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An Early Re-Issue of a Cartographic Landmark Map

This is a finely executed map of the southern part of North America by the French mapmaker Henri Chatelain. The map draws its inspiration from the royal mapmaker Guillaume de L'Isle's landmark map of the region and originally appeared in Chatelain's monumental seven-volume Atlas Historique.

The map illustrates the advancement of cartographic knowledge in the regions of Texas, Florida, and the Gulf Coast. These regions had only recently been opened to non-Spanish trade, which allowed for cartographic knowledge of the region to spread through Europe. De L'Isle, with his unrivalled access to knowledge and power, was able to fully take advantage of this newly available knowledge.

The map also provides marvelous detail of the regions drained by the Mississippi. The discoveries made during early French exploration of the region at the end of the 17th century was just beginning to find its way into printed maps at the time. Points of interest in this area include the Meschasipi or Great River, which flow away from the Missouri from an unknown source and to an unknown destination, as well as the numerous towns and tribes labeled in the region. In other parts of the continent, curiosities include Quivira, the seven cities of Cibola, an extensive Rio del Norte (Rio Grande), and a description of the great buffalo herds of the plains.

The map contains an extremely early reference to Chicago. On the southwest shore of Lake Michigan (Lac des Illinois), a small settlement named Checagou is marked. The name appears on several maps of the region in the period and was usually ascribed as a fort. The earliest European reference to the name appears to come from the French explorer de LaSalle when he constructed a small stockade at the portage there.

De L'Isle's Map

Chatelain bases his map on Guillaume De L'Isle's monumental Carte du Mexique . . . , first issued in 1703, along with several other of De L'Isle's works. De L'Isle's map is drawn from the reports brought back to France from the survivors of the LaSalle expedition as well as from information from the explorations of Bienville and d'Iberville. De L'Isle also leveraged his close relationship with the king of France to access the best available information regarding the New World. From this, he was able to use sources from French missionaries and Spanish manuscript maps. These manuscripts were oftentimes copied by the French missionaries once they had gained the trust of the Spanish.

The result of De L'Isle's labors 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), the Mississippi Valley and Gulf Coast (Carte de la Louisiane et du Cours du Mississipi, 1708), and Mexico and Florida (Carte Du Mexique et de la Floride, 1703)

Carl Wheat called De L'Isle's map a "towering landmark along the path of Western cartographic development." De L'Isle's maps include greater accuracy in the Great Lakes region and an improved depiction of English settlements along the East Coast. There is excellent detail of the Indian villages in eastern Texas. This "profoundly influential" map (Cumming) provided the best depiction of the Southwest to date.

Chatelain's Atlas Historique

Henri Abraham Chatelain first published his Atlas Historique in seven volumes from 1705 to 1720, targeted at an audience eager for all types of information. Particularly focused on geography, Chatelain also touched on cosmography, geography, history, chronology, genealogy, heraldry, and much more. Several volumes would be reprinted until 1739.

Many of the maps Chatelain uses were based on the work of the French cartographer, Guillaume de L'Isle. Other plates were based on the most extensive contemporary travel accounts, including those of Dapper, Chardin, de Bruyn, and Le Hay.

A major focus of the work regards newly colonized lands, which wealthy Europeans were eager to learn more about. His plates and text describe the way of life in these faraway lands, with parts of the work devoted to the Americas, Africa, the Middle East, Mongolia, Indonesia, and much more. Chatelain did not neglect European subjects, describing them in detail as well.

Several plates from the work are particularly renowned, especially Chatelain's fascinating map of the Pacific and the Americas, which shows the Island of California, Korea, Japan, and many other places in intriguing detail alongside extensive text and annotations. In addition, Chatelain's title pages are attractively designed, as are the maps he uses. 

There is some debate as to the identity of the compiler of the atlas, described only as Mr. C***. Recent scholarship suggests this might, in fact, be Zacherie Chatelain, not Henri Abraham Chatelain.

Henri Chatelain Biography

Henri Abraham Chatelain (1684-1743) was a Huguenot pastor of Parisian origins. Chatelain proved a successful businessman, creating lucrative networks in London, The Hague, and then Amsterdam. He is most well known for the Atlas Historique, published in seven volumes between 1705 and 1720. This encyclopedic work was devoted to the history and genealogy of the continents, discussing such topics as geography, cosmography, topography, heraldry, and ethnography. Published thanks to a partnership between Henri, his father, Zacharie, and his younger brother, also Zacharie, the text was contributed to by Nicolas Gueudeville, a French geographer. The maps were by Henri, largely after the work of Guillaume Delisle, and they offered the general reader a window into the emerging world of the eighteenth century.