Mappemonde ou description du globe terrestre dressée sure les mémoires les plus nouveaux, et assujettie et aux observations astronomiques...
ROBERT DE VAUGONDY
A beautiful and intriguing rare map of the world published in later editions of Atlas Universel, by Robert de Vaugondy, an important cartographer of the 18th Century. The map is drawn using what is known as a “stereographic projection” where the world is depicted in two hemispheres.
Vaugondy’s 1783 Mappemonde is the 4th and final state of his influential world map that was first issued in 1752. In comparing the two maps, one is struck by the changes that has occurred in the cartography of the mid to late 18th Century. However, whereas Vaugondy’s 1752 edition leaves the Pacific Northwest coast of America blank and speculates as to the rendering of the Eastern coast of Australia, the 1783 example provides a highly speculative view of the Northwest coast of America and a more recognizable drawing of Australia and New Zealand.
It should be noted that Vaugondy’s world map was published the year prior to the publication of Lt. Henry Roberts’ seminal map A General Chart Exhibiting the Discoveries Made by Capt. James Cook in this his and his Two Preceding Voyages… that put to rest much of the impetus for cartographic speculation prior to the discoveries made James Cook’s voyages to the Pacific. However, until such a time as the publication of Roberts’ 1784 world map, cartographers, such as Vaugondy, were left with little but their imagination to make sense and reconcile conjecture as to James Cook’s third and final Pacific exploration to find the Northwest passage. Vaugondy’s map and that of Roberts’ thus offer demarcation points of a changing world view as a result of exploration.
Vaugondy’s Mappemonde is also of interest as it depicts some of the 18th Centuries most notable fictitious inland river routes that explorers hoped would provide and entrance to the Northwest passage. These being the result of the outright fabrications as is the case with the hoax published in the Memoirs of the Curious in 1706 that attributed a river entrance to the Northwest passage discovered by Admiral De Fonte, and to the claims made in 1703 by Baron de Lahontan of the existence of a Rivière de l’ouest that might have been speculative in nature but could also have been an early rendering of the Missouri River that began in the Great Lakes region and hopefully discharged into the Pacific.
Other noteworthy misconceptions are also in present in South America with the depiction of spurious Lago de Xarayes. However, other mythical locals such as El Dorado and Le Parima are no longer depicted as was the case with Vaugondy’s 1752 edition.
As such, Vaugondy’s map provides the viewer not only with beauty as represented with the stunning rococo cartouches that lie between the two hemispheres of the stereographic projection, but is a testament to the changes in world view that occurred resulting from the exploration of James Cook at the end of the 18th Century.