Nouvelle Mappe Monde dédiée au progrès de nos connaissances.
François Santini/Nicolas-Antoine Boullanger
Published (1753) 1784, Venice
Size: 20" X 28"
A rare world map that uses an uncommon dual polar projection originally published by Nicolas-Antoine Boullanger in 1753 and then re-issued later by François Santini, to convey the concept that the majority of the world’s land masses are located in the Northern Hemisphere. Santini’s example was published in the Remondini Atlas Universel in 1784.
As indicated, Santini’s map is based on Boullanger’s map of 1753, from whom he acquired the plate, with the prime meridian running through Paris thus giving this unusual projection.
Boullanger’s dual polar projection map is adorned with beautiful rococo imagery with a combination of religious and scientific undertones. For example , a woman, along with scientific instruments, is located at the centre of the map with arms reaching to the heavens where the biblical reference to Genesis “Fiat Lux” (let there be light) is inscribed. It is also noteworthy that the map is dedicated not to a person per se but to the progress of knowledge in general. As such, this map, and the yearning for knowledge for its own sake, was part of the intellectual movement commonly referred to as the Enlightenment in the Long 18th Century which lasted from about 1685 to the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815.
Yet, although the map makes references to its scientific quest for knowledge in the notation found below the dual projections, the speculative manner by which the Pacific Northwest is drawn, as well as the inaccurate depiction of New Hollande, demonstrate that cartographers were still grappling with geographic myths in the mid to late 18th Century. However, what is interesting is that the depiction of the Pacific Northwest with the apocryphal Mer de l’Ouest as well as the depictions, attributed to Admiral de Fonte’s, of a possible Northwest passage into the interior of North America, are based on the controversial works and maps submitted to the French Académie des Sciences by Joseph-Nicolas Delisle and Philippe Buache in 1750-52 that helped ignite one of the greatest debates in cartography of the 18th Century.
Having seen the Delisle and Buache’s submissions to the Académie, Boullanger is known to have redrawn his map to incorporate these cartographic speculations.
The drawing of New Holland by Boullanger is also subject to speculative cartography in that New Guinea is attached to what we now know as the Australian continent.
It is thus interesting that Santini would not alter Boullanger’s erroneous depictions following new cartographic information resulting from the three voyages of Captain James Cook to the Pacific and the Pacific Northwest from 1768 to 1780. That being said, Santini could have been simply following convention as the official maps of James Cook’s third voyage were just being published in 1784 by Lieutenant Henry Roberts in his famous Chart of the NW Coast of America. Furthermore, the fact that La Perouse’s own voyage around the globe entailed the quest to find the Mer de l’Ouest, is a testament to the fact that certain scientific truths take time for acceptance.
(Sources: Inguenad, M.T., Une lettre inédite de Nicolas-Antoine Boullanger à Joseph-Nicolas Delisle.)