Covens & Mortier’s Reprise of Delisle’s Carte de Louisiane

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275. [MAP]. DELISLE, Guillaume [Insulanus] (after). COVENS, Johannes & Cornelis Mortier (publishers). Carte de la Louisiane et du Cours du Mississipi Dressée sur un grand nombre de Memoires entr’autres sur ceux de Mr. [François] le Maire Par Guillme. De L’Isle de l’Academie Rle. des Sciences. [below Gulf of Mexico at lower center, key and imprint] Explication des Marques.... A Amsterdam chez Jean Cóvens et Corneille Mortier Géographes. Eschelle de cent lieues Françoises. [inset map at lower right] Carte Particuliere des Embouchures de la Riviere S. Louis et de la Mobile. Amsterdam, [1730 or after]. Copper-engraved map on two sheets of laid paper, original outline hand coloring (yellow in border around map; pink, green, and yellow for boundaries); neat line to neat line: 43.6 x 59.7 cm; map + title: 44.6 x 60 cm; overall sheet size: 53.5 x 67 cm; inset of mouth of Mississippi: neat line to neat line: 11.5 x 14.5 cm. Very fine copy, excellent impression. Remains of old mounting tab on verso. Contemporary ink manuscript note on verso: “105.”

     This is a re-engraved, slightly reduced version of Delisle’s 1718 map from his revised issue, with New Orleans located (see preceding herein for the first issue of Delisle’s prototype map, which among other things, was the first appearance of the name Texas in any form on a printed map). Tooley (“French Mapping of the Americas: The De l’Isle, Buache, Dezauche Succession, 1700-1830” #43 et seq, pp. 21-22) sets out the sequence, with Delisle’s 1718 map followed by a second, much reduced version in Garcilaso de la Vega’s Histoire de Conquête de la Floride (Amsterdam, 1727; Tooley #44). The present Covens and Mortier map is the third version (Tooley #45), and credits Delisle, instead of plagiarizing him like some others, and incorporates his updates. The map first appeared in its present form in Covens and Mortier’s Atlas nouveau, the earliest known re-issue of Delisle’s atlas by Covens and Mortier (Amsterdam, 1730; see Koeman, Atlantes Neerlandici, first edition, Vol. II, C&M, Category B, Vol. II, pp. 52-62). Tooley notes that the present map is a “re-engraved copy of the original issue [1718]” and “several later editions were issued of the Covens and Mortier Atlas, but the map did not change.”

     Cohen, Mapping the West, pp. 48-51 (citing 1718 edition): “A significant map in Western American history and a work by one of the greatest mapmakers of all time.” Cumming, The Southeast in Early Maps 208. De Renne III:1195-1196. Lowery 269. Martin & Martin, p. 99 & plate 19 (citing 1718 edition). Phillips, America, p. 367. Rumsey 4638.095 (listing an appearance in a 1742 edition of Covens & Mortier’s Atlas Nouveau). Ryhiner Collection Ryh 7814:4. Schwartz & Ehrenberg, The Mapping of America, pp. 140-143 & Plate 84 (illustrating 1718 edition). Van Ermen, The United States in Old Maps and Prints, Plate 30 (p. 54). Wheat, Mapping the Transmississippi West 99 & pp. 66-67 (citing Delisle’s original 1718 map, referring to it as a “cartographical monument”): “This great 1718 Delisle map was apparently reissued many times with only slight changes in the areas here under consideration, and during the eighteenth century it was copied, in whole or in part, by most of the leading cartographers of Europe. Apparently, Delisle obtained much of his information direct from the French explorers and administrators, in New France, and his efforts represented distinct advances in the mapping of the American West.”

     Every scholar who discusses Delisle’s important map of the Mississippi Valley waxes eloquently, and we conclude with the effusive commentary found on a manuscript note attached to a manuscript reproduction of Delisle’s 1710? Carte de la Louisiane in the Kohl collection (No. 238):

This is a copy of a map, which the celebrated French Geographer de l’Isle composed, and which was published in Amsterdam by Cóvens et Mortier.... It is no doubt the most remarkable and most interesting map of the Mississippi [original emphasis], which we have of that time, and I believe that at the time being nobody could make a better map of those regions.... It is the first tolerable map which we have of the rivers and coasts of Texas. And all the French information of the Mississippi and the coast towards the East of its mouth is carefully collected upon it. It is the first map on which we find laid down the name of Texas (Los Teijas) [original emphasis].... We may say, that this map is the mother and main source of all the later maps of the Mississippi and of the whole West of the United States.

     Koeman, Atlantes Neerlandici, first edition, Vol. II, C&M, pp. 45: “For more than 125 years, Messrs Covens & Mortier...distributed innumerable maps, atlases, globes, and books. Nowadays, there is hardly a library in the world where their imprint is not met with in the collections. Very often, the dating of maps and atlases published by Covens & Mortier gives rise to problems....” See also Tooley’s Dictionary of Mapmakers (revised edition), Vol. I, pp. 307-308 (Covens) & pp. 353-354 (Delisle); Vol. III, p. 285 (Mortier).


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