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2006 Catalog > Delisle / Buache Cornerstone Map of the Northwest Coast

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The Rare Delisle / Buache Cornerstone Map of the Northwest Coast
. . . more mapping of the Mythical West

10. Joseph-Nicolas Delisle / Philippe Buache. “Carte des Nouvelles Découverts au Nord de la Mer du Sud” (Paris: Joseph-Nicolas Delisle and Philippe Buache, 1752). First edition. Double-page copperplate engraving with original outline hand color. 18 x 25" at neat line. Sheet: 21 3/4 x 30 1/4" with ample margins. Minor scattered foxing in right margin, minor transference. Overall, a superb dark impression with good outline color.

Price: SOLD.

A landmark map in the history of cartography, Delisle and Buache’s remarkable presentation of the North Pacific Ocean, North America, and Asia is rare in the first edition. Delisle, the younger brother of Guillaume Delisle, spent much of his career in Russia as director for the St. Petersburg Observatory. He returned to Paris in 1747 with a large map collection including the manuscript for this map of the North Pacific, which he drew in 1737. Delisle’s manuscript map documented, among other things, his own voyage in 1741 and also—more notoriously—a purported 1640 voyage of exploration along the Northwest Coast by the Spanish admiral Bartholome de Fonte. The admiral claimed to have discovered a vast inland sea (the “Mer de L’Ouest”) located north of California as well as the fabled Northwest Passage to Baffin’s Bay and a large landmass in the middle of the Pacific. In 1750 Delisle read a paper describing his theories about the Northwest Coast before the French Academy of Sciences. Two years later, he and his nephew by marriage, Philippe Buache, published the map illustrating these theories, along with an Explication. The map offered here is the latter, which, although dated 1750 actually appeared in 1752. In addition to the apocryphal voyage of de Fonte, the map provides much valuable information on the Russian discoveries of 1723, 1732, and 1741, including the first and second voyages of Vitus Bering. Elsewhere it shows Florida as an archipelago. The map is marvelously drawn on a conical projection and is embellished with a rococo title cartouche flanked by an engraved native of Kamtchatka at left and one of Louisiana at right. The text at the top explains the projection used. This is a superb example of one of the most fantastic, inaccurate, and controversial maps of Western America ever printed.

Refs.: Schwartz and Ehrenberg, The Mapping of America, p. 161, plate 94; Tooley, Mapping of America, pp. 7–8, 34–35, no. 101, plate 22 (later edition); Wagner, Cartography of the Northwest Coast, no. 566.

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