The Carte Réduite de l’Océan Septentrional compris entre l’Asie et l’Amérique suivant les découvertes qui ont été faites par les Russes
Jacques-Nicolas Bellin, Published 1766Size of Image: 34" x 23"
Condition: Good condition with some foxing.
This valuable rare map in our understanding of the discoveries of the American Northwest and the Northeast of Asia was published in Hydrographie Française, a two volume sea atlas of great cartographic value, in 1766 by the french Dépôt de la Marine. This map is the rare first state and is historically important as it gives a valuable depiction of the North Pacific Ocean prior to the voyages of Captain James Cook.
Bellin’s map uses information garnered from the voyages in 1728-43 by the Russians Bering and Chirikov. These voyages helped delineate the coast of Siberia and some of the Aleutian Islands between the peninsulas of Alaska and Kamchatka. The coast of Asia also shows the limited information available to cartographers at the time. For example, the Japanese archipelago is missing the island of Hokkaido and an imaginary bulge is drawn on the north coast of the Chuckchi Peninsula.
As for the coast of North America, Bellin attempts to integrate geographic information who’s provenance was dubious. These include the published forgery in 1708 recounting the discovery of the River of the King’s, allegedly discovered by the imaginary Spanish Admiral Bartholomew de Fuentes in 1640 whilst looking for the Northwest passage. Another discrepancy relating to the Northwest passage is the ‘Straight of Anián' (now known as the Strait of Juan de Fuca) which de Fuca claimed to have discovered in 1592. Although the strait does exist, it does not entail a Northwest passage, and it is doubtful whether de Fuca actually explored the region. It was Charles William Barkley’s travels in 1787 that confirmed the existence of the Strait.
Also of interest is the location of Francis Drakes’ New Albion. It has recently been argued that New Albion was actually located on Vancouver Island and not in Northern California as depicted by Bellin. Thus Bellin would have been unwittingly correct in the location of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, as Drake would have sailed through it, but incorrect as to the actual location of his New Albion.
Other features that are of interest include the depiction of the Mississippi River that extended from Hudson Bay to the Gulf of Mexico as well as his depiction of the Route de l’Ouest (most likely the Columbia River). This imaginary Route came from the mythical “mer de l’ouest”. This inland sea and the presumed river connecting it to the Pacific was the result of the expeditions between 1731-42 of Pierre Gaultier de Varennes. Varennes who was sent by the French to find a route to the Pacific Ocean, unfortunately misconstrued information garnered from aboriginal sources. This misunderstanding helped perpetrate this imaginary route to the Pacific.
That being said, Bellin’s map unwittingly helps demonstrate the manner by which the French hoped to find a route to Asia. Their efforts were concentrated on the hoped for discovery of a water route through the North American continent.
As a result, Bellin’s map offered here for sale, is of interest not only for its rarity on the market, but because of its depiction of the European quest for discovery wether real or imagined.
(Sources: BLR item#37346, Kershaw#1125)