1744 Bellin Map of New Orleans, Louisiana

Plan de la Nouvelle-Orleans sur les Manuscrits du Depot des Cartes de la Marine.

1744 Bellin Map of New Orleans, Louisiana


The earliest obtainable map or plan of New Orleans, Louisiana.

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Plan de la Nouvelle-Orleans sur les Manuscrits du Depot des Cartes de la Marine.
  1744 (dated)    8 x 11 in (20.32 x 27.94 cm)     3.375


This scarce 1744 map by J. N. Bellin is the first edition first state of earliest obtainable map of New Orleans, Louisiana. Oriented to the east, Bellin's map covers the original settlement of New Orleans along the Mississippi River and inland as far the Fosse plein d'eau (roughly translated: 'Pit full of Water') near modern day Dauphine Street, and from modern day Iberville Street (shown but not named) to modern day Barracks Street (shown but not named). The map shows some 100 buildings with some 18 specifically identified via an alphabetically coded table set just above the map.

There are several editions of this map. The present example, the earliest, is identifiable by the inclusion of the date in the upper right quadrant as well as the name of the engraver, Guillaume Dheulland, which appears in the bottom right margin (here partially trimmed out). Bellin originally prepared this map to illustrate Pierre François Xavier de Charlevoix's Histoire et description generale de la Nouvelle France. Later editions, most with slight modifications, were issued to accompany Provost's Histoire des Voyages and reissues of Charlevoix.

Charlevoix's history and this map in particular thus proved exceptionally influential as one of the most comprehensive works on North America predating the French and Indian War. Copies of the Histoire et description generale were to be found in the libraries of many 18th century luminaries, including Voltaire, Franklin, and Jefferson. Jefferson especially admired Charlevoix work, calling it 'a particularly useful species of reading' and no doubt influenced his decision to pursue the historic 1802 Louisiana Purchase, possibly the most significant event in the post-colonial history of North America.


Jacques-Nicolas Bellin (1703 - 1772) was one of the most important cartographers of the 18th century. With a career spanning some 50 years, Bellin is best understood as geographe de cabinet and transitional mapmaker spanning the gap between 18th and early 19th century cartographic styles. His long career as Hydrographer and Ingénieur Hydrographe at the French Dépôt des cartes et plans de la Marine resulted in hundreds of high quality nautical charts of practically everywhere in the world. A true child of the Enlightenment Era, Bellin's work focuses on function and accuracy tending in the process to be less decorative than the earlier 17th and 18th century cartographic work. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Bellin was always careful to cite his references and his scholarly corpus consists of over 1400 articles on geography prepared for Diderot's Encyclopedie. Bellin, despite his extraordinary success, may not have enjoyed his work, which is described as "long, unpleasant, and hard." In addition to numerous maps and charts published during his lifetime, many of Bellin's maps were updated (or not) and published posthumously. He was succeeded as Ingénieur Hydrographe by his student, also a prolific and influential cartographer, Rigobert Bonne.


Charlevoix, Pierre François Xavier de, Histoire et description generale de la Nouvelle France, avec le journal historique d'un voyage fait par ordre du roi dans l'Amérique septentrionnale, (Paris: Chez Rollin) 1744.     Bellin's Petit Atlas Maritime was a five volume atlas of all parts of the world published in Paris in 1764. The atlas is a combination of fresh material and previous issued Bellin maps. The breakdown of volumes is as follows: Volume I: North America and the Caribbean (102 Maps), Volume II: South America (89 maps), Volume III: Asia and Africa (127 maps), Volume IV: Europe (130 maps), and Volume V: France (132 maps), for a total of 580 maps and plans. This important atlas marked a major transition in European nautical mapping. It's significance is most accentuated by comparison to Bellin's other great atlas, L’Hydrographie Française, a large format work much akin to Dutch nautical atlases of the previous century. The Petit Atlas Maritime, on the other hand, was issued in a more compact format that allow for a diverse wealth of individual maps. Stylistically, it had more in common with European road atlases than with other nautical atlases of the period. As the largest collection of plans of harbors and nautical maps available at the time of publication, the Petite Atlas Maritime work proved popular with navigators and armchair adventurers alike. Its universal appeal gave rise to new convention in maritime mapping. The atlas was sponsored by the Duc de Choiseul. J. Arrivet is listed as engraver on the chart index pages, but there is a great likelihood he also engraved the maps and plans.


Very good. Lower and right margin trimmed. Original fold lines exhibit minor wear. Blank on verso.


Lemmon, A., Magill, J., and Wiese, J., Charting Louisiana: Five Hundred Years of Maps, #171. Brown University, John Carter Brown Library, E744 C479h5.