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Detailed Map of the Caribbean by D’Anville

Fine map of the Caribbean Sea, with much of the coastline of what is today the southern United States, Mexico, and northern South America. This is the second state of the first edition of the map.

The interest of this map, although not useful for navigation per se, is waterways. Florida is shown with an emphasis on the archipelagic nature of the Florida Keys in the south. The entrances to major rivers are marked, such as the Mississippi, the Rio Bravo, and the Orinoco. Rocks, shallows, and obstructions in the water are also marked with x’s, dotted lines, and shading.

The map was carefully compiled in D’Anville’s characteristic style. As usual, he encourages a scale in multiple measures, this time in French leagues, marine leagues, and Spanish leagues. The title, in a decorative cartouche in the upper right corner, translates to:

Map of the isles of America and several countries of the mainland located in front of these Isles & around the Gulf of Mexico.

Made based on a large number of particular maps, on the instructions of navigators and travelers, on the recitals of the Spanish historians, which furnish details which have not been entered into the maps. The whole diminishes under the most favorable projection, and agrees with astronomical determinations of longitude of Martinique, Santo Domingo, Jamaica, Cartagena, and Louysiana [sic.].

D'Anville’s title tells us a bit about his sources. These include the latest and previous printed maps and descriptions by European mapmakers. He also calls out unpublished or uncirculated materials kept in the Spanish cartographic repository in Seville. Usually difficult to access, D’Anville must have had associates in Spain willing to share the carefully guarded geographic knowledge. The volume in which this map was originally included was based on Jesuit accounts, which could point to the contact and network who helped D’Anville attain Spanish documents.

States and editions of this map

The original version of this map was part of a book for which D’Anville produced several items. This was Father Pierre François Xavier de Charlevoix’s Histoire de L’Isle Espagnole ou de S. Domingue, the first volume of which was published in Paris in 1730. This was one of the first books to be dedicated to the history of the island and this map was part of an important source for the history and geography of the Caribbean region.

Unlike some of the other maps in the volume, this regional representation was reproduced and reissued with corrections. The first state was dated in March 1730 and does not include the cartouche around the title; an example is available here: .

This second state, dated March 1731, has a few geographic corrections on the first, possibly proof, state. One of these is the repositioning of the name of the Rio Bravo River and Presidio de San Juan. The cartouche frame has also been added. This was the state included with the Histoire.

Sometime after 1731, the map was re-engraved, as can be seen in the lettering in the title, the mouth of the Orinoco, and the refitting of the terrestrial boundaries into the frame of the border. In the previous edition the edges of the land extended beyond the latitude and longitude borders. A box has also been added around the scale in the lower left corner.

There is a third edition, where the plate has been expanded in the margins to include as yet un-added cartographic information and the scale has been removed. An example is here: .

A second state of this expanded edition, with additional insets added above and below the central map, was published in 1759 and 1781 by Homann Heirs in Nuremberg. See an example of this item here:,-0.021,3.176,1.269,0 .

Jean-Baptiste Bourguignon d'Anville Biography

Jean-Baptiste Bourguignon d’Anville (1697-1782) was one of the foremost French geographers of the eighteenth century. He carried out rigorous research in order to create his maps, which greatly developed the technical proficiency of mapmaking during his lifetime. His style was also simpler and less ornate than that of many of his predecessors. It was widely adopted by his contemporaries and successors.

The son of a tailor, d’Anville showed cartographic prowess from a young age; his first map, of Ancient Greece, was published when he was only fifteen years old. By twenty-two, he was appointed as one of the King’s géographes ordinaire de roi. He tutored the young Louis XV while in the service to the Crown. However, royal appointment did not pay all the bills, so d’Anville also did some work for the Portuguese Crown from 1724. For example, he helped to fill out Dom João V’s library with geographical works and made maps showing Portugal’s African colonies.  

D’Anville disapproved of merely copying features from other maps, preferring instead to return to the texts upon which those maps were based to make his own depictions. This led him to embrace blank spaces for unknown areas and to reject names which were not supported by other sources. He also amassed a large personal map library and created a network of sources that included Jesuits in China and savants in Brazil. D’Anville’s historical approach to cartography resulted in magnificently detailed, yet modern and academic, maps. For example, his 1743 map of Italy improved upon all previous maps and included a memoir laying out his research and innovations. The geographer also specialized in ancient historical geography.

In 1773, d’Anville was named premier géographe de roi. In 1780, he ceded his considerable library to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to be used for as a reference library for diplomats. D’Anville is best known for several maps, including his map of China, first published in 1735, and then included with Du Halde’s history of that country (the Hague, 1737). His map of Africa (1749) was used well into the nineteenth century.