The Florida Archipelago in its Grandest Form -- An Exceptional Navigational Chart of Florida, the Gulf Coast and Caribbean
Rare late edition of Bellin's important sea of the Gulf Coast and Caribbean, which is substantially revised and updated from the first edition issued by Bellin in 1749.
The changes throughout the map are significant, from the changes in the interior of Texas, to the better understanding of the course of the rivers and contours of the coastline throughout the Gulf Coast. The additions and updating are evident throughout Central America and the Caribbean.
Perhaps the most significant change (and the one which would continue to change over the next several decades) is the vastly different treatment of southern Florida. In this edition, Bellin has broken up the Peninsula into a vast archipelago of massive islands, beginning in the Central par of Florida's east coast. In the south, there is a massive channel shown between the area between Miami (which would not appear on a map for another 70 years) and the islands west of the region. The entire Gulf Coast has been re-worked and a number of new Bays and other coastal features are represented for the first time on this second edition of the map.
The revisions to the map tell a marvelous story of the evolution of the map from its first appearance in 1749. A link to the 1749 edition can be found here: /gallery/detail/24516
This map is apparently a later edition of the first state of this edition of the map, which was originally noted as "Seconde Editione, Annee 1774." Some observers have noted that "Annee 17" means the 17th year of the French Republic, commenced in 1791. However, it would seem that the map is probably not a post-French Revolution map, as the words "Vaisseau du Roy" still appear in the title and Bellin is referenced as "Conseur Royale", two facts that strongly suggest that the French Revolution had not yet commenced.
is a marvelous compilation of known and semi-known cartographic information, at the end of the period where the most important maps of the region were Spanish & French maps.
The Dépôt de la Marine, known more formally as the Dépôt des cartes et plans de la Marine, was the central charting institution of France. The centralization of hydrography in France began in earnest when Jean-Baptiste Colbert became First Minister of France in 1661. Under his watch, the first Royal School of Hydrography began operating, as did the first survey of France’s coasts (1670-1689). In 1680, Colbert consolidated various collections of charts and memoirs into a single assemblage, forming the core of sources for what would become the Dépôt.
The Dépôt itself began as the central deposit of charts for the French Navy. In 1720, the Navy consolidated its collection with those government materials covering the colonies, creating a single large repository of navigation. By 1737, the Dépôt was creating its own original charts and, from 1750, they participated in scientific expeditions to determine the accurate calculation of longitude.
In 1773, the Dépôt received a monopoly over the composition, production, and distribution of navigational materials, solidifying their place as the main producer of geographic knowledge in France. Dépôt-approved charts were distributed to official warehouses in port cities and sold by authorized merchants. The charts were of the highest quality, as many of France’s premier mapmakers worked at the Dépôt in the eighteenth century, including Philippe Bauche, Jacques-Nicolas Bellin, Rigobert Bonne, Jean Nicolas Buache, and Charles-François Beautemps-Beaupré.
The Dépôt continued to operate until 1886, when it became the Naval Hydrographic Service. In 1971, it changed names again, this time to the Naval and Oceanographic Service (SHOM). Although its name has changed, its purpose is largely the same, to provide high quality cartographic and scientific information to the France’s Navy and merchant marine.