Bellin 1744 Great Lakes Map


Jacques Nicolas Bellin.  “Carte Des Lacs Du Canada.” From Charlevoix’s Journal D’un Voyage Fair Par Ordre Du Roi dans L’Amerique Septentrionnale… Paris: Nyon Fils, 1744. 11 1/4 x 17 3/8. Engraving. Soft transferring. Else, very good condition.

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An antique map of the Great Lakes by Nicolas Bellin from 1744.  Bellin (1703-72) was Hydrographer to the King of France and one of the best French cartographers of the later period. He is especially noted for his influential series of maps of the Great Lakes, of which this is the first. This map is based on manuscript maps in the French marine archives, in particular those by Chaussegros de Lerys, and it gives the first new information on New France since Delisle’s seminal work at the beginning of the century. Despite this, however, the map is renowned for its many geographic errors, including a south-easterly slanted Lake Michigan. The map is especially notorious for the introduction of two non-existent islands in Lake Superior. These islands were “Isle Pontchartrain” and “Isle Philippeaux,” the latter of which is shown almost as big as the near-by Isle Royale. These mythical islands were quickly copied by other cartographers and appeared on most maps of North America for the next century.

These islands were named in honor of Jean Frederic Phelippeaux, Comte de Maurepas, Minister of the French Marine from 1723 to 1749 and patron to Charlevoix, and whose patron saint was Anne. Isle Ponchartrain was named for his father, Jerome Phellipeaux, Comte de Ponchartrain, a former minister. It is also possible that Ste. Anne was named after Louis Charley Saint-Ange, who helped to finance Le Ronde’s activities. Bellin has often been criticized for adding these non-existent islands for the purpose of flattering his superior. However, recent research indicates that the islands were derived from the first-hand reports of Louis Denys de la Ronde, a fur trapper whose base was located on Lake Superior. It seems that la Ronde derived his belief in these islands from Indian reports that he misinterpreted. However, whatever their origin, the mythical islands first shown by Bellin continued to appear on maps for about 100 years. Isle Philippeaux was even used as a landmark in the 1783 Treaty of Paris that established the border between the British domains and the United States. This is a fine example of the first edition of the map of the Great Lakes by Nicolas Bellin from 1744