Sanson North America 1650-1659


Nicolas Sanson. “Amerique Septentrionale.” Paris: Mariette, [1650]-1659. Third state. 15 1/2 x 22. Engraving. Original outline color. Very good condition. Burden #294, state 3.

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This is one of the most significant maps of North America, and the first map to show all five Great Lakes. Nicolas Sanson, known as the ‘father of French cartography,’ is one of the great figures in the history of cartography. Beginning his mapmaking career at the age of 18, Sanson went on to be appointed the first geographer-royal to Louis XIII of France (1640). Due to his royal position Sanson had access to the official French records of the explorations in the New World and used this information to establish himself at the forefront of the mapping of the Americas. Following the expeditions of Champlain in the 1620s, a new picture came to Europe of the interior of North America. Sanson was the first to compile this information, from Champlain and the Jesuits that followed him, into an depiction that included all five Great Lakes.

This is the map that first represented all of the lakes, and the first to name Lake Superior and Lake Ontario. The map shows the complete extent of the Jesuit exploration and mapping of the region. Besides its importance concerning the Great Lakes, this map is also significant for its depiction of the trans-Mississippi west, and its naming of the Indian tribes before the great dispersions of the 1640’s and 1650’s. Though erroneous, the maps graphically shows California as an island, one of the most famous myths about North America. This map established the predominant image of North America for the remainder of the 17th century. Its significance is reflected in that its original date of publication, 1650, is usually given as the date of the switch in cartographic dominance from The Netherlands to France. This is the third state of the map where Lake Ontario is now shaded like the other Great Lakes.