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The First Map of the Mississippi River, Based Upon The Works of Jolliet and Marquette

Late 19th or Early 20th Century facsimile of Melchisedech Thevenot's map of the Mississippi River. The earliest separate map to depict the expedition of Louis Jolliet and Father Jacques Marquette down the Mississippi River.

The present example is printed on laid paper with a watermark consistent with an earlier dating, but was printed using some form of photo-mechanical reproductive process.  It is possible that it was printed for a late 19th Century edition of the book, or that it was intended to deceive.  A link to an authentic example can be found here.

In 1663, the French government began a more systematized effort to search for furs, minerals, and a shorter route to China. The initial objective was locating the Mississippi River, whose existence was known through Indian reports. An expedition was sent out under the command of Louis Jolliet, a fur trader and explorer, and the Jesuit Father Jacques Marquette. Jolliet and Marquette left Green Bay in May 1673, and by following the courses of the Fox and Wisconsin rivers, reached the upper Mississippi River. Continuing south, they discovered the mouths of the Missouri, Ohio, and Arkansas rivers, before turning back out of fear of encountering a Spanish force. On the return trip, they found a short cut to Lake Michigan by following the Illinois and Des Plaines rivers to a portage at Chicago.

Several manuscript maps survive based on the discoveries of the Jolliet and Marquette expedition. This map was first adapted for inclusion in Melchisedech Thevenot's Recueil des Voyages, Paris, 1681. It shows for the first time on a printed map the Mississippi and its tributaries north of the Arkansas based upon first-hand observation. The depiction of the river between the Arkansas and the gulf is based on speculation. It is also the first map to include the place name Michigan ("Mitchigami").

A second edition of the map (with a different title) appeared in the rare 1689 German book which included an edition of Hennepin's Description de la Louisiane, to which Thevenot's account of Jolliet and Marquette's expedition was appended. Both editions of the map are rare. The cartography in the second edition is identical to the first, but in the second state the title and one or two legends have been translated from French into Latin.


The Jolliet map is very rare on the market.  This is the first time we have ever seen this early facsimile.

Burden, The Mapping of North America, 540; see Heidenreich and Dahl, The French Mapping of North America in the Seventeenth Century, p. 8.