1717 Delisle Map of the Antilles, West Indies (First Edition)

Carte des Antilles Francoises et Des Isles Voisines.

1717 Delisle Map of the Antilles, West Indies (First Edition)


Scarce first edition of a very influential map of the Windward Isles.

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Carte des Antilles Francoises et Des Isles Voisines.
  1717 (dated)    26 x 15 in (66.04 x 38.1 cm)     1 : 850000


A scarce and influential 1717 first state first edition map of the Lesser Antilles, West Indies, by Guillaume Delisle. This map covers the predominately French portion of the West Indies from Guadeloupe to Grenada, including the Grenadines, St. Vincent, Dominica, St. Lucia (Alouise), Barbados, Martinique, and Marie-Galante, among others. As the title cartouche suggests, Delisle cartographically derived this map almost exclusively from a manuscript produced by Thimothee Peitit, 'Arpenteur Jure de la Martinique' (Royal Surveyor of Martinique). Petit had the challenging task of reconciling local surveys of various islands with the general geography of the West Indies. Delisle copied from Petit's manuscript almost verbatim, a fact that is poignantly illustrated in the erroneous positioning of Grenada, which is both upside-down and situated to the west, rather than to the south, of the lower Grenadines. On Petit's part, this error has been attributed to simply running out of paper combined with an attempt to show the French Antilles within the greater continuity of the Windward Isles. For Delisle this was a major and uncharacteristic misstep that earned considerable critique in scientific and cartographic circles. Nonetheless, this map proved both popular and influential, being slavishly copied extensively by other cartographers of the period, including Ottens, Weigel, Chatelain, and Covens and Mortier, among others. Grenada's faulty positioning would not be seriously addressed until the 1760 Dezauche reissue, where it was corrected by Philippe Buache. This is the scarce first edition, first state of this influential map, identifiable by the lack of the honorific 'Premier Geograph du Roy,' which appears below Delisle's name in subsequent editions. Delisle's of the French Antilles was issued both independently and in various composite atlases throughout the 18th century. While the many maps inspired by this first edition frequently appear on the market, especially the later Covens and Mortier issue, this first edition is exceptionally rare and is priced accordingly.


The De L'Isle family (fl. c. 1700 - c. 1760) (also written Delisle) were, in composite, a mapmaking tour de force who redefined early 18th century European cartography. Claude De L'Isle (1644 -1720), the family patriarch, was Paris based a historian and geographer under Nicholas Sanson. De L'Isle and his sons were proponents of the school of "positive geography" and were definitive figures, defining the heights of the Golden Age of French Cartography. Of his twelve sons, four, Guillaume (1675- 1726), Simon Claude (1675 - 1726), Joseph Nicholas (1688 - 1768) and Louis (1720 - 1745), made a significant contributions to cartography. Without a doubt Guillaume was the most remarkable member of the family. It is said that Guillaume's skill as a cartographer was so prodigious that he drew his first map at just nine years of age. He was tutored by J. D. Cassini in astronomy, science, mathematics and cartography. By applying these diverse disciplines to the vast stores of information provided by 18th century navigators, Guillaume created the technique that came to be known as "scientific cartography", essentially an extension of Sanson's "positive geography". This revolutionary approach transformed the field of cartography and created a more accurate picture of the world. Among Guillaume's many firsts are the first naming of Texas, the first correct map of the Mississippi, the final rejection of the insular California fallacy, and the first identification of the correct longitudes of America. Stylistically De L'Isle also initiated important changes to the medium, eschewing the flamboyant Dutch style of the previous century in favor of a highly detailed yet still decorative approach that yielded map both beautiful and informative. Guillaume was elected to the French Academie Royale des Sciences at 27. Later, in 1718, he was also appointed "Premier Geographe du Roi", an office created especially for him. De L'Isle personally financed the publication of most of his maps, hoping to make heavy royalties on their sales. Unfortunately he met an untimely death in 1728, leaving considerable debt and an impoverished child and widow. De L'Isle's publishing firm was taken over by his assistant, Phillipe Buache who became, posthumously, his son in law. The other De L'Isle brothers, Joseph Nicholas and Louis De L'Isle, were employed in the Service of Peter the Great of Russia as astronomers and surveyors. They are responsible for cataloguing and compiling the data obtained from Russian expeditions in the Pacific and along the northwest coast of America, including the seminal explorations of Vitus Bering and Aleksei Chirikov. The De L'Isles, like their rivals the Vaugondys , must be considered speculative geographers. Speculative geography was a genre of mapmaking that evolved in Europe, particularly Paris, in the middle to late 18th century. Cartographers in this genre would fill in unknown areas on their maps with speculations based upon their vast knowledge of cartography, personal geographical theories, and often dubious primary source material gathered by explorers and navigators. This approach, which attempted to use the known to validate the unknown, naturally engendered many rivalries. The era of speculatively cartography effectively ended with the late 18th century explorations of Captain Cook, Jean Francois de Galaup de La Perouse, and George Vancouver.


Very good. Period backing on period paper. Some creasing north of Martinique. Original centerfold. Platemark visible. Blank on verso.


Map Collector's Circle, 33, no. 54.