Bridgend, United Kingdom
1772 Vaugondy Diderot Map Of Alaska The Pacific Northwest And The Northwest Passage
This is a fascinating combination of two contrasting maps on a single sheet. Both maps cover the northeastern parts of Asia and the northwestern parts of North America. This two map chart was originally drawn by Phillip Buache to expound upon his theories regarding the northwest coast of America and more specifically upon the possibility of a Northwest Passage. The upper map, entitled “Carte des Nouvelles Decouvertes” is a combination of data absconded from the Russian “Academy of Sciences” and Buache’s speculations on the Northwest Passage. When Joseph-Nicholas de L’Isle, younger brother of the better known Guilleme de L’Isle, returned from his tenure at Russian Tzar Peter the Great’s “Academy of Sciences” he decided to publish a compilation of secret cartographic data obtained from previously unknown Russian expeditions to Kamtschaka and the coast of Siberia. These seminal explorations included the discoveries of Tchirikow, Frondat, Bering, among others. De L’Isle produced a ground breaking and largely accurate mapping of the peninsula of Kamchatka and the coast of northeast Asia - shown here. De L’Isle contracted Buache, already a prominent cartographic figure due to his introduction of hachures as a method for displaying elevation on a two dimensional plane, to complete the North American part of the map. Buache used the mythical voyages of Admiral de Fonte and Juan de Fuca as his cartographic source material. The two sides of this map therefore could not be more heavily contrasted, for the mapping of Asia is largely accurate where the mapping of North America is almost entirely fantastical. This map shows the “Sea of the West”, supposedly discovered by Fuca, as well as the series of lakes, rivers, and canals heading eastward toward the Baffin and Hudson Bays that were purportedly first identified by De Fonte. These include Lac de Fonte, Lac Belle and Lac de Valasco. The Aleutian Islands are drawn, based upon various recorded land sightings by Russian explorers in the early 18th century, as a single peninsular land mass. This map also traces the voyages of Kamtchatka, St. Antoine and unnamed Russian explorers. Buache and De L’Isle presented this map to the French Academy of Sciences in 1762. The lower map is a supposed recreation of an early Japanese Map discovered by Englebert Kaempfer and presented to Hans Sloane, President of the Royal Society of London. Kaempher was a German traveler who spent two years in Japan attached to the Dutch Embassy. When he returned to Europe he carried with him numerous documents including an earlier state of the bottom map on this sheet. Displays Asia crudely with only Japan, many times its actual size, displayed with any relative accuracy. This map does however include the Great Wall of China and Baja California – drawn with the hint of a Northwest Passage. To the left of the lower map is an extract from the Journals of Kaempfer describing Japan and its knowledge of America. To the right side of the lower map is an advertisement claiming the source of this map to be a wall map in the Emperor’s palace in Japan. This map is part of the 10 map series prepared by Vaugondy for the Supplement to Diderot’s Encyclopédie , of which this is plate 6. This seminal map series, exploring the mapping of North American and specifically the Northwest Passage was one of the first studies in comparative cartography.
September 5th, 2013
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