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A Beautiful Example of the First State

North America/ Canada/ Great Lakes. HENNEPIN, L. [Utrecht, 1697]
Carte d’un tres grand Pays entre le Nouveau Mexique . . . 17 x 20 5/8 inches
Fine hand color; reinforced at few fold junctures, some creasing, margins close as usual but no loss of engraved surface, else excellent with a bold strike.


The first state of “an important cartographic stepping stone … the first made by a Frenchman from on-the-spot experience” (Wheat). Among other things, this beautiful map attempted to place in geographical context Father Louis Hennepin’s important mapping of the Great Lakes and Mississippi River. Oddly, the map’s “configuration of the Great Lakes and of the North American coastline suggests the use of a different prototype” (Kaufman) than was used for Hennepin’s other, more specific map. Both maps, however, show the Mississippi River entering the Gulf far to the west of its actual location. Some historians believe this was done deliberately by La Salle to discourage colonization of the Gulf area by rival nations by showing the river in Spanish-held territory.
The appeared in Hennepin’s second book, Nouvelle Decouverte d’un tres grand Pays situé dans l’Amerique, which was assembled to capitalize on the success of Hennepin’s 1683 Description de la Louisiane—a mostly accurate if somewhat boastful work. Hennepin was one of the most popular chroniclers of the exploration of the American interior. Several books in numerous editions appeared under his name. Sadly, one reason for the Recollect friar’s popularity was that his penchant for fabrication in the name of a good story. He, for example, falsely claimed to have reached the mouth of the Mississippi before La Salle. Despite this, however, his verified discoveries were very important and, as is evident here, resulted in some fine maps.

Wheat, Transmississippi 77; Karpinski, L. Maps of the Famous Cartographers, p. 118; cf Kaufman, K. Mapping of the Great Lakes in the 17th Century, no. 20; Burden 738.

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