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Rare, Double-Hemisphere Wall Map Exhibiting the Recent Discoveries of Captain James Cook

Fine, large, double-hemisphere world map, originally published by Alexis-Hubert Jaillot and revised by Louis Brion de La Tour and Louis Charles Desnos, following the recently reported discoveries of Captain Cook and his accompanying officers Gore, Clerke, and Furneaux.

Jaillot was known for expanding and reissuing the maps of Nicholas Sanson; this rare world map is a further refinement of the original seventeenth century work, with many geographic additions and the very latest discoveries up to 1782. The map methodically tracks the voyages of the various officers during their respective circumnavigations. It is a record of the flurry of exploratory expeditions that set out in the late-eighteenth century with the goal of putting a more precise Pacific on the European world map.

Outside the two hemispheres, the maps are richly adorned. The four corners are filled with female allegorical figures representing the four known inhabited continents: Europe in the upper left, America in the lower left, Africa in the lower right, and Asia in the upper right. At the center top, Prudentia carries her mirror and serpent, while Justitia has her scales. They frame a large shield which is emblazoned with the dedication to the King of France. Text in the dedication explains that the map was based on the travels of Cook and outline his recent death in Hawaii in 1779.

At the center bottom are two more female figures, one clutching a column and the other pouring water into a vessel. They sit beside another cartouche which explains the color scheme recommended for highlighting the voyages of Cook, Clerke and Gore, and Furneaux, respectively. Interestingly, the original colorist of this example chose not to follow these directions and instead elected to color all the ships’ tracks green.  

The geography shown on the map is striking. To the south, no continent is shown. However, the zig-zag track of Cook’s ship shows just how far south he went and puts to rest the myth of a gigantic southern continent forever. Although no continent rests at the pole, there are islands of ice mentioned across both hemispheres. Included too are the southern islands Cooks sighted on his second voyage, such as Terre de Sandwich, which at the time was the most southerly landfall known.

North America is recognizable, but the shape and extent of California was still clearly a matter up for debate. The shape of Alaska too is familiar yet not the precise delineation we know today. Cook’s far northerly trek is noted, a part of his third expedition.  

The treatment of Australia and New Zealand is of note, reflecting the recent corrections drawn from Cook. However, they retain idiosyncratic shapes and locations, particularly with regard to the alignment of Australia’s east coast with the rest of the continent. New Zealand certainly reflects Cook’s extensive survey of the archipelago; it is shown as two main islands and utilizes the Maori names (Eahei-nomauwa and Tawai-Poenammoo) for the landmasses.

Many new islands and lands were included on the map, underlining the rapidly changing geography of the period. For example, the island of South Georgia, here the Ile de Georgie, is said to have been first sighted in 1675 by Anthony de la Roché, a London merchant, and was named Roche Island on a number of early maps.  It was supposedly sighted by the commercial Spanish ship León operating out of Saint-Malo in June 1756. At one time it was confused with Pepys Island, which was "discovered" by Dampier and Cowley in 1683 but later proven to be a phantom island. Captain James Cook circumnavigated the island and the smaller South Sandwich Islands in 1775 and made the first known landing. He claimed the territory for Britain and named it in honor of King George III.  

The voyages of Captain Cook and his men

The map is a chronicle of Cook’s three voyages, which put many features on European maps for the first time and drastically rewrote how Europeans understood Pacific space and peoples. Cook originally worked in coal colliers, and then as a surveyor in Newfoundland. There, his superb navigational and surveying skills were noticed, and he was recommended to lead a new Royal Navy voyage then preparing to sail. This voyage was meant for the South Seas, from where the crew would observe the Transit of Venus as part of a transnational scientific team.

The Transit of Venus would be the first of Cook’s three Pacific voyages. Cook sailed in the Endeavour on August 25, 1768, bound for Tahiti, which is written here as Otahiti. They sailed round Tierra del Fuego, on to Tahiti, and then to New Zealand. Cook’s map of New Zealand, the basis for the outline used here, would stay in use until the early twentieth century. From New Zealand, the Endeavour sailed to and then up the eastern coast of Australia. It nearly wrecked on the Great Barrier Reef, but thanks to hasty repairs managed to sail to Batavia, then to the Cape of Good Hope and back to England in July 1771.

Cook’s second voyage was centered around a different goal: the search for the elusive southern continent. This time, Cook, in the Resolution, was to be accompanied by another ship, the Adventure, under the command of Tobias Furneaux, whose track is also on this map. The ships sailed from Plymouth in July of 1772. They rounded the Cape of Good Hope and went south. The ships crossed the Antarctic Circle on January 17, 1773, the first ships known to have done so. The ships were then separated but rendezvoused in New Zealand. Furneaux, as shown by his track, went south and touched at Tasmania; however, he thought the island was attached to the mainland.

The ships then returned to Tahiti, where the Adventure picked up Mai, who would become the first Polynesian to visit Britain. The ships went again to New Zealand but were separated; Cook continued south while Furneaux decided to return home. The Resolution proceeded to search for the southern continent, eventually reaching as far south as 71˚10’ S, the farthest south of any ship until 1823. Then the Resolution put in at Easter Island before returning again to Tahiti. The ship sailed to the New Hebrides (Vanuatu), New Caledonia, and New Zealand before rounding Cape Horn to head home. En route, Cook claimed South Georgia as related above. The ship stopped at the Cape of Good Hope before returning to Britain in late July 1775. Furneaux had arrived over a year before.

Cook’s third and final voyage was supposedly to return Mai to his home, yet it was secretly intended to search for the Northwest Passage. Cook sailed this time, again in the Resolution, with the Discovery, which was under the command of Charles Clerke. The ships spent Christmas of 1776 in the Kerguelen group, then went on to Tasmania and New Zealand and Tahiti. This portion of the voyage is not shown on this map. The track shown here begins in late 1777, when the ships turned north, eventually reaching Kauai, then called the Sandwich Islands by Cook, in January 1778.

From Hawaii, the ships sailed farther north still, reaching what is today the Northwest of the United States and Canada and coasting north to what is now Alaska. They crossed the Arctic Circle in August 1778. As in the southern polar region, the ships were turned back by ice. The ships returned to Hawaii to take on provisions. They were welcomed by the people at Kealakekua Bay. The ships left but were forced to return when the Resolution’s mast broke. This time, they people of Kealakekua got into a dispute with Cook; he was killed on February 14, 1779, along with four marines and at least 16 Hawaiians.

After Cook’s death, Charles Clerke assumed command of the expedition. He returned the ships north, but ice again deterred them. Clerke died in August, leaving John Gore in charge. The ships went to Kamchatka and then near Japan before anchoring at Macao. At Macao, they sold sea otter pelts and started the fur trade that would decimate several species of the North Pacific. From there, the two ships rounded the Cape of Good Hope and returned to the Thames in early October 1780. The three voyages had changed geography, and certainly this map, forever.


This is the first time we have ever seen the map. It seems to be a rare survival.

As stated, earlier states of the map exist, such as that issued in 1691 by Jaillot. A later state of the map also exists, with the French coat of arms (3 Fleur d'lis) and dedication to the King removed and a Desnos advertisement added. The upper date on that has been changed from 1782 to 1789.

Condition Description
Copper-plate wall map on four sheets, joined. Expertly mended tears and abrasions, and a few small areas of facsimile and reinstatement. Overall, a remarkable survival.
For an excellent timeline of Cook's voyages, see
Louis Brion de la Tour Biography

Louis Brion de la Tour (ca. 1743-1803) was a French geographer and demographer. Little is known about Louis’ early life, but some glimpses of his professional life survive. He did achieve the title of Ingénieur Géographe du Roi. Much of his work was done in partnership with Louis Charles Desnos, who was bookseller and geographical engineer for globes to the Danish Crown. He worked on the Indicateur fidèle ou guide des voyageurs, qui enseigne toutes les routes royales between 1762 and 1785. During his career he also worked on several atlases. By 1795, he had gained a pension from the National Assembly. Perhaps this pension was granted in part because his son, also Louis Brion de la Tour (1763-1823), was an engraver who made Revolutionary prints, as well as maps.

Alexis-Hubert Jaillot Biography

Alexis-Hubert Jaillot (ca. 1632-1712) was one of the most important French cartographers of the seventeenth century. Jaillot traveled to Paris with his brother, Simon, in 1657, hoping to take advantage of Louis XIV's call to the artists and scientists of France to settle and work in Paris. Originally a sculptor, he married the daughter of Nicholas Berey, Jeanne Berey, in 1664, and went into partnership with Nicholas Sanson's sons. Beginning in 1669, he re-engraved and often enlarged many of Sanson's maps, filling in the gap left by the destruction of the Blaeu's printing establishment in 1672.