Francois Santini after Joseph Nicolas Delisle. “Carte des Nouvelles Decouvertes au Nord de la Mer du Sud.” Venice: G.A.. Remondini, [1776-1784]. 17 1/2 x 24 1/2. Engraving. Original outline color. Some minor blemishes in margins. Overall, very good condition. Tooley: 104.
French cartographer Joseph Nicolas Delisle spent many years working in Russia, was involved in the founding of the Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg and produced the first Russian atlas. In 1750, he 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 includes a prominent depiction of the storied “Sea of the West.” The notion of a large body of water in the interior of the northwestern part of America, a “Sea of the West,” had first appeared at the end of the seventeenth century. This mythical body of water appeared on maps in various forms until by the middle of the eighteenth century at it had disappeared. However, it was soon to be resurrected by French cartographers Joseph Nicholas Delisle and Philippe Buache, who became convinced of its existence through a hoax perpetrated by James Petiver, the editor of the British periodical Monthly Miscellany, who published a fabricated letter from an Spanish Admiral named Bartholomew de Fonte, which recounted how he was supposed to have sailed inland into the interior of northwest America, making his was eastward through a series of rivers and bays, where he came upon an American ship which he was told had sailed from Boston and through Hudson’s Bay. This led Delisle to show a newly configured “Mer de l’Ouest” on his map which otherwise was quite accurate and up-to-date. This is an Italian version of Delisle’s map, the fictitious sea prominently displayed.