“Towering landmark along the path of Western cartographic development”
289. [MAP]. DELISLE, Guillaume. Carte du Mexique et de la Floride des Terres Angloises et des Isles Antilles du cours et des environs de la Rivière de Mississipi. Dressée sur un grand nombre de mémoires principalemt. sur ceux de Mrs. d’Iberville et le Sueur Par Guillaume De l’Isle Géographe de l’Académie Royale des Scices À Paris chez l’Auteur sur le Quai de l’Horloge Privilège du Roy põ. 20. ans 1703 [below cartouche] C. Simonneau, fecit [upper left, scale within cartouche] Eschelle. Paris: Delisle, 1703 [but 1708 or later]. Copper engraved map of North America from the Great Lakes to Colombia and from the Gulf of California to Trinidad with relief shown pictorially, contemporary outline color in pink and green; title within ornate cartouche with allegorical figures (including two Native Americans), weaponry, snakes, flora and fauna; neat line to neat line: 47.4 x 65 cm. Creased at centerfold, otherwise fine. Linen mat, maple frame, Plexiglas. Not examined outside frame.
Early issue of the original printing of 1703, “Rue des Canettes” replaced with “Quai de l’Horloge,” “Couronne de Diamans” scrubbed, “C. Simonneau, fecit” added below title cartouche (Tooley, Delisle 50). Bryan & Hanak 10 (Homann 1752-1755 edition). Cumming, The Southeast in Early Maps 137 (1703 edition). Day, Maps of Texas, p. 4. Karpinski, Great Lakes XXXII (p. 123). Lowery 256 (1703 edition). Martin & Martin 14 (1703 edition, illustrated on pp. 50 & 92): “The first printed map to portray accurately the course and mouth of the Mississippi River.” Phillips, America, p. 405. Phillips, Atlases 565 etc. (discussing various editions). Rumsey 4764.099. Schwartz & Ehrenberg, The Mapping of America, Plate 82 & pp. 135-139. Streeter Sale 110 (1703 edition); 111 (present edition). Taliaferro, Cartographic Sources in the Rosenberg Library 99 (1703 edition). Wheat, Mapping the Transmississippi West #84 (citing the present issue & Vol. I, pp. 58-59: “All in all, Delisle’s early eighteenth-century efforts, with the corrected course of the Mississippi and many items farther west, are towering landmarks along the path of Western cartographic development.” Wagner, Cartography of the Northwest Coast 324: “The map leaves it uncertain whether the Gulf of California was a strait or not. Father Kino’s names are plentiful on the map”; p. 147: “Delisle was the principal factor in spreading Kino’s discoveries and his ideas.”
In the eighteenth century the cartography of Spain’s possessions in America expanded rapidly as numerous European cartographers issued maps intended to satisfy intense curiosity concerning the vast regions that Spain attempted to keep secret. French map maker Guillaume Delisle in 1703 published his Carte du Mexique et de la Floride as part of his Atlas de géographie (Paris, 1700-1712). Delisle, like some of his Spanish counterparts, also had access to quite current information about the area he here depicted, mostly derived from French explorers and adventurers who hazarded expeditions very close to, if not into, territories claimed by Spain. For example, the map contains information that was apparently provided by the few survivors of La Salle’s ill-fated expedition into Texas and other material that was made available by the reports of French explorers Bienville and d’Iberville. As a result, this map is considered the first printed map to portray accurately the course and mouth of the Mississippi River.
This map is important for a Texas collection for several reasons. On a lesser scale, it is interesting to see Texas depicted as a part of Florida. Delisle marked the habitations of many tribes in Texas on his map, using French rather than Spanish orthography. The map is important in the evolution of knowledge of Texas and the Gulf Coast with the first detailed printed cartographic record of the discoveries and foundations of Iberville. The Texas river system is improved and more detailed. As Jack Jackson (Flags along the Coast, plate 17, pp. 40-45) points out, Delisle at first did not use the most current information available to him until he published his 1703 edition of the present map, which incorporated the discoveries of Spanish pilot Juan Bisente (Vicente) del Campo, which had been surreptitiously transmitted into France. Among the improvements to this map was a much improved depiction of the Texas rivers system. Galveston Bay is still absent, but Matagorda Bay is located. The Rio Grande is located, along with numerous places along the Texas coast that had never before appeared on a published map. As Jackson concludes, “Ironically, it was France, not Spain, that profited the most from the advance in geographical knowledge brought about by Spanish ingenuity.” This was a standard map for the area until as late as 1783 and was repeatedly copied by other mapmakers.
Delisle (1625-1720) is important as the first “scientific” cartographer who incorporated the most current information on exploration and topography into his maps. His maps of America contain many innovations: discarding the fallacy of California as an island, first naming of Texas, first correct delineation of the Mississippi Valley, and first correct longitudes of America. Lloyd Brown states that Delisle “undertook a complete reform of a system of geography that had been in force since the second century, and by the time he was twenty five he had very nearly accomplished his purpose.” Tooley’s Dictionary of Mapmakers, revised edition, Vol. I, pp. 353-354.
Copyright Dorothy Sloan 2009