Carte Des Nouvelles Decouvertes Au Nord de la Mer de Sud, Tant a l'Est de la Siberie et du Kamtchatcka, Qu'a l'Ouest de la Nouvelle France…
Published 1752, Paris
A truly fascinating and landmark map in the history of cartography for the Pacific Northwest and the search for the Northwest Passage. This first state of the map by Buache published in Considerations Geograhiques et Physiques sur les Nouvelles Decouvertes au Nord de la Grande Mer…, helped ignite one of the greatest debates in cartography of the 18th Century. In fact, it has been described as “perhaps the single most influential map of the region in the middle of the 18th Century.” At the heart of the dispute was the depiction of the “Mer de l’ouest” and the Northwest passage from the Pacific to Hudson’s Bay based on the fraudulent letter of Amiral de Fonte which first appeared in Memoirs for the Curious, 1708.
The map is also important as it is the first depiction of the recent Russian Discoveries, by the likes of Frondat, Tchirkow,and Berhing, which had been, until this time, kept secret. Buache was able to obtain this information from his brother in law, Joseph-Nicolas de l’Isle who had recently returned from his service in the Royal Academy in St-Petersburg with access to early records of Russian explorations.
The family connection to Joseph-Nicolas de l’Isle and to Guillaume de l’Isle, one of the most important and influential cartographers of the 18th Century, provided him with an air of respectability and gave credence to his speculations however far fetched they might have been.
It should be noted that Guillaume de l’Isle, did produce a manuscript map in 1696 that toyed with the concept of an inland sea, but was never actually published. Furthermore, although Jean-Baptiste Nolin did publish a wall map using this spurious depiction in 1700, which was later copied by Pierre Mortier's Mappe Monde… in 1705, the controversial depiction, and the implications that it entailed, remained somewhat dormant for the next 50 years.
However, this all changed when Joseph-Nicolas de l’Isle and Philippe Buache, produced a manuscript map to the Academy Royale in 1750 and was subsequently published, (the map currently offered for sale) with certain modifications in 1752.
It should be noted that Josheph-Nicolas de l’Isle did try to distance himself from Buache’s depiction by publising in 1752 Carte Generale des Decouvertes De l'Amiral de Fonte Et Autres Navigateurs Espagnoles, Anglois et Russes, pour la recherche du Passage a la Mer du Sud . . . Septembre 1752. Furthermore, Gerhard Müller did provide a counterbalance to the de l’Isle and Buache speculative depictions with his seminal map Nouvelle Carte des Decouvertes faiths par des Vaisseaux Russiens aux Cotes Inconnues… published in 1754. However, it proved insufficient in suppressing the debate that was unleashed, both intellectually and in the search for the Northwest passage, by different explorers intent on gaining fame and riches. These myths and misconceptions on the depiction of the Pacific Northwest and the hoped for Northwest passage would finally be put to rest following James Cook’s Third Voyage to the Pacific in 1778 and confirmed by George Vancouver’s landmark surveys of the North American coast in 1791-95.
(Sources: Kershaw #1201, BLR#31701, Wagner 566)