: Matthaus Seutter
Sheet Width (in): 24.50
Sheet Height (in): 21.10
Condition Description: A very attractive and desirable example, with an uncolored cartouche and original body color. In near fine condition, save for two small offsetting damp stains in the Gulf of Mexico. A bold impression issued on heavy, watermarked paper.
1 in stock