Antique engraved map of the southern Atlantic Ocean, by Jacques Nicolas Bellin, the foremost French chartmaker of the 18th century.
The map covers all of the eastern South American coast from Cape Horn to the mouth of the Amazon. In Africa, the map covers the coast from the Cape of Good Hope to the Gabon River.
An interesting note in the cartouche relates to the difficulty of making completely accurate observations of latitude and (particularly) longitude in the early 18th century.
The star denotes locations where the latitude and longitude have been derived from astronomical observations.
The single cross denotes locations where latitude was observed from land. The double cross denotes where latitude was observed from sea.
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.