Carte de l'isle de Terre-Neuve...
Published 1744, Paris
Size: 14" X 11.5"
An important map of the island of Newfoundland 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 an important location at the mouth of the Gulf of St-Lawrence, the major gateway to France’s North American colonies. Newfoundland was also an important locale from where the lucrative cod fishery could be launched in the neighbouring Grand Banks. The French settlement were concentrated on the Burin peninsula and on the north-east coast below Belle Isle Strait, whereas the English were located on the east coast of Avalon.
It has been argued that Bellin’s map “stood as the cartographic model for the next thirty years, and was copied by several other cartographers.” That being said, although the coast of Newfoundland were well surveyed, the interior was, as Bellin’s notation indicates, entirely unexplored.
It should be noted that Newfoundland, along with the Grand Banks, encompasses some of the greatest fertile fishing grounds in North America. At a time when the fisheries was one the most profitable industry for Britain’s North American colonies, it was imperative that accurate sea charts for this treacherous region be available not only for navigators, but also, to properly delineate a country’s maritime boundaries. As such, following the Treaty of Paris in 1763, which ended the Seven Year’s War, one of the first things that Admiral Thomas Graves set about to do was to properly survey the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador. This surveying was in essence, to make sure that France, with its colonies of St-Pierre and Miquelon, respected its territorial waters. Admiral Graves appointed James Cook, with the eventual assistance of Michael Lane, for this significant undertaking. Cook’s participation in this important and monumental surveying in some of the worlds most treacherous bodies of water, lasted until 1769, at which time, he was promoted by the British Admiralty to lead his first expedition to the Pacific Ocean. His promotion was the result of his unsurpassed surveying and charting capabilities witnessed with his seminal chart of the St-Lawrence as well as with his meticulous exploits in charting Newfoundland and Labrador.
Bellin’s fascinating map of the island of Newfoundland is thus a great reminder of the strategic importance that the region had both militarily and economically in the early days of European colonization.
(Sources: Kershaw 515)