SANSON d'Abbevile, Nicolas (1600-67)
Paris: N. Sanson & P. Mariette, 1650 [but 1659]. Copper-engraved map, with original outline colour. Sheet size: 17 1/8 x 22 1/8 inches.
The third state of this highly important map of North America by the founder of the French School of cartography.
This very rare map is the most geographically progressive portrayal of the continent made during its generation, and was not superseded until Vincenzo Maria Coronelli's map of 1688. Importantly, it is the first map to depict the Great Lakes in a recognizable form, and the first to name Lake Ontario and Lake Superior. In his rendering of the region, Sanson benefited from having received a copy of The Jesuit Relations, published in Paris in 1649, a detailed account by French missionaries who had traveled in the region. Most notably, this included Father Paul Ragueneau's account of his visit to Niagara Falls and Jean Nicollet's discovery of Lake Michigan, "Lac des Puans," in 1634. Down the St. Lawrence River from the lakes, Montréal is named, the settlement having been founded by the Sieur de Maisonneuve in 1642. Elsewhere, to the north, a mysterious strait weaves over "New South Wales" on Hudson's Bay, terminating in the interior of the continent, a blank space labeled as "Mer Glaciale". This alludes to the existence of a much hoped-for Northwest Passage. On the eastern seaboard, the map notes "N[ouvelle] Amsterdam" in the place of present day New York, and is the first printed map to label "N[ouvelle] Suede," referring to the Swedish colony centered on Fort Christina, founded on the site of present-day Wilmington, Delaware in 1638. To the far southwest, Sanson based his depiction on the Father Alonso Benavides Memorial, a travel account of New Mexico, published in Madrid in 1630. It is the first printed map to label "S[anta] Fe" (which is incorrectly shown to be on the banks of the Rio Grande) and the domains of various native tribes such as the "Apache," "Navajo" and the "Taosij" (Taos). To the west, California is shown as a large island, and features some of the same nomenclature as found on Johannes de Laet's map of 1630. To the north, an entirely unknown realm is named "Conibas," a mythical land that lay between North America and Asia. A striking aspect of the map is the sinusoidal projection employed by Sanson, that essentially places the globe on an elliptical graticule, creating a very pleasing aesthetic. The composition is finished by an extremely elegant Baroque title cartouche, featuring swags of fruit and vegetation. Nicholas Sanson was born in the town of Abbeville in Picardy. Something of a child prodigy, by the age of eighteen, he could already be found in Paris drafting his own maps. There he quickly rose to become Royal Geographer to Louis XIII in 1630. He maintained the position upon the ascension of the "Sun King" Louis XIV in 1643, and later served as tutor to the ambitious young monarch. In 1644, he formed a lucrative partnership with Paris publisher Pierre Mariette with the objective of producing a great atlas that could rival those of the Amsterdam houses, such as Blaeu and Jansson. The present map was devised as one of the most important maps in the atlas. The first state of the map was printed in 1650, a second state appeared a year later and the third state in 1659. The atlas itself, entitled Les Cartes Générales de toutes les parties du Monde was not finally assembled until 1658. It was however, a landmark moment in the history of French cartography, being the first folio atlas produced in that country. The extremely high quality of Sanson's work motivated other French mapmakers to improve the standard of their production. Sanson also greatly influenced Louis XIV's chief minister, Jean-Baptisite Colbert to heavily fund cartographic projects. This gave rise to a great 'French School' of cartography that was to eventually wrest dominance of the mapmaking market from the Dutch by the 1680s. After Sanson's death in 1667, his work was continued by his sons, Guillaume (d.1703) and Adrian (d.1708). The first state of this map is extremely rare, with Philip Burden citing only two copies in private American collections; this third state can be recognized by the addition of hachuring around Lake Ontario.
Burden, The Mapping of North America I, 294; Leighly, California as an Island, p.33, pl.7; McLaughlin, The Mapping of California as an Island, 12; Pastoreau, Les Atlas Français XVIe-XVIIe Siècles, p.387-9; Wagner, The Cartography of the Northwest Coast of America to the Year 1800, 360, pp.130-2; Wheat, Mapping of the Transmississippi West I, p.39.