"[Lot of 3] Carte Generale des Decouvertes de l'Amiral de Fonte… [and] Nouvelle Representation des Cotes Nord… [and] Partie de la Carte du Capitaine Cluny…", Robert de Vaugondy, Didier
Subject: North Pacific Ocean
Period: 1772 (published)
Publication: Diderot's Encyclopedia (Supplement)
Color: Black & White
When Charles Joseph Panckoucke took over publication of Diderot's Encyclopedie in 1768, he promised to correct the cursory treatment of geography for which the first seventeen volumes had been criticized, with emphasis on the discoveries of the last 25 years. He employed Samuel Engel, a Swiss geographer, to write a series of articles about the northern regions and Didier Robert de Vaugondy to prepare ten maps to illustrate them. Engel rejected the De la Fonte Northwest Passage discoveries and believed the most sensible route from the Atlantic to the Pacific was along the north coast of Siberia. These maps illustrate the discoveries and various cartographic theories concerning the Pacific Northwest, East Asia and the North Pacific Ocean and include some of the most interesting comparative cartography of the eighteenth century
Three great maps from this interesting series prepared by Didier Robert de Vaugondy.
A. Carte Generale des Decouvertes de l'Amiral de Fonte, et Autres Navigateurs Espagnols, Anglois et Russes pour la Recherche du Passage a la Mer du Sud, dated 1752 (15" x 11.3"). This is one of the more remarkable combinations of fact and fiction ever published. This map of the North Pacific and Northwest had as its source a 1708 article in the Monthly Miscellany that purported to be a newly discovered account of a voyage in 1640 by the Spanish Admiral, Bartholomew de Fonte. Thereafter, the newly presented information was changed and elaborated upon, notably by this series of maps which appeared in Diderot's Encyclopedia. In its concept, it promoted the hopes of a Northwest Passage and depicts the existence of Mer de l'Ouest or the Sea of the West. The tracks for the Russian exploration in 1741 and other explorers are traced in the Pacific. Inset at upper left is a small map, "Carte dressee Sur la lettre de l'Amiral de Fonte par l'Ecrivain de la Californie" detailing the purported track of Admiral de Fonte.
The title credits Delisle as the source for the map. There was much controversy at the time regarding the veracity of the voyages by de Fonte. In 1750, Joseph-Nicolas Delisle presented a paper and map at the Academy of Sciences in Paris that consolidated the vast amount of geographical information he had acquired in Russia. The paper caused a sensation, but the map, drawn by Philippe Buache and designed to show the "coherence of Russian discoveries with those of de la Fuente" (de Fonte), was met with skepticism. Delisle hired Bellin to re-work the map, presenting it to the Academy in 1752. That same year an annoyed Buache drew his own map and presented it along with a paper to the Academy. The controversy was further enflamed by Robert de Vaugondy's own presentation to the Academy the following year when he expressed his doubts about the truth of de Fonte’s voyages and criticized the maps illustrating it. See Pedley pages 74-78 for more on the politics and personalities in this fascinating story. Ref: Hayes pp. 26-27; Pedley #454. Condition: Watermarked paper with wide margins, light centerfold toning and a spot in inset map at top left. (B+)
B. Nouvelle Representation des Cotes Nord et Est de l'Asie, pour Servir d'Eclaircissement aux Articles du Supplement de l'Encyclopedie qui Concernent le Passage aux Indes par le Nord. Gravee sous la Direction de Mr. de Vaugondy en 1772, dated 1772 (14" x 11.3"). Interesting map of the northeast coast of Asia depicting Kamchatka, Japan and Korea. It also shows part of what is present-day Alaska. The Tchutski (Chukotskiy) Peninsula stretches very close to the American landmass, hinting at a possible land bridge. Within the larger map are two insets (one within the other). The insets represent an evolving understanding of the geography of Kamachatka, with the map being the latest iteration. The first inset, No. 1, was completed by Abu al-Ghazi Bahadur, who was the ruler of Khiva in present-day Uzbekistan for 20 years. Ref: Pedley #402. Condition: Watermarked paper with wide margins and a spot in bottom blank margin, far from map image. (A)
C. Partie de la Carte du Capitaine Cluny Auteur d'un ouvrage anglois intitule American Traveller, dated 1769 (19.5" x 11.5"). While this fascinating map covers the Arctic from Asia through Europe, the focus of the map is the Arctic region of North America. The most important feature of the map is the early depiction of what is present-day Alaska, patterned after Muller's epic map of 1750 that was the first to show the Russian discoveries, also noted here. A very interesting Northwest Passage is shown going from Repulse Bay in the north part of Hudson's Bay into the Arctic Ocean at Cape Fowler. (19 x 11.5") Ref: Pedley #460. Condition: Watermarked paper with faint toning along folds, else fine. (A)