Phillipe Buache America 1763


Philippe Buache “Carte d’Amérique.” Paris: Ph. Buache, [1722]-1763. 19 1/4 x 24. Engraving by Buache. Backed on old linen. Some light surface stains, but overall very good condition.

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An original antique map of the American continents by Phillipe Buache, issued in 1763 and based on a mapping from earlier in the century by Guillaume Delisle.  Delisle was the leading French cartographer of the early eighteenth century and much of the detail on this map comes from his pioneering work.

However, this map was updated by Phillipe Buache, Delisle’s brother-in-law, ‘based on New Discoveries,’ in 1763.  Interestingly, the major updating was based not on true “new discoveries,” but instead on a mythical geographic notion for which Buache was very influential.  The French, who controlled the Great Lakes, were very interested in finding a water route to the Pacific Ocean, so they could then trade with China and the Indies.  Throughout their time exploring New France, the French kept interpreting Indian tales as indicating that such a route existed, either as a ‘river of the west’ or as a ‘sea of the west.’  The later was actually first proposed on a number of manuscript maps by Guillaume Delisle at the end of the seventeenth century, but he never showed this on any of his printed maps.  His brother, J.N. Delisle, and brother-in-law, Buache, believed this notion—partly based on the misinterpreted Indian reports and partly on a fictional account of Juan de Fuca who was supposed to sail into a large from the northwest coast of America.

On this map Buache shows a large “Mer de l’Ouest,” as well as one of the notions for a “R. de l’Ouest,” creating a convoluted and mythical geography for the region west of the Great Lakes.  Interestingly, it was the year this map was issued that the French lost control of their colony in North America, with the British taking over via their victory in the French & Indian War.  The British initially accepted some of the French notions in the area, but by the end of the century had put an end to the belief in the large Sea of the West shown here.