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1799 Vancouver Map of the West Coast of North America - California, Vancouver, Alaska

Carte de la Partie de la Cote Nord-Ouest de L'Amerique Reconnue pendant Etes de 1792, 1793, et 1794. - Main View

1799 Vancouver Map of the West Coast of North America - California, Vancouver, Alaska


First printed mapping of the Columbia river and Puget Sound.


Carte de la Partie de la Cote Nord-Ouest de L'Amerique Reconnue pendant Etes de 1792, 1793, et 1794.
  1799 (undated)     31 x 25 in (78.74 x 63.5 cm)     1 : 5500000


One of George Vancouver's most influential maps, this is the 1799 general reconnaissance of the west coast of America from San Diego to Kodiak Island, Alaska. This beautifully engraved map features several notable firsts, including the first published mapping of the Puget Sound, the first mapping of Vancouver as an island, the first mapping of the Johnston Strait, the first detailed mapping of Cook Inlet, and the first published map of the Columbia River. In general, this represents the finest mapping of the American west coast to appear for nearly 40 years from its publication. Vancouver's tracks in 1792, 1793, and 1794 are noted.
The Columbia River and the Fur Trade
Vancouver's mapping of the Columbia River, which he initially missed, was of crucial importance to the development of the western fur trade. Just five years after this map was published, Lewis and Clark would consult this map when planning their own important overland expedition to American's west coast. The subsequent opening of the west to the fur trade heightened British and American rivalries in the region as well as ushered in the Great Age of the Mountain Men. Mount Rainier, Mt. St. Helene, and Mount Baker are all noted, Baker being named after one of Vancouver's Lieutenants.
San Francisco and Drake's Harbor
San Francisco Harbor is noted as 'Port Sd. Francisco.' Slightly further north, Drake's Harbor appears. Here Sir Frances Drake supposedly wintered in 1579 and in the process claimed the American northwest, as New Albion, for England.
Cook Inlet
One of the primary goals of Vancouver's 1793-4 expedition to American Northwest Coast was to resolve any doubt with regard the existence of a Northwest Passage. Following the Cook expeditions there remained but one possibility that might lead to the legendary water route - Cook Inlet, a large bay discovered, but never fully explored, by Captain James Cook in 1778. Vancouver's mission was to fully map Cook Inlet and determine if it did indeed connect to a watery network of rivers and lakes that could be used to cross the continent. Having skirted the eastern shore of Kodiak Island, Vancouver entered Cook Inlet in April 1794. By May he had navigated the full extent of the Inlet, becoming the first European to visit the future site of Anchorage, Alaska. It was at this point that Vancouver's expedition reached its northernmost limit and turned around for the return.
Publication History and Census
This example of Vancouver's map was issued in the highly desirable 1799 French edition of Vancouver's atlas, which is noted for being more beautifully produced with better engraving, higher quality paper, and more detail than the 1798 English edition. None of the maps list an engraver, but in the atlas's introductory text, it states that they were engraved at the Dépôt des Cartes et Plans de la Marine under the supervision of Jean-Nicholas Buache de Neuville. This scarce map is a core piece for any serious collection focusing on California, Vancouver, British Columbia, or the Pacific Northwest.


George Vancouver (June 22, 1750 - May 10, 1798) was a British naval officer and explorer active in the late 18th century. Vancouver was the last of the great naval explores of the 18th century and, along with Captain James Cook and Perouse, is credited with the first accurate mapping of the Northwest Coast of America. Vancouver was born in King's Lynn, England and joined the Royal Navy at age 13 as a seaman. While little is known of Vancouver's early life, he first appears in the annals of history as a midshipmen aboard the HMS Resolution of Captain Cook's second voyage in search of Terra Australis. On this expedition Vancouver claimed to have "been nearer the south pole than any other man" (after climbing the bowsprit before the ship turned back in the face of mountains of Antarctic ice). He also accompanied the third Cook expedition as a midshipman on the HMS Discovery where he witnessed the discovery of the Hawaiian Islands as well as Cooks tragic death on those same islands. Returning to England under Cook's second, Captain Clerke recommended Vancouver for promotion to Lieutenant. Under his new commission he spent several years learning surveying in the Caribbean aboard the HMS Martin, where he also distinguished himself in a number of military altercations with the French. In 1790 Vancouver received an appointment as the Captain of the HMS Discovery and was commissioned to complete the exploration of American's Northwest Coast begun by Cook and Perouse. Between 1791 and 1795 Vancouver's remarkable diligence and attention to detail created the first truly accurate cartographic picture of the American Coast between San Francisco Bay and California. Vancouver was the first to map countless rivers and inlets and to identify Vancouver Island. During his four years of exploration he also spent three winters in Hawaii, creating in the process the first accurate map of the islands. Unlike many earlier explorers Vancouver generally maintained good and respectful relations with the indigenous peoples he encountered. In Hawaii Vancouver allegedly negotiated the cession of Hawaii to England as well as introduced beneficial flora and fauna to the archipelago. Vancouver returned to England in 1795 where he immediately ran afoul of the powers that be. During his voyages Vancouver excited the ire of more than one crew member, including the well-connected naturalist Archibald Menzies, the sailing master Joseph Whidbey, and Thomas Pitt, the powerful Baron of Camelford. Slandered and assaulted by these influential enemies, one of Britian's greatest explorers fell into obscurity. He died shortly after in 1798 and was buried in an unremarkable grave at St. Peter's Churchyard, Petersham, Surrey, England. The journals of Vancouver's expedition, as well as his all-important maps, were published posthumously in the same year as his death. Robin Fisher, the academic Vice President of Mount Royal University in Calgary and author of two books on Vancouver, writes:

He [Vancouver] put the northwest coast on the map...He drew up a map of the north-west coast that was accurate to the 'nth degree,' to the point it was still being used into the modern day as a navigational aid. That's unusual for a map from that early a time.
Today Vancouver is memorialized by Vancouver Island, which he discovered, the Hudson Bay Company's Fort Vancouver, the city of Vancouver, Vancouver Peninsula Australia, Mount Vancouver, the 8th highest mountain in Canada, Vancouver Bay in Jervis Inlet, and the Vancouver Maritime Museum. For his 250th birthday, the Canada Post issued a special postage stamp in his honor. Learn More...

Dépôt des Cartes et Plans de la Marine (fl. 1720 - present), often called the Dépôt de Marine, was a French hydrographic mapping organization founded in 1720 under Charles-Hercule of Albert de Luynes (1674 - 1734). Much like the U.S. Coast Survey, the British Admiralty, and the Spanish Deposito Hydrografico, the Dépôt was initiated as a storehouse and distribution center of existing nautical and marine charts. Eventually the Dépôt initiated its own mapping activities in an attempt to improve and expand upon existing material. Some of the more prominent cartographers and hydrographers associated with the of Dépôt des Cartes were, Philippe Buache, Jacques-Nicholas Bellin, Giovanni Rizzi-Zannoni, Rigobert Bonne, and Jean Nicolas Buache. Learn More...

Jean-Nicholas Buache de Neuville (February, 15 1741 - November 21, 1825) was a French geographer, cartographer, scientist, and map publisher active in late 18th century Paris. Buache de Neuville was the nephew of the more prominent French geographer Philippe Buache, who held the coveted post of Premier Geographe du Roi. The position meant that Philippe Buache was assigned to tutor the young Dauphin in Geography. Philippe Buache often brought his young nephew, Jean-Nicholas Buache to these secessions where he apparently developed an excellent relationship with the prince. After Philippe Buache's death in 1773 the position of Premier Geographe du Roi fell to J. B. B. D'Anville, who himself died in 1782. Jean-Nicholas Buache, now 41, was in an ideal position to take up the job and canvased his royal friend, now Louis XVI for the position. He became the Premier Geographe du Roi in 1782, beating out such strong competitors as Rigobert Bonne, Didier Robert de Vaugondy, and Edmonde Mentelle. Buache de Neuville compiled maps based upon geographic knowledge, scholarly research, the journals of contemporary explorers and missionaries, and direct astronomical observation. 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 Buache de Neuville, like his uncle, Philippe, and primary rival Robert de Vaugondy, must be considered a speculative geographer or 'positive geographer'. 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. Buache de Neuville's feuds with other cartographers, most specifically Didier Robert De Vaugondy, 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. Learn More...


Baker, J., and Vancouver, G., Voyage de decouvertes a l'ocean Pacifique du Nord, et autour du monde. (Paris: Imprimerie de la République) 1799.    


Very good near flawless condition. Original centerfold. Platemark visible.


Rumsey 0233.004 (1828 edition). Falk, M.W. Alaskan maps, 1799-3 (1799 ed.). Wagner, H. R., The Cartography of the Northwest Coast of America to the Year 1800, (2 vols), 853-860.