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Nicolas De Fer's Landmark 1715 Map of the Mississippi River Valley and the French Regions in the Interior of North America.

Fine example of De Fer's rare map of the southern part of the French regions in North America, one of the most important maps of the region and one of the earliest maps to incorporate the reports of Jesuit missionaries and explorers active in the early 18th Century.

In 1715, Nicolas De Fer produced this printed version of the 1701 manuscript map by Guillaume De L'Isle, entitled Carte des Environs du Missisipi.  That manuscript is generally credited as the first detailed depiction of the New Iberville geography of North America. Curiously, it was never published in printed form by De L'Isle. 

De Fer's map is perhaps the most important and influential printed regional map of the period, providing significantly updated cartographic information in a number of regions. It is the first printed map to provide the updated treatment of the Mississippi River, which was later made famous by De L'Isle in his 1718 Carte de la Louisiane et du cours du Missisipi. . . De Fer's map pre-dates De L'Isle's map by 3 years, making it the first to include the updated information along the Gulf Coast transmitted to France by Francoise Le Maire and the first to incorporate the revised and improved mapping of the region to the west of the Great Lakes derived from French missionary source.

De Fer's map was the first to provide a graphic depiction of the vast and rich commercial potential of French Louisiana, for which commercial rights would soon be ceded to John Law's Company of the West.

De Fer's map was of great contemporary importance, delineating many of the Spanish settlements which just then appearing in the region. Henry Popple would later utilize De Fer's map to delineate Spanish settlements on the Rio Grande and territory west of the Mississippi Valley.  

The map is also notable for its early depiction of the Carolina Trading Path from Charleston to the Mobile and Mississippi Rivers.

The map incorporates the reports of French explorers and missionaries in America in the late 17th and early 18th Centuries, whose work is incorporated in the map, including Hennepin, de La Salle, Tonti, Justel, des Hayes, and Jolliet. Perhaps most notable is the contributions of Francois le Maire, a Jesuit Missionary in Louisiana, whose job from 1706 to 1720 included the review and transcription of explorers' journals, accounts (and maps), which were recorded in his memoirs and then transmitted back to France. Many of these reports and maps were obtained from Spanish sources.

Sources For De Fer's 1715 Map & Brief Comparison

The present map is one of three landmark printed maps issued by the French in the early 18th Century:

  • 1703 De L'Isle Carte du Mexique et de la Floride
  • 1715 De Fer La Riviere de Missisipi et ses Environs
  • 1718 De L'Isle Carte de la Louisiane et du cours du Missisipi.

A close study of the 1715 De Fer and the 1718 De L'Isle show that the maps are not drawn from identical sources and that De L'Isle relied upon information drawn from Jean Baptiste le Moyne de Bienville, who left the Mobile area in 1713 and moved west, establishing Fort Rosalie (Natchez) in 1716 and later founding New Orleans in 1717, providing significant information to France which would not have been available to De Fer, most notably "Misions de los Teijas etablie en 1716."  While De Fer gives notice of Beineville's presence on the other side of the Red River (Bienville de Taensa aux Yataches), De Fer's map would likely only have notice of Bienville's activities in 1713 and perhaps 1714.

As such, De Fer's map is an integral transition from the cartographic content of the region contained in De L'Isle's maps of 1703 and 1718 and an essential map for regional collectors.


The map last appeared in a dealer catalog in June 2005 (Richard Arkway, Catalog 62, #17).  We also locate an example in a Goodspeed Catalog in 1961, where the cataloguer noted "this does seem to be described in Phillips nor in Wheat's Mapping the Transmississippi West. "  We find no record of the map appearing at auction. 

Due to its extreme rarity the 1715 first state of De Fer's map is known only to a small number of students of cartography. However, as it precedes De L'Isle's Louisiane, it is an important link in the evolution of geographical knowledge of the Mississippi River Valley and of the southern United States. 

Condition Description
Minor foxing.
Cumming, Southeast #169. (1718 second state); Holland, Mississippi River, pp. 96-100; Akerman, "Nicholas de Fer, Le cours du Missisipi..." in Mapline 119-120, Fall 2012, pp. 2-3.
Nicolas de Fer Biography

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.