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A Cartographic Landmark -- The First Map To Accurately Depict the Course and Mouth of the Mississippi River

Rare first state of the first printed map to accurately depict the course and mouth of the Mississippi River, published by Guillaume De L'Isle in 1703.

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 information derived from the explorations of Bienville and d'Iberville.

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 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."

One of the most important and influential American maps published during the early 18th Century.

States of the Map

The states of the map can be identified as follows:

  • 1703 - De L'Isle's first address on Rue Des Canette
  • 1703 circa - Address changed to Quai de l'Horologe a la Couronned de Diamans.  A Renard/Amsterdam address is added as a second map seller
  • 1708 circa - Address shortened to Quai de l'Horologe and Renard's imprint removed.
  • 1745 - Ph. Buache imprinted added in the bottom margin
  • 1783 - Title changed to Carte du Mexique et des Etats Unis . . . 

French Revolution Provenance

During the French Revolution, literally millions of maps, books, prints, paintings, statues and other objects were "modified" to remove all evidence of the French Monarchy.  

In the cartouche of the present map, the word "Royale" in "Academie Royale" and the word "Roy" (King) in the privilege were apparently removed during the French Revolution, then added back at a later date. While we have seen examples of De L'Isle maps with the French Royal Coat of arms defaced, this is the first time we have ever seen such a meticulous and minute modification.  It is difficult to imagine someone meticulously removing these words from an atlas of 100+ maps!


The first edition is scarce on the market. This is our third example in more than 20 years.

Cumming, W.P. (SE) 137; Tooley, R.V. (Amer) p.23, #50; Schwartz & Ehrenberg, pl.82; Wheat, C.I. (TM) 84; Martin, J. & R. pl.15.
Guillaume De L'Isle Biography

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.