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D'Anville's Influential Map of The Gulf Coast

Fine example of D'Anville's map of the Gulf Coast from the Apalachicola Bay area to around the mouth of the Sabine in Texas. This is one of the earliest obtainable large-format maps of the region.

The map tracks the Mississippi River, Arkansas River, Red River, Osage River and Missouri Rivers, and includes a detailed, large inset of the Mississippi River Valley from the Arkansas to above the Missouri Rivers. The detail along the Mississippi, both in the main map and the inset of the northern regions, is quite impressive for the period.

In the east, the map notes Fort Crevecoeur, which is described as abandoned in 1718. Nearby is an unnamed Spanish fort, noted as constructed in 1719 (see below). The Bays of Pensacola, Mobile, and Pascagoula are shown surveyed and include sounding depths.

The map notes Vieux (Old) Biloxi (Fort Maurepas), which is identified as the first settlement established in Louisiana in 1699, but by the time this map was published, the settlement had moved just to the south. Up the Mobile River, Fort Louis, the initial site of Mobile, is described as established in 1702 and abandoned in 1711. The detail up the Mobile River is quite good for the time period, extending north to the Riviere de Alibamons and the Alibamons (Alabama) Indian region.

The detail along the Pascagoula River is also excellent for the mid-eighteenth century, including some very early Indian Roads and extending inland to Coué-tchitou ou Village du Grand-Chef, Okitbea, and Concha.

New Orleans is nestled between Lakes Ouachas (Lake Salvador) and Pontchartrain, upriver from an older settlement originally made in 1700. Farther up the Mississippi is Natchés (Natchez), which is labeled as destroyed by the French in 1730, one of many nearby sites that were destroyed around that time as part of the Natchez Revolt, when the Natchez people overran Fort Rosalie and the French retaliated across the area.

While the map is well delineated for when it was made, in 1732, and published, in 1752, it still shows how little Europeans knew about the area. Particularly in the southwest, portions of the coast are labeled as little known or unknown.

D'Anville's map derives from the manuscript maps of Valentin Devin, although Spanish sources are also acknowledged, especially near New Orleans. Devin arrived in Louisiana in January of 1719 as part of an expedition to explore and chart the coastline of Louisiana for John Law's Compagnie d'Occident (Company of the West, also known as the Mississippi Company). Over the course of the next decade, Devin would produce a number of important survey maps of the various bays and coastal regions that make up this region, along with some general maps of the coastline between Texas and the Fort Crevecoeur area.

Thomas Jefferson acquired seven of D'Anville's maps in 1787. Almost certainly, this was one of them, as Jefferson commented to Gallatin about the importance of this particular map. Meriwether Lewis obtained a copy before embarking on the Lewis and Clark Expedition (1804-6). It is one of the best large-format maps of the period.

European settlement of the Gulf Coast

Initial European contact with this area, and its many native peoples, took place in the early sixteenth century. In 1513, Ponce de León was the first European to encounter Florida. Alonso de Pineda surveyed the Gulf Coast in 1519, providing initial cartographic information for the Rio Grande and the Mississippi. He also showed that Florida and Mexico were part of the same landmass.

In 1527, the Spanish sent a colonizing and exploratory expedition under the command of Pánfilo de Narváez. By 1536, only four members of the expedition, out of an original 600, survived after being shipwrecked, captured, and having traversed much of the Gulf of Mexico and Texas.

Only two years after these stragglers made it back to Spanish controlled lands, Spain sent out another massive expedition, this one commanded by Hernando de Soto. The ten ships and 700 men landed at Tampa Bay in May 1539. They moved overland to near Tallahassee before heading north into what is today Georgia, the Carolinas, Tennessee, and then into Alabama. They were led by Indigenous peoples along the way. The Spanish were attacked by other Indigenous peoples near Mobile in 1540. They then turned northward and encountered the Mississippi River as they entered what is now Arkansas and Louisiana. Do Soto died along the Mississippi in May 1542. Luis de Moscoso took command, leading the surviving half of the expedition down the Mississippi on rafts. They reached Mexico in 1543.

The Spanish established their claim to Florida in 1513 with Ponce de León and strengthened after the presidio of St. Augustine was founded in 1565. Spanish missions spread across the panhandle, Georgia, and what is now South Carolina in the seventeenth century. Pensacola was founded in 1698 and is included on this map.

However, Spain was not left alone to claim wide swathes of the Gulf Coast. The French were also very interested in the area, driven largely by traders who pushed south from New France. The region gained its name, Louisiana, in honor of King Louis XIV, in 1682 thanks to explorer Robert Cavalier de La Salle.

Their first major settlement was at Fort Maurepas, or Vieux Biloxi, founded in 1699, as noted on the map. They also set up a fort at the mouth of the Mississippi, la Balise, which is also seen here. Initially, the capital of the territory was at Mobile, which was originally founded at Fort Louis in 1702 but then moved to Fort Condé. The capital then moved to Biloxi in 1720. Biloxi had also recently shifted, from Old Biloxi (seen here) to the new site closer to the Gulf. By 1722, France claimed all the land south of the Great Lakes between the Rocky Mountains and Alleghenies. This is the reason for D’Anville’s map— increased French interest in the region thanks to recent imperial expansion.

However, the two imperial powers were still rubbing shoulders across the Gulf. The French built Fort Crevecoeur in 1717 and, for a short time, it was the strongest military outpost between St. Augustine and Pensacola. The Spanish governor at Pensacola objected to the fortification and the French decided to abandon the project only a year after it was built. The Spanish then occupied the site until 1722 before dismantling it. Farther west, the French established Natchitoches (Village des Natchitoches here) in 1714. As the map shows, it was very near the Spanish presidio in Adayes in Texas (Tecas).

The Spanish and French were also both interested in New Orleans. The French Mississippi Company founded the settlement in 1718. It remained in French hands when this map was made and published, but passed to the Spanish thanks to the Treaty of Paris in 1763. It remained under Spanish control until 1800, when the French took it back. It then became United States territory in 1803.

Condition Description
Engraved map on two sheets of laid paper joined as one. Bottom margin a little unevenly trimmed but still ample from the neatline.
Flags Along The Coast, p. 94; The Historic New Orleans Collection, Charting Louisiana, Map #24, pp. 66-67. KAP
Jean-Baptiste Bourguignon d'Anville Biography

Jean-Baptiste Bourguignon d’Anville (1697-1782) was one of the foremost French geographers of the eighteenth century. He carried out rigorous research in order to create his maps, which greatly developed the technical proficiency of mapmaking during his lifetime. His style was also simpler and less ornate than that of many of his predecessors. It was widely adopted by his contemporaries and successors.

The son of a tailor, d’Anville showed cartographic prowess from a young age; his first map, of Ancient Greece, was published when he was only fifteen years old. By twenty-two, he was appointed as one of the King’s géographes ordinaire de roi. He tutored the young Louis XV while in the service to the Crown. However, royal appointment did not pay all the bills, so d’Anville also did some work for the Portuguese Crown from 1724. For example, he helped to fill out Dom João V’s library with geographical works and made maps showing Portugal’s African colonies.  

D’Anville disapproved of merely copying features from other maps, preferring instead to return to the texts upon which those maps were based to make his own depictions. This led him to embrace blank spaces for unknown areas and to reject names which were not supported by other sources. He also amassed a large personal map library and created a network of sources that included Jesuits in China and savants in Brazil. D’Anville’s historical approach to cartography resulted in magnificently detailed, yet modern and academic, maps. For example, his 1743 map of Italy improved upon all previous maps and included a memoir laying out his research and innovations. The geographer also specialized in ancient historical geography.

In 1773, d’Anville was named premier géographe de roi. In 1780, he ceded his considerable library to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to be used for as a reference library for diplomats. D’Anville is best known for several maps, including his map of China, first published in 1735, and then included with Du Halde’s history of that country (the Hague, 1737). His map of Africa (1749) was used well into the nineteenth century.