Rare 1704 Leiden Edition
Rare 1704 Leiden edition of Hennepin's highly important map of North America, from his Nouvelle Decouverte d'un Tres Grand Pays, which were described by Karpinski as " remarkable improvements" from the then best available modern maps for the Great Lakes.
Fr. Louis Hennepin, a member of the Recollect Order of Franciscans, accompanied Rene-Robert de LaSalle on part of his journey down the Mississippi in 1682. LaSalle was hoping to reach the Pacific Ocean, but instead ended up in the Gulf of Mexico, thereby adding a large slice of North America to French claims west of the Appalachians, well away from the threat of British colonists. Later, the French would use this expedition as the basis for claiming all of the land between the Rio Grande and Mississippi River as belonging to France, a claim which would not be resolved until the Adams-Onis Treaty in 1819.
The map provides an excellent summary of the state of knowledge of North America, at the beginning of the 18th century. Among other things, this beautiful map attempts to place into perspective Hennepin's mapping of the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River. Karpinski noted that Hennepin's delineations of Lakes Superior, Michigan and Huron are remarkable improvements upon the Sanson maps.
Hennepin produced two maps of North America for this work, this general map and a more regional map. This map's configuration of the Great Lakes and of the North American Coastline suggest reliance upon a different map than Hennepin's more regional map. Both maps, however, show the Mississippi River entering the Gulf far to the west of its actual location. Some historians believe this was done deliberately by La Salle to discourage colonization of the Gulf area by rival nations, by showing the lower Mississippi as Spanish territory.
Hennepin was one of the most popular chroniclers of the exploration of the American interior. Several books in numerous editions appeared under his name, although he was also given to sensational and unsupportable claims, such as his claim to have been first to the mouth of the Mississippi, ahead of LaSalle.
A seminal collectors map.
First published in Amsterdam in 1698, this Leiden edition, which uses the original copperplate, was issued by Pierre Vander Aa, whose name appears in the cartouche, replacing A. von Someren's name.
The popular misconception of California as an island can be found on European maps from the sixteenth through the eighteenth centuries. From its first portrayal on a printed map by Diego Gutiérrez, in 1562, California was shown as part of North America by mapmakers, including Gerardus Mercator and Abraham Ortelius. In the 1620s, however, it began to appear as an island in several sources. While most of these show the equivalent of the modern state of California separated from the continent, others, like a manuscript chart by Joao Teixeira Albernaz I (ca. 1632) now in the collection of the National Library of Brasil shows the entire western half of North Americas as an island.
The myth of California as an island was most likely the result of the travel account of Sebastian Vizcaino, who had been sent north up the shore of California in 1602. A Carmelite friar, Fray Antonio de la Ascensión, accompanied him. Ascension described the land as an island and around 1620 sketched maps to that effect. Normally, this information would have been reviewed and locked in the Spanish repository, the Casa de la Contratación. However, the manuscript maps were intercepted in the Atlantic by the Dutch, who took them to Amsterdam where they began to circulate. Ascensión also published descriptions of the insular geography in Juan Torquemada’s Monarquia Indiana (1613) (with the island details curtailed somewhat) and in his own Relación breve of ca. 1620.
The first known maps to show California as an island were on the title pages of Antonio de Herrera’s Descripción de las Indias Occidentales (1622) and Jacob le Maire's Spieghel Der Australische Navigatie (1622). Two early examples of larger maps are those by Abraham Goos (1624) and another by Henry Briggs, which was included in Samuel Purchas’ Hakluytus Posthumus or Purchas his Pilgrimes (1625). In addition to Briggs and Goos, prominent practitioners like Jan Jansson and Nicolas Sanson adopted the new island and the practice became commonplace. John Speed’s map (1626-7), based on Briggs’ work, is well known for being one of the first to depict an insular California.
The island of California became a fixture on mid- and late-seventeenth century maps. The island suggested possible links to the Northwest Passage, with rivers in the North American interior supposedly connecting to the sea between California and the mainland. Furthermore, Francis Drake had landed in northern California on his circumnavigation (1577-80) and an insular California suggested that Spanish power in the area could be questioned.
Not everyone was convinced, however. Father Eusebio Kino, after extensive travels in what is now California, Arizona, and northern Mexico concluded that the island was actually a peninsula and published a map refuting the claim (Paris, 1705). Another skeptic was Guillaume De L’Isle. In 1700, De L’Isle discussed “whether California is an Island or a part of the continent” with J. D. Cassini; the letter was published in 1715. After reviewing all the literature available to him in Paris, De L’Isle concluded that the evidence supporting an insular California was not trustworthy. He also cited more recent explorations by the Jesuits (including Kino) that disproved the island theory. Later, in his map of 1722 (Carte d’Amerique dressee pour l’usage du Roy), De L’Isle would abandon the island theory entirely.
Despite Kino’s and De L’Isle’s work, California as an island remained common on maps until the mid-eighteenth century. De L’Isle’s son-in-law, Philippe Buache, for example, remained an adherent of the island depiction for some time. Another believer was Herman Moll, who reported that California was unequivocally an island, for he had had sailors in his offices that claimed to have circumnavigated it. In the face of such skepticism, the King of Spain, Ferdinand VII, had to issue a decree in 1747 proclaiming California to be a peninsula connected to North America; the geographic chimera, no matter how appealing, was not to be suffered any longer, although a few final maps were printed with the lingering island.