Catalog Archive
Auction 98, Lot 83

"Carte Generale des Decouvertes de l'Amiral de Fonte, et autres Navigateurs Espagnols, Anglios et Russes pour la recherche du Passage a la Mer du Sud Par M. De I'Lsle de l'Acadmie royale des Sciences &c. Publiee a Paris en Septembre 1752", Robert de Vaugondy, Didier

Subject: Western North America

Period: 1752 (circa)

Publication: Diderot's Encyclopedia (Supplement)

Color: Black & White

15 x 11.3 inches
38.1 x 28.7 cm
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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

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.

References: Hayes pp. 26-27; Pedley #454.

Condition: A+

Superb impression, on fine paper with centerfold only. Crease at center, still fine.

Estimate: $350 - $400


Closed on 3/6/2002