Carte de la Partie Orientale de la Nouvelle France ou du Canada...
JACQUES NICOLAS BELLIN
An important and foundation map of the Northeastern coast of America from the Bay of Boston and Albany in the South, to Hudson’s Bay and the Labrador coast in the North, by Jacques-Nicolas Bellin, the pre-eminent cartographer of the 18th Century. The map was originally published in François Xavier de Charlevoix's Histoire et description generale de la Nouvelle France in 1744. It has been argued that Charlevoix's history proved exceptionally influential as one of the most comprehensive works on North America predating the Seven Year’s War in 1756-63. As such, this map would have been of particular interest to Europeans as it depicted the River and Gulf and the St-Lawrence, the major gateway to France’s North American colonies. Furthermore, it has been argued that “Bellin’s map would remain the chart of record until Samuel Holland’s scientific surveys were published as part of J.F.W. Des Barres’ Atlantic Neptune in 1775-84.”
According to Kershaw, Bellin’s plate would have had many changes incorporated into its 1755 edition and would then later have been sold to Homann Heirs and incorporated into his Atlas Geographicus Maior. Homann Heirs’ Atlas would have been published in 1759 at the height of the Seven’s Year War and on the eve of some of the most important battles of the conflict, notably the fall of the of Louisbourg in 1758 and Québec in September 1759.
However, of particular interest to Bellin’s first state of the map in 1744, are some of the notations that adorn the map and inform the viewer. Bellin notes that this map is extremely different to all other maps that would have preceded it because of his access to manuscript material in the Dépôt des Carte, Plans et Journaux de la Marine as well as from first hand accounts form Jesuit missionaries. In other words, Bellin, who sorted and compiled works from various sources, was better known as a “géographe de cabinet” as opposed to those who plied their craft in the field. One is also struck by the amount of native nomenclature on the North shore of the St-Laurence. Bellin goes so far as to locate Tchichemanitououitchapi, the place where the native holy spirit resides. It should be noted that the North and the interior of the American continent, where many native communities lived, was of particular importance to New France as it was the source from which the fur trade stemmed.
Bellin’s fascinating map of the St-Lawrence is thus a great reminder of the strategic importance that the region had both militarily and economically in the early days of European colonization. It also provides an important reminder of the role that Native communities played in this development.
(Sources: BLR 38210, Kershaw 690)