Carte des Nouvelle Decouvertes au Nord de la Mer de Sud


An excellent example of the mythical cartography of the northern Pacific from the 18th century.

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This spectacular map represents a concerted effort by cartographers and explorers to determine with some degree of accuracy the geography of the Northern Pacific Ocean. Six distance scales in the upper right give some indication of the international interest of the region. A conic projection allows for the depiction of a huge swath of territory in the Northern Hemisphere between the eastern coast of North America and Central Asia.

The broad image captures a wealth of contemporary details; including colonial possessions (note the French claims), tracks of explorers, geographic features, and numerous cartographic myths. The most prominent is the large ‘Sea of the West’ in what is today’s Pacific Northwest. Though the origins of this legend are unknown, it’s possible this body of water is a westward extension of the legendary ‘Sea of Verrazano’ – in reality a misidentified Pamlico Sound.

Other fictitious features can be seen within the Arctic Circle, such as a ‘grand land’ discovered above Russia in 1723, large interior lakes, and a possible Northwest Passage. Figures near the top of the page represent indigenous natives from the Kamchatka Peninsula and the French territory of Louisiana – each connected to one another by the geography depicted on the page. The map was originally designed by Joseph Nicholas De L’Isle and Philippe Buache and published in 1752. This is the second state, identified by the updated mapmaker’s imprint (Dezauche) in the lower right. According to the Osher Map Library;

“Upon Joseph Nicholas De L’Isle’s return to Paris in 1747, he published the Carte Des Nouvelles Découvertes Au Nord de la Mer de Sud . . . 1750, (Item 19) The French cartographic community was gripped with an intense period of scientific inquiry into the proper method of depicting the Northwestern regions of North America, the contiguous polar regions, and the Northeast coast of Asia. Throughout the late 18th century, De L’Isle and his professional heirs, the Bauche and de Vaugondy families, would regularly appear before the French Royal Academy to present their increasingly combative views on this topic. In the process, they created more than 20 maps and written presentations advocating their respective theories, steadily pushing forward the cartographic knowledge of the region.

The first significant map in this debate is the Carte Generale des Découvertes De l’Amiral de Fonte Et Autres Navigateurs Espagnoles, Anglois et Russes, pour la recherche du Passage a la Mer du Sud . . . Septembre 1752.This map begins the process of trying to reconcile the various facts, conjectures, and myths surrounding the contemporary cartographic depictions of the region.”


Map Details

Publication Date: 1780

Author: Jean André Dezauche

Sheet Width (in): 29.60

Sheet Height (in): 22.00

Condition: B+

Condition Description: Former separations along centerfold and along a few other former creases have been professionally repaired on the verso. One further tear near the top center, about 3", has also been repaired and just misses the neatline. Light discoloration visible across the top and right side of the page. Several small tears and a few chips along the edges of the sheet, confined to the margin. Good to very good condition overall. A crisp impression on thick, watermarked paper.


1 in stock