Early Map of the Great Lakes and Fur Trading Regions of French Canada
Finely colored example of this remarkable map of Canada, the Great Lakes and the course of the Mississippi, extending south to the Missouri River.
This map is one of the best obtainable compilations of the locations of the various French Missions, forts, and French and Indian settlements during the period, and also depicts significant river crossing locations, portages and other essential travel information in the region. The search for the water route to the Pacific is still very much alive in the reports of this map, although no definitive route is shown as clearly open.
The map provides one of the most interesting depictions of the Upper Mississippi River during the time period, derived from Jolliet's rare map and report. In 1663, the French embarked on a westward expansion policy, initially focused on locating the Mississippi River, whose existence was known through Indian reports. Louis Jolliet, a fur trader and explorer, and Jacques Marquette, a Jesuit father led an overland expedition to the west, which left Green Bay in May 1673.
After following the courses of the Fox and Wisconsin Rivers, the expedition reached the upper Mississippi. Continuing south, they discovered the mouths of the Missouri, Ohio, and Arkansas Rivers. On the return trip, they found a short cut to Lake Michigan by following the Illinois and Des Plaines Rivers to a portage at Chicago. Several manuscript maps survive based on the discoveries of Jolliet and Marquette, with this first printed version being adapted for inclusion in Thevenot's Recueil des Voyages (Paris, 1681). Thevenot's map shows for the first time on a printed map the Mississippi and its tributaries north of the Arkansas based on first-hand observation. The depiction of the river between the Arkansas and the gulf is based on speculation. It was also the first map to include the place name Michigan or Mitchigami.
The present map extends south to the Ouabach River.
Henri Abraham Chatelain (1684-1743) was a Huguenot pastor of Parisian origins. Chatelain proved a successful businessman, creating lucrative networks in London, The Hague, and then Amsterdam. He is most well known for the Atlas Historique, published in seven volumes between 1705 and 1720. This encyclopedic work was devoted to the history and genealogy of the continents, discussing such topics as geography, cosmography, topography, heraldry, and ethnography. Published thanks to a partnership between Henri, his father, Zacharie, and his younger brother, also Zacharie, the text was contributed to by Nicolas Gueudeville, a French geographer. The maps were by Henri, largely after the work of Guillaume Delisle, and they offered the general reader a window into the emerging world of the eighteenth century.