Bowles map of the Northern Pacific


Carrington Bowles.  “Bowles’s New Pocket Map of the Discoveries made by the Russians on the North West Coast of America.”  London: C. Bowles, ca. 1775.  17 3/4 x 24.  Engraving.  Original hand color.  Some light mottling, but overall very good condition.


A British version of a map by Gerard Muller first issued in 1758, and issued in response to an erroneous maps issued by French cartographer Joseph Nicolas Delisle.  Delisle had spent many years working in Russia, where he was involved in the founding of the Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg and produced the first Russian atlas.  In 1750, Delisle presented to the French Academy of Sciences a map of the northern Pacific, including northeastern Asia, northwestern America and the strait between the two.  This map was very advanced in some areas, being based on Russian expeditions of 1723, 1732 and 1741, along with Vitus Bering’s first and second voyages and the explorations of a number of others such as Tchirkow and Frondat.  Unfortunately, the cartography of northwestern America is based on the fictitious account of Admiral de Fonte, including a huge non-existent inland sea, the “Mer de l’Ouest.”

The Russian authorities felt that Delisle had stolen the information for his map and they were aware of the incorrect delineation in northwestern America.  Thus they encouraged Gerard Muller, a German cartographer working in St. Petersburg, to issue a map to correct Delisle’s mistakes, as the official mapping from the Imperial Academy in St. Petersburg, a map he produced in 1758.  The map does not show Delisle’s non-existent sea, but it does include a prominent depiction of the equally mythical River of the West, extending from Lake Winnipeg to the Pacific coast.  The map is also quite erroneous in showing the Alaskan peninsula extending well west of reality, as was the standard Russian hypothesis of the time.  This, the map was an advance on other maps of the area in the late eighteenth century, including showing the tracks of explorers Bering and Tschirkow.