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.
The map was first issued by Bellin in 1745 and re-issued by the Homann Heirs on the eve of the French & Indian War.
Homann Heirs was a German publishing firm that enjoyed a major place in the European map market throughout the eighteenth century. Founded in 1702 by Johann Baptist Homann, the business passed to his son, Christoph, upon Johann’s death in 1724. Christoph died in 1730, aged only 27, and the firm was inherited by subsequent Homann heirs. This altered the name of the company, which was known as Homann Erben, or Homann heirs. The firm continued in business until 1848.
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.