Finely colored example of Nicholas Bellin's map of Northwestern America, Canada and Northeastern Asia, published by the French Depot De La Marine in 1766.
Bellin's map is one of the most influential maps of the Northwest Coast of America and Northeast Coast of Asia published prior to Cook's Voyages.
The map provides a detailed treatment of the Northwest Coast of America and Northeast Coast of Asia, also extending to Baffin Bay, Hudson Bay, and the confluence of the Mississippi River with the Missouri and Ohio Rivers. While the map's primary focus is on the Russian Discoveries in Alaska and the Northwest Coast of America Coast, based upon Berhing, Chirikov, and De L'Isle, the map is of great interest for its treatment of the course of the Upper Mississippi River.
Bellin's map is based upon Buache's Nouvelle Carte des Decourvertes . . . The map extends indefinitely to the north and notes that the mythical voyage of De Fonte. In modern day Alaska, Bellin shows how Bering and Chirikov touched on various points of the Aleutians and sighted Mount St. Elias, the 18,000 ft. peak located near the top of the Alaska panhandle. The Pacific northwest immediately south of that point is entirely conjectural noting apocryphal discoveries such as the 'River of the King's' encountered by the Spanish Admiral de Fuente in 1640, and the Strait of Juan De Fuca, discovered in 1592. Although the latter body of water does exist, it was probably first encountered by Europeans in the 1770s. Bellin does, however, note Sir Francis Drake's actual discovery of 'Nouvelle Albion' (northern California) in 1578.
The map shows the tracks of the Russian voyages of Bering and his deputy Aleksei Chirikov conducted from 1728-43 that first defined eastern Siberia and touched upon the American northwest. Other than the imaginary bulge on the north coast of the Chuckchi Peninsula, the coasts of Siberia are extremely well-defined, attesting to Bering's enormous talent as a cartographer. Japan, whose rulers were known to be especially unwelcoming to foreign explorers, is not well understood, such that its large northernmost island, Hokkaido, does not appear at all on the map.
Often overlooked is the wonderful treatment of the Mississippi River, which is shown extending to Lac Rouge, then to Lac Ouinpique (Winnipeg) and Lac Bourbon, then continuing to Hudson Bay, making for an uninterrupted water route from Hudson Bay to the Gulf of Mexico. A similar water course from Lac Oinipique to Lake Superior is suggested, although more tentatively so.
The course of the Missouri and Ohio Rivers are well illustrated, although the source of the Missouri is unknown, trailing off neare the Nation Du Serpent (Snake Indian Nation), and then joining up shortly later with the speculative Route de L'Ouest, a mythical river which has its outlet into the Pacific Ocean at the bay discovered by Martin d'Aguilar in 1603 (also mythical). A second river flows speculatively from the San Francisco area, seaching vainly for water a course to the Mississippi.
Bellin's map must be regarded as one of the more fascinating and influential maps of the Northwestern parts of America and the Transmississippi West of the period, incorporating the information from his seminal 1755 map of North America.
The map is relatively scarce on the market, with no copies appearing in AMPR since 1987.
Jacques-Nicolas Bellin (1703-1772) was among the most important mapmakers of the eighteenth century. In 1721, at age 18, he was appointed hydrographer (chief cartographer) to the French Navy. In August 1741, he became the first Ingénieur de la Marine of the Depot des cartes et plans de la Marine (the French Hydrographic Office) and was named Official Hydrographer of the French King.
During his term as Official Hydrographer, the Depot was the single most active center for the production of sea charts and maps, including a large folio format sea-chart of France, the Neptune Francois. He also produced a number of sea-atlases of the world, e.g., the Atlas Maritime and the Hydrographie Francaise. These gained fame, distinction, and respect all over Europe and were republished throughout the 18th and even in the succeeding century.
Bellin also came out with smaller format maps such as the 1764 Petit Atlas Maritime, containing 580 finely detailed charts. He also contributed many of the maps for Bellin and contributed a number of maps to the 15-volume Histoire Generale des Voyages of Antoine François Prévost or simply known l'Abbe Prevost.
Bellin set a very high standard of workmanship and accuracy, thus gaining for France a leading role in European cartography and geography. Many of his maps were copied by other mapmakers of Europe.