First state of Bellin's important chart of Florida, the Gulf Coast, Caribbean and Central America.
Nicolas Bellin worked as the Depot de la Marine's senior hydrographic engineer beginning in 1721. Bellin wrote a 5 volume treatise on Gulf Navigation in 1749, which is notable for its harsh treatment of Henry Popple's map of North America. This example of Bellin's map of the Gulf Coast is drawn from the work of Valentin Devin and other French mapmakers who plied the coastlines in the early 18th Century.
Bellin abandons the treatment of the southern part of Florida as an Archipelago popularized by Buache, Moll and others. His rendition of Florida is seemingly even more bizarre than its predecessors. Many names along the coast and excellent detail, including soundings, rhumblines and detailed observations. The directions of the currents are also shown. Colored based upon territorial possessions.
The present example is apparently the first state, pre-dating the addition of the Depot de la Marine stamp and the addition of the price (Trente Sols) to the chart.
Jacques-Nicolas Bellin (1703-1772) was among the most important mapmakers of the eighteenth century. In 1721, at only the age of 18, he was appointed Hydrographer to the French Navy. In August 1741, he became the first Ingénieur de la Marine of the Dépôt 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 Dépôt was the one of the most active centers for the production of sea charts and maps in Europe. Their output included a folio-format sea atlas of France, the Neptune Francois. He also produced a number of sea atlases of the world, including the Atlas Maritime and the Hydrographie Francaise. These gained fame and distinction all over Europe and were republished throughout the eighteenth and even in the nineteenth century.
Bellin also produced smaller format maps such as the 1764 Petit Atlas Maritime, containing 580 finely-detailed charts. He also contributed a number of maps for the 15-volume Histoire Generale des Voyages of Antoine François Prévost.
Bellin set a very high standard of workmanship and accuracy, cementing France's leading role in European cartography and geography during this period. Many of his maps were copied by other mapmakers across the continent.