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Important Early Great Lakes Map Dedicated to the Comte d'Argenson, Louis XV's Minister of War

Second state of De Vaugondy's rare separately issued map of the Great Lakes, Canada, and British and French Colonies in North America.

This rare separate issue map by Robert de Vaugondy depicts the region of North America east of the Great Lakes. First published in 1753, the map dates to a period of conflicting colonial claims, with the French and the British each asserting claims to the Ohio Valley and Trans-Appalachian West.

In Mary Pedley's work on the De Vaugondy Family, Bel et Utile, six pages is dedicated to the remarkable history of this map. Pedley notes that this map, which was dedicated to the Comte d'Argenson, Louis XV's Minister of War, created an international incident with the British delegation to the Acadia Boundary commission, which viewed the map as a government inspired attempt by the French to push back the boundaries of British Acadia toward the Atlantic Peninsula. The English viewed the map as propaganda in the boundary dispute, which suspicion was fueled by an advertisement in the Mercure de France, which attested to the accuracy and official sources for the information in the map. The controversy was so strong that DeVaugondy had to print a retraction.

The map was in fact based upon observations by the Marquis de Chabert in 1750 and 1751, reported to the Academy of Sciences in 1752, and published in 1753. The resulting debate rhetoric included Thomas Jefferys and Phillipe Buache. The second state of the map incorporates information from a contemporary manuscript map of the Ohio River in the Depot de la Marine, which corrects the course of the River and adds the French Forts south of Lake Erie.

A copy of this map was part of George Washington's collection at the time of "The Final Sale of the Relics of George Washington . . . " as cataloged by Stan V. Henckels for sale on April 21-23, 1891, item #620.

States of The Map

State 1:  Ohio River trends due west, mirroring the coast of Lake Erie above it, with no topographical details on either side of the Ohio and its Tributaries.

State 2:  Ohio River now trands southwest ending near the outer scrollwork in the cartouche.  Significant topographical additions are made, to illustrate the hills and river valleys on either side of the Ohio and its major tributaries.


It is curious to note that the map was not incorporated into De Vaugondy's Atlas Universel, and as a result is therefore quite rare on the market.

Pedley, M.S. 458; McCorkle, B.B. (New England) 753.1; Sellers & Van Ee #15; Kershaw, K.A. #346.
Didier Robert de Vaugondy Biography

Didier Robert de Vaugondy (ca. 1723-1786) was the son of prominent geographer Gilles Robert de Vaugondy and Didier carried on his father’s impressive work. Together, they published their best-known work, the Atlas Universel (1757). The atlas took fifteen years to create and was released in a folio and ¾ folio edition; both are rare and highly sought-after today. Together and individually, father and son were known for their exactitude and depth of research.

Like his father, Didier served as geographer to King Louis XV. He was especially recognized for his skills in globe making; for example, a pair of his globes made for the Marquise de Pompadour are today in the collection of the Municipal Museum of Chartres. Didier was also the geographer to the Duke of Lorraine. In 1773, he was appointed royal censor in charge of monitoring the information published in geography texts, navigational tracts, and travel accounts.

The Robert De Vaugondy Family

Gilles Robert de Vaugondy (1688-1766) and Didier Robert de Vaugondy (1723-1786) were influential figures in the realm of 18th-century French cartography. Originating from Paris, their contributions to mapmaking were significant during an era of expansive geographical exploration.

Gilles Robert de Vaugondy entered the world of cartography not through family tradition but through personal interest and the budding opportunities of his time. Born in 1688, he worked during a time when Paris was becoming a central hub for cartographic activities. Gilles often incorporated the latest findings from explorers into his maps, making them sought-after for their contemporary relevance. His connections weren't limited to his immediate circle; he frequently interacted with other key mapmakers, staying updated on the latest techniques and findings.

His son, Didier, was born in 1723 and had the advantage of growing up surrounded by maps and globes. While his father was renowned for maps, Didier made a name for himself in the field of globemaking. His globes were some of the most precise and detailed in France, gaining recognition even among the royalty. In addition to his work in cartography and globemaking, Didier had a keen interest in education, especially after the expulsion of the Jesuits from France. He stepped in to produce geographical educational materials, fulfilling a newfound need.

In terms of predecessors, the Vaugondys followed in the footsteps of notable French cartographers like Nicolas Sanson and Guillaume Delisle. The latter was particularly influential during the early 18th century, setting high standards in scientific cartography. As for competitors, the Vaugondys were contemporaries with Jean-Baptiste Bourguignon d'Anville, a cartographer who, like them, was rigorous in his methodologies and had a significant influence on mapmaking during the same period.

The maps and globes produced by the Vaugondys remain an enduring testament to the peak of French cartography during the Enlightenment. Their works, characterized by precision and the inclusion of contemporary findings, helped to shape our understanding of the world during a transformative period in European history.