Scarce 1745 state of Guillaume De L'Isle's 1703 landmark map, the first printed map to accurately depict the course and mouth of the Mississippi River.
De L'Isle's Carte du Mexique . . . is drawn from the reports brought back to France from the survivor's of the La Salle expedition into the interior of North America and from the information derived from the explorations of Bienville and d'Iberville. In the year preceding the publication of the map, De L'Isle utilized his position with the King of France to gain access to the best available information from the new world. During this time period, he assiduously compiled the geographical data from the reports of the French Jesuit Missionaries and Explorers in North America, along with Spanish manuscript maps (often copied by the Missionaries while they were acting in the service of the Spanish as spiritual guides and gaining their confidence). The result of this work was a series of landmark maps of North America, including his map of North America ( L'Amerique Septentrionale, 1700), Canada and the Great Lakes ( Carte du Canada ou de la Nouvelle France 1703), and the Mississippi Valley & Gulf Coast ( Carte de la Louisiane et du Cours du Mississipi 1708).
Carl Wheat called the map a "towering landmark along the path of Western cartographic development." De L'Isle's map also includes greater accuracy in the Great Lakes region and in its depiction of English settlements along the East Coast. Excellent detail of the Indian villages in East Texas, based upon the reports of d'Iberville and the Spanish missionaries. The best depiction of the Southwest to date, with early trails & Indian tribes. Cumming described the map as "profoundly influential.
The following states have been identified by Tooley:
- State 1 (1703): De L'Isle's first address on Rue Des Canettes.
- State 2 (1703): address changed to Quai de l'Horloge Couronne de Diamans and the imprint of Renard.
- State 3 (1708): Couronne de Diamans and Renard imprint are removed and the engraver's name (Simoneau) appears.
- State 4 (1745): Philippe Buache imprint added below neatline at right.
- State 5 (1783): Title altered to "Carte du Mexique et des Etas Unis d'Amerique, Partie Meridionale, issued by Dezauche, showing US States and boundaries.
Guillaume De L'Isle (1675-1726) is probably the greatest figure in French cartography. Having learned geography from his father Claude, by the age of eight or nine he could draw maps to demonstrate ancient history. He studied mathematics and astronomy under Cassini, from whom he received a superb grounding in scientific cartography—the hallmark of his work. His first atlas was published in ca. 1700. In 1702 he was elected a member of the Academie Royale des Sciences and in 1718 he became Premier Geographe du Roi.
De L'Isle's work was important as marking a transition from the maps of the Dutch school, which were highly decorative and artistically-orientated, to a more scientific approach. He reduced the importance given to the decorative elements in maps, and emphasized the scientific base on which they were constructed. His maps of the newly explored parts of the world reflect the most up-to-date information available and did not contain fanciful detail in the absence of solid information. It can be fairly said that he was truly the father of the modern school of cartography at the commercial level.
De L’Isle also played a prominent part in the recalculation of latitude and longitude, based on the most recent celestial observations. His major contribution was in collating and incorporating this latitudinal and longitudinal information in his maps, setting a new standard of accuracy, quickly followed by many of his contemporaries. Guillaume De L’Isle’s work was widely copied by other mapmakers of the period, including Chatelain, Covens & Mortier, and Albrizzi.
Philippe Buache (1700-1773) was one of the most famous French geographers of the eighteenth century. Buache was married to the daughter of the eminent Guillaume Delisle and worked with his father-in-law, carrying on the business after Guillaume died. Buache gained the title geographe du roi in 1729 and was elected to the Academie des Sciences in the same year. Buache was a pioneering theoretical geographer, especially as regards contour lines and watersheds. He is best known for his works such as Considérations géographiques et physiques sur les découvertes nouvelles dans la grande mer (Paris, 1754).