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An Important Early Map of the Five Great Lakes

Fine example of Bellin's map of the Five Great Lakes and quite possibly the earliest use of the term "Great Lakes" on a printed map.

Significant regional map of the Great Lakes. The next major step forward in the French mapping of North America after De L'Isle's work in the early 18th Century was made by Nicolas Bellin with the publication of his maps of New France in 1744. His prototype map of the Great Lakes was issued in Pierre-François-Xavier de Charlevoix's Histoire et Description Generale de la Nouvelle France and is based on the manuscript work of Chaussegros de Lery who was chief engineer of the army in New France.

Bellin's map is the first map to show the imaginary islands of Philippeaux and Pontchartrain in Lake Superior. It also shows a curious elevated plateau in the Michigan Peninsula. Despite these misconceptions, Bellin's rendering of the Great Lakes was the most accurate yet published, and it remains one of the most striking depictions of the region.

Jacques Nicolas Bellin Biography

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.