Seminal map of the Great Lakes, by Jacques Nicolas Bellin, which completely re-wrote the cartographic treatment of the region.
Bellin's map of the Great Lakes is one of the cartographic landmarks of the region. Among other things, the map is noteworthy for the introduction of the islands in Lake Superior, which would remain on maps for nearly 100 years. The map summarizes the knowledge of the region as the French knew it toward the end of their occupation. It shows the river systems known to the French explorers, locates French forts and settlements and identifies Indian Villages. The map also incorporates some of the work of Sieur de La Verendrye, the last of the great French explorers in America.
Bellin's first map of the Great Lakes was issued in 1744 and copied by the Homann Heirs. In 1755, Bellin issued this substantially enlarged and revised map, which can be distinguished from the earlier 1744 Bellin and Homann Heirs edition in a number of ways, besides the imprint. The Bellin's shows the Ohio River extending below the neat line and includes significantly more detail on the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers, a very different shape for Lake Erie and Lake Ontario and in general, significantly different topographical features. Other than the cartouche and the general regional coverage, there is very little similarity between the two maps.
The Bellin edition of this map is exceedingly rare on the market.
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.