Decorative example of Georges Louis Le Rouge's 4 sheet sea chart of the Atlantic Ocean, prepared for his Pilote Americain Septentrionale, which was compiled specifically for use by the French Navy during the American Revolution.
The chart provides a detailed treatment of the Atlantic Coast of North America, the Caribbean and Gulf Coasts, along with a detailed set of annotations on various courses across the Atlantic from the coasts of Europe and Africa. Each of the courses is extensively annotated and includes prevailing ocean currents. Along the coastlines, many coastal towns and rivers are listed, along with soundings. The chart includes 3 compass roses.
Le Rouge's chart would have been one of the primary sources of information for French Military Pilots and French Merchants in route to America to support the Colonists against Great Britain duing American Revolution.
Following the commencement of the American Revolution, France initially played a passive support role on behalf of the American colonists. While some important French officers, including Lafayette and Pierre L'Enfant joined the Americans as volunteers, for the first two years, the French primarily provided military and other supplies to the Americans. Ultimately, in 1778, following several years of diplomatic efforts by Benjamin Franklin and others, France formally recognized the United States on February 6, 1778, which was followed shortly thereafter by Britain's declaration of war on France on March 17, 1778.
France's initial involvement in the war in North America was an unsuccessful attempt to capture Newport, Rhode Island, which was then under British occupation.
In support of France's new military interests in North America, George Louis Le Rouge, then mapmaker to King Louis XVI, set out to create a set of sea charts of North America for use by the French Navy. Le Rouge's Pilote Americain Septentrionaledrew upon the work of William Faden and Thomas Jefferys, utilizing a series of maps first published in 1775 under the title North American Pilot, which consisted of 2 volumes, one focusing on Canadian waters and the second focusing on what would become the 13 Colonies. The maps were modified with French nomenclature and sailing directions and improved where better information was available.
Because its primary purpose was as a military atlas designed for use at sea by the French Navy, very few examples of the Pilote Americain Septentrionale have survived, even fewer in good condition, and the individual maps from this atlas rarely appear on the market. The last complete copy of the atlas to appear at auction was sold at Sothebys in 1949.
George-Louis Le Rouge (1712-1790), though known for his work in Paris, was originally born Georg Ludwig of Hanover, Germany. He grew up and was educated in Hanover, after which he became a surveyor and military engineer. Around 1740, however, Le Rouge moved to Paris and set up shop as an engraver and publisher on the Rue des Grands Augustins. It was at this time that he changed his name, adopting a French pseudonym that would later become quite famous.
Le Rouge spent much of his forty-year career translating various works from English to French, and his cartographic influence often came from English maps. His experience as a surveyor and engineer in Germany made him a skilled and prolific cartographer, and he produced thousands of charts, maps, atlases, and plans. His work spans from garden views and small-town plans to huge, multiple-continent maps. Le Rouge eventually accepted the position of Geographical Engineer for Louid XV, the King of France.
Later in life, Le Rouge became well-known for publishing North American maps, such as in his Atlas ameriquain septentrional of 1778. One of Le Rouge’s other more famous works is the Franklin/Folger chart of the Gulf Stream, which he worked on with Benjamin Franklin. Franklin and Le Rouge corresponded around 1780 and collaborated to create this map, a French version of Franklin’s famous chart which was originally printed in 1769.