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L'Amerique Septentrionale: De L'Isle 1700 [c. 1708]

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  • Title: L'Amerique Septentrionale
  • Author: Claude, Guillaume De L'Isle
  • Date: 1700 [c. 1708]
  • Medium: Hand-colored copperplate engraving
  • Condition: Very Good Plus - light age toning and foxing, refreshed color, minor wear along issued center fold
  • Inches: 27 x 19 7/8 [Paper]
  • Centimeters: 68.58 x 50.48 [Paper]
  • Product ID: 316055
C. 1708 fifth state of L’Amerique Septentrionale by Claude De L’Isle (1644-1720) and his son Guillaume (1675-1726). This map of North America (first state published 1700) proved foundational for future cartographic efforts in the region. In 1984, first-state examples of each significant De L’Isle map of the Americas were unearthed in an Austrian private collection. This discovery revealed the map which experts had long regarded as the first state of L’Amerique Septentrionale to be in actuality the second state. In years following, other examples came to light, and today we know of a handful of these first-states.

The De L’Isles’ map stretches from California in the west to Greenland in the east, and includes part of South America and many islands in the Atlantic. They indicate New World territories held by Spain, England, and France, labeling the major settlements and forts of each, as well as the locations of various Native peoples such as the Apache, the Quivira, the Illinois, the Sioux, the Osage, and the Iroquois. The map also notes regional distinctions between larger Native tribes; for example, present-day Texas contains Apaches Peuples Vagabonds [Wandering Apache Peoples], Apaches de navaio, Apaches del perillo, Apaches de Xila, and Apaches Vaqueros [Horsemen Apaches].
The second state of L’Amerique Septentrionale became the first chart to correctly place the mouth of the Mississippi at 284° longitude from the Ferro Meridian. While the De L’Isles positioned Florida too far to the west, overcompensating for locating it too far eastward in the map’s first state, they accurately placed the Chesapeake Bay 8° westward from its first-state location. Additionally, the Wabash River correctly appears as a tributary to the Ohio River. Differences between the first and second states likely resulted from documents and charts received by De L’Isle in summer 1699 from Pierre le Moyne d’Iberville’s Mississippi expedition.

The De L’Isles drew upon Vincenzo Coronelli’s depiction of the Mississippi from his 1688 America Settentrionale for source material, also citing information gathered from the expeditions of La Salle and Hennepin. However, unlike Coronelli, the De L’Isles show California as a peninsula (though an uncertain one, as demonstrated by a lack of inland details). The map hints at the possibility of a second Californian peninsula, illustrating the opening of a second, smaller gulf which quickly fades into oblivion moving inland. Nearby, an annotation states Golfe qui n’a pas encore éte bien découvert, mais que les modernes croient tres profound [“Gulf which has not yet been well discovered, but which the moderns believe to be very profound”]. The map also marks sea routes taken by early European explorers such as Drake, noting dates of discovery.
After the map’s first two states (out of seven total), no further cartographic alterations were implemented. Rather, any subsequent changes relate to the map’s imprint (see table below). Two primary derivative maps were published by Pierre Mortier c. 1707, and by Petrus Schenck in 1708. Schenck’s map was almost certainly prompted by the expiration of a contract between the De L’Isles and bookseller Louis Renard (1678/9-1746) to distribute their maps in Amsterdam.






Mouth of Mississippi at 281° longitude from the Ferro Meridian. Cartouche lists address as Rue des Cannettes.



Mouth of Mississippi at 284° longitude. Cartouche lists address as Rue des Cannettes.



Address changed to Quai de l’Horloge a la Cour/ de Diamans. 


c. 1707

Se trouve a Amsterdam Chez L. Renard Libraire/ prz de la Bourse added below title cartouche [Louis Renard contracted to distribute De L’Isle’s maps in Amsterdam].


c. 1708

Address shortened to Quai de l’Horloge. 


c. 1708

Removal of Renard’s imprint below title cartouche [Expiration of Renard’s distribution contract].



Premr. Geographe du Roy added to title [reflecting Guillaume’s elevation to Royal Geographer].

L’Amerique Septentrionale.
Dressée sur les Observations de Mrs. de l’Academie Royale des Sciences, & quelques autres, & sur les Memoires les plus recens.
Par G. De L’Isle Geographe.
A Paris
Chez l’Autheur sur le Quai de l’Horloge
Avec Privilege du Roy pour 20 ans. 1700.

Se trouve a Amsterdam Chez L. Renard Libraire prz de la Bourse

Comme il ya plusieurs chose sur cete carte et sur les autres que j ay mises au jour qui sont differentes de ce qui se trouve sur les cartes qui ont paru jusquici, Il est apropos d’avertir icy que cela nest point arrivé par inadvertance & que je rends raison de ces changement dans la Nouvelle Introduction a la Geographie.


North America.
Drawn up on the Observations of the Gentlemen of the Royal Academy of Sciences, & a few others, & on the most recent Memoirs.
By G. De L’Isle Geographer.
In Paris
House of the Author on the Quai de l'Horloge
With Privilege du Roy for 20 years. 1700.
Located in Amsterdam House of L. Renard Bookseller near the Stock Exchange

As there are several things on this map and others that I have uncovered which are different from what is on the maps which have appeared so far, it is appropriate to warn here that this did not happen inadvertently & that I agree with these changes in the New Introduction to Geography.