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1772 Vaugondy / Diderot Map of California in five states, California as Island.


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Title:    Carte de la Californie suivant / I. La carte manuscrite de l'Amérique de Mathieu Néron Pecci olen dresse à Florence en 1604 / II. Sanson 1656 / III. De L'Isle Amérique Sept. 1700 / IV. le Pere Kino Jesuite en 1705 / V. La Societe des Jésuites en 1767.

Description:    A rare and important map of California in five different states, ranging from roughly 1656 to 1767. Engraved by the important French cartographer Robert De Vaugondy, for the c. 1770 edition of the Denis Diderot (1713-84) Encyclopedie. This map explores the confused state of California cartography in the late 18th century. Examines the gradual discovery of California through various seminal mappings. Initially uses the work of Italian cartographer Matheau Neron Pecci (1604) which correctly presumed that the main body of California extended southward into a peninsula. The next map illustrated, by N. Sanson in 1656, displays in insular California. Map no. III, by Guillaume de L'Isle (1700) reattaches California to the mainland, returning to the early peninsular theory. Next, Vaugondy exhibits part of the seminal Kino Map. This map, rendered by a Jesuit missionary c. 1705 was the work that finally disproved the California Insular theory. Father Franz Kino walked this region between 1698 and 1701. The final map, produced by unnamed Jesuits c. 1767 is a somewhat accurate depiction of the Baja California peninsula. These maps all predate the discoveries of Captain Cook’s voyages and hence Diderot’s work was as much speculative as historical. A fine example of an essential work for all serious California collections.

This map is part of the 10 map series prepared by Vaugondy for the Supplement to Diderot’s Encyclopédie, of which this is plate 5. This seminal map series, exploring the mapping of North American and specifically the Northwest Passage was one of the first studies in comparative cartography.


Date:    c. 1770 (undated)

Source:    Supplement to Diderot's Encyclopédie, ou dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers. or Vaugondy's Recueil de 10 Cartes Traitant Particulierement de L'Amerique du Nord, (1779).

References:    Tooley, R. V., Landmarks of Mapmaking; an Illustrated Survey of Maps and Mapmakers, p.215. Tooley, R.V., The Mapping of America, p. 134, #100. McLaughlin, G., The Mapping of California as an Island: An Illustrated Checklist, #241. Fite, D. E., and Freeman, A., A Book of Old Maps, Delineating American history from the Earliest Days down to the Close of the Revolutionary War, #52. Heckrotte & Sweetkind #15. Wheat, C., The Mapping of the Transmississippi West, 1540-1861, 160. Pedley, Mary Sponberg. Bel et Utile: The Work of the Robert de Vaugondy Family of Mapmakers. 474. Leighly, John, California as an Island; an Illustrated Essay, 177. Schwartz, Seymour I. and Ehrenberg, Ralph E., The Mapping of America, p. 136. Wagner, Henry R., The Cartography of the Northwest Coast of America to the Year 1800,, Vol II, 637.

Cartographer:    Gilles (1688 - 1766) and Didier (c. 1723 - 1786) Robert de Vaugondy were map publishers, engravers, and cartographers active in Paris during the mid-18th century. The father and son team were the inheritors to the important Sanson cartographic firm whose stock supplied much of their initial material. Graduating from Sanson's map's Gilles, and more particularly Didier, began to produce their own substantial corpus of work. Vaugondys were well respected for the detail and accuracy of their maps in which they made excellent use of the considerable resources available in 18th century Paris to produce the most accurate and fantasy-free maps possible. The Vaugondys compiled each map based upon their own superior geographic knowledge, scholarly research, the journals of contemporary explorers and missionaries, and direct astronomical observation - moreover, unlike many cartographers of this period, they commonly took pains to reference their source material. Nevertheless, even in 18th century Paris geographical knowledge was severely limited - especially regarding those unexplored portions of the world, including the poles, the Pacific northwest of America, and the interior of Africa and South America. In these areas the Vaugondys, like their rivals De L'Isle and Buache, 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. Vaugondy's feuds with other cartographers, most specifically Phillipe Buache, resulted in numerous conflicting papers being presented before the Academie des Sciences, of which both were members. 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. Click here for a list of rare maps by Gilles and Didier Robert de Vaugondy.

Cartographer:    Denis Diderot (October 5, 1713 - July 31, 1784) was a French Enlightenment era philosopher, publisher and writer. Diderot was born in the city of Langres, France and educated at the Lycée Louis le Grand where, in 1732, he earned a master of arts degree in philosophy. Diderot briefly considered careers in the clergy and in law, but in the end chose the more fiscally challenge course of a writer. Though well respected in philosophical circles Diderot was unable to obtain any of the government commissions that commonly supported his set and consequently spent much of his life in deep poverty. He is best known for his role in editing and producing the Encyclopédie . The Encyclopédie was one of the most revolutionary and impressive works of its time. Initially commissioned as a translation of Ephraim Chambers' Cyclopaedia, or Universal Dictionary of Arts and Sciences, Diderot instead turned into a much larger and entirely new work of monumental depth and scope. Diderot's Encyclopédie was intended to lay bare before the common man the intellectual mysteries of science, art and philosophy. This revolutionary mission was strongly opposed by the powers of the time who considered a learned middle class it a threat to their authority. In the course of the Encyclopédie production Diderot was imprisoned twice and the work itself was officially banned. Nonetheless, publication continued in response to a demand exceeding 4000 subscribers. The Encyclopédie was finally published in 1772 in 27 volumes. Following the publication of the Encyclopédie Diderot grew in fame but not in wealth. When the time came to dower his only surviving daughter, Angelique, Diderot could find no recourse save to sell his treasured library. In a move of largess, Catherine the II Russia sent an emissary to purchased the entire library on the condition that Diderot retain it in his possession and act as her "librarian" until she required it. When Diderot died of gastro-intestinal problems 1784, his heirs promptly sent his vast library to Catherine II who had it deposited at the Russian National Library, where it resides to this day.Click here for a list of rare maps from Denis Diderot .

Size:   Printed area measures 11.5 in height x 15 inches in width (29.21 x 38.1 centimeters)

Condition:    Very good condition. Wide clean margins. Original folds, as issued. Margin extension on left side. Original platemark. Blank on verso.

Code:   CalifornieSuivant-vaugondy-1768 (to order by phone call: 646-320-8650)

© Geographicus Rare Antique Maps, Kevin Brown, 2/9/2014



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