1772 North America with imaginary geography


Didier Robert De Vaugondy after Samuel Engel.  “Carte des parties nord et ouest de L’Amerique.”  From Recueil de 10 Cartes Traitant particulierement de l’Amerique du Nord.  Paris: D. Robert De Vaugondy, 1772.  11 5/8 x 14 7/8.  Engraving.  Three worm holes in top margin, just touching top border.  Else, very good condition.


First issued by Didier Robert De Vaugondy in 1764, this map is based on a map that appeared in Samuel Engel’s Memoires, which attacked Fonte’s imaginary geography of the American northwest.  This map does get rid of the Fonte-Fuca fantasy, but at the same time it adds a number of others.   Two water systems are depicted running from the west coast well inland.  To the north, in what would be Alaska, two rivers flow from the “Lac des Conibas,” a mythical lake which first appeared at the end of the 16th century and which wandered about North America on and off for two hundred years.  Another river flows into this lake from the east, and this connects with a series of other lakes ending just beyond a mountain ridge from Lake Superior.  This series of lakes represent some knowledge of the Canadian lake system northwest of the Great Lakes, but the river connection to the northwest coast is pure fiction.

The other major non-existent river system is further south, and it is based on the fictional accounts of Baron Lahontan.  Lahontan, who did travel in American mid-west, claimed to have talked to some “Moseemlek” Indians who told him of a river arising far to the west and flowing into the Mississippi.  This river, appearing on this map, is Lahontan’s notorious “Riviere Longue.”  The Moseemleks said that they lived on another river beyond that which flowed west into a large salt lake on which lived the “Tahuglauks.”  Robert de Vaugondy shows the villages of the Moseemleks on a river flowing into a large “L. des Tahuglauks,” out of which flows the also legendary ‘grand river of the west,’ which finally empties into the Pacific.  Thus, this map puts forward two routes from the Pacific to the Great Lakes, each involving just a short land portage.  The appealing notion of a water route from the Pacific to the Atlantic proved a hard one to put to rest!

Another famous American legend also appears on this map, “Grand Quivira.”  This legend arose from a story heard by Coronado of a rich land that lay somewhere in the interior of North America.  The Spanish spent years looking for Quivira, which eventually made its way to the American Pacific coast.  In 1670, the French became convinced that Quivira was the western terminus of a waterway across North America, and thus it is shown here, stretching for miles along the California coast.   Together these mythical geographic features makes this a fantastic map of the continent.