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First State of Pierre Du Val's Wall Map of America & The Pacific Ocean

A magnificent, rare seventeenth century wall map of the Western Hemisphere, showing California as an Island and all five Great Lakes, in old outline hand-color.

The maps appeared as four sheets in Du Val's very scarce and highly sought after Cartes Geographiques, his only folio atlas. This is the second state of the map, updated by Du Val's widow Marie Desmaretz, to reflect his death in September 1688.


The map is an expanded version of Du Val's 1655 single sheet map. Du Val has replaced New Amsterdam with New York, reflecting the transfer of power from Dutch to English stipulated in the 1667 Treaty of Breda. He has failed to amend the Nouvelle Suede (New Sweden), which had ceased to exist by this time. Further inland, Du Val shows all five Great Lakes, however the boundaries of Lakes Superior and Michigan ("Lac des Puans") are left undetermined.


Du Val's purpose in his representation of the American Southeast is quite clear: he advances France's extremely weak claim to the Carolinas, which is labeled "Floride Françoise." But "Charles-Fort," the abortive French settlement on Port Royal Sound (which Du Val shows), had not been relevant since the 1560s. Furthermore, he ignores the permanent English presence in Carolina, established at the mouth Chowan and Roanoke Rivers in 1653, although he shows it in Virginia. Most of the American Southeast is shown as a part of the great Spanish territory of "Floride," which extends north into the Carolinas.


As with other mid-seventeenth century maps of the Americas, California is rendered as an island. Du Val's particular California configuration is taken from the Luke Foxe form introduced on a map in 1664. The rest of the American Southwest is rendered with some detail, and the usual speculative inclusions, such as the mythical land of "Quivira" and "Anian". In the Southwest, Du Val labels several Apaches: "Apaches de Navaio", "Apaches de Xila", "Apaches de Perillo", and "Apaches Vaqueros". The Rio del Nort is shown with its source in a large and fictional "lac de Conibas", emptying into the Gulf of California.

North West Passage

This map seems to have been intended as a rhetorical device promoting the idea of a discovered Northwest Passage. Duval makes the case clearly by stating that "On croit qu'en cet endroit il y a communication entre les Mers de Nort et de Sud." that is: "It is believed that this strait communicates between the Seas of the North and the South." Supporting this notion, the map features the track of a supposed 1665 voyage that headed through the Davis and Hudson's Straits.


In the South Pacific, Du Val charts the track of Jacob Le Maire on his circumnavigation of 1615-16. New Zealand is shown as a large northern promontory of the "Terre de Quir" and the great southern continent "Terres Ant-Arctiques." Along that landmass's northern coast are "Isles de la Terre Australe reconnues l'an 1576 par Fernandes Gallego." Galleon routes between Mexico and the Philippines are depicted. A large "Terre de Iesso al Eso" is situated off the northwest coast of California.

Each of the four sheets is separately titled, as follows:

  • [upper left] "Le Nouveau Mexique et La Terre de Jesso"

  • [upper right] "La Mer de Nort ou sont La Nle. France, La Floride [etc.]"

  • [lower left] "La Mer de Sud dit autrement Mer Pacifique"

  • [lower right] "Le Perou, Le Chili, La Magellanique, La Plata, et Le Bresil"

The 1679 first state of the map includes the imprint: "Chez l'Auteur l'Isle du Palais/ Sur le Quay de l'Orloge proche le coin de / la rue de Harley"

The circa 1688 second state has a modified imprint: "Chez Melle Du Val. Fille de l'Auteur/ Sur le Quay de l'Orloge pro che le coin de/ la rue de Harley a l'ancien Buis." The imprints on the other three sheets are unaltered.  


Burden locates only one copy of the first state of the map in a private American collection. He locates institutional copies at the Clements, Harvard, Library of Congress, Newberry Library and Bibliotheque Nationale. 

California as an island

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.

Burden, The Mapping of North America II, 508; McLaughlin, California as an Island, 66; Pastoureau, Les Atlas Francais XVIe-XVIIe siecles, Duval II-F, maps: 10,11,13,14 (State 2); Wagner, Cartography of the Northwest Coast of America, 414 Wheat, Mapping the Transmississippi West, 60
Pierre Du Val Biography

Pierre Duval (1618-1683) was a French geographer, cartographer, and publisher who worked in Abbeville and Paris during the seventeenth century. He was born in the former city, in northeast France, before moving to Paris. Duval was the nephew of the famous cartographer Nicolas Sanson, from whom he learned the mapmaker's art and skills. Both men worked at the royal court, having followed the royal request for artists to relocate to Paris. In addition to numerous maps and atlases, Du Val's opus also includes geography texts. He held the title of geographe ordinaire du roi from 1650 and died in 1683, when his wife and daughters took over his business.