Scarce map of Nicolas De Fer's map of America, published in Paris by J.F. Benard, the son in law of De Fer, in 1726.
De Fer's map of America provides a finely engraved and heavily annotated depiction of North and South America, at a time when the French were still very much in control of large areas of North America and actively engaged in its exploration.
The central part of North America is dominated by the proposed drainage of the Mississippi River and its tributaries, based upon a revised configuration conceived by Guillaume De L'Isle in manuscript maps dating to the last decade of the 1600s but not produced to print until 1700. The course of the Rio Grande is shown correctly flowing into the Gulf of Mexico, with no cohesive understanding of the existence of the Colorado River system. Catalina, San Clemente, Monterey, Mendocino, Point Reyes and other early California place names appear, although neither San Diego nor San Francisco are shown, the reference to Port Francis Drake being to Drake's Bay, just to the north.
One of the more unique features of this map is the placement of a Recollet mission near Lake Assiniboine. The location of the mission pre-dates the French Jesuits who accompanied Pierre Gaultier de Varennes et de La Vérendrye. In the years 1731-1742, they explored the whole territory from Mackinaw to the upper Missouri and the Saskatchewan, establishing trading posts, and making alliances with the Indian tribes for the French government. These missionaries included Nicolas Gonor, who had lived among the Sioux as early as 1727, Charles Messager and Jean Aulneau, killed by the Sioux in 1736. Fort La Reine was built in 1738 by Vérendrye, on the Assiniboine River where present day Portage La Prairie, Manitoba stands, serving as a fur trading post and base of operations for exploration north and west.
There are a number of annotions to the east of Hudson's Bay, most of which address early discoveries in French Canada. The annotations mention Verrazano, Cartier, Hudson and even Jean Cabot's contact with the Great Banks in 1497. The strangest of these references notes a discovery by one "Antonio Zen," a reference to the apocryphal discovery of America by the Zeno brothers of Venice in the late 14th Century. This legend stems from the publication, in 1558, of the Zeno legend by a descendent, Nicolo Zeno. This alleged contact with America was debated for centuries and was, at the time this map was produced, again being studied and given some credence, as French mapmakers such as the De L'Isle brothers, De Fer and Philippe Buache sought to reconcile the disparate reports from earlier centuries, with the recent French discoveries in North America.
California is shown as an island, based upon Sanson's model, a relatively late appearance of the island of California, especially given De Fer's flirtations with treating the map as a peninsula in his small map of California first issued in 1700. The extensive annotations in the Pacific discuss the discoveries of Le Maire and Schouten in 1616, on the expedition which rounded Cape Horn and crossed from the Atlantic to the Pacific. As well, there were discussions about the Spanish discoveries originally believed to be the Solomon Islands and the sighting of land near what would become Easter Island, by an English Captain named Davis, in 1685.
The map also depicts one of the coastlines of New Zealand, based upon the discoveries of Abel Tasman, which includes 5 place names.
The present example is state 4 of 6 recorded states, identifiable by the date in the scale of miles cartouche at the right lower corner.
Nicholas de Fer (1646-1720) was the son of a map seller, Antoine de Fer, and grew to be one of the most well-known mapmakers in France in the seventeenth century. He was apprenticed at twelve years old to Louis Spirinx, an engraver. When his father died in 1673, Nicholas helped his mother run the business until 1687, when he became the sole proprietor.
His earliest known work is a map of the Canal of Languedoc in 1669, while some of his earliest engravings are in the revised edition of Methode pour Apprendre Facilement la Geographie (1685). In 1697, he published his first world atlas. Perhaps his most famous map is his wall map of America, published in 1698, with its celebrated beaver scene (engraved by Hendrick van Loon, designed by Nicolas Guerard). After his death in 1720, the business passed to his sons-in-law, Guillaume Danet and Jacques-Francois Benard.