1799 Vancouver Map of Alaska: Kodiak Island, Cook Inlet, Anchorage

Cote Nord-Ouest de L'Amerique Reconnue par le Cape. Vancouver. VIIe Partie. - Main View

1799 Vancouver Map of Alaska: Kodiak Island, Cook Inlet, Anchorage


Vancouver's Exploration of Cook Inlet.


Cote Nord-Ouest de L'Amerique Reconnue par le Cape. Vancouver. VIIe Partie.
  1799 (undated)     31 x 25 in (78.74 x 63.5 cm)     1 : 1500000


One of the great navigator George Vancouver's most important and influential maps, this is Vancouver's 1799 mapping of Kodiak Island and Cook Inlet, near Anchorage, Alaska. Cook Inlet was one of the primary objectives of the Vancouver Expedition, as it remained unexplored after James Cook's initial tenuous mapping, it was considered a possible outlet for the Northwest Passage. Centered on the entrance to Cook Inlet, this map covers from Knik Arm and Turnagain Arm southwards as far as the southernmost tip of Kodiak Island. It evokes the rugged topography of the region, showing mountains and rough ground pictorially, albeit without precise elevations. Mount St. Augustin and several volcanoes are noted. An inset of Port Chatham, at the southern tip of the Kenai Peninsula, appears in the upper left quadrant.
You Can't Get There From Here
One of the primary goals of Vancouver's 1793-4 expedition to American Northwest Coast was to resolve 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 trip to Europe, having - for Cook inlet, at least - settled the issue of a Northwest Passage.
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. The French edition of Voyage de découvertes is well represented in institutional collections. However, we see examples of the separate chart cataloged only in the Biblioteca Nacional de España.


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...


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. Faint toning in margins. Platemark visible.


Rumsey 0233.011 (1828 reissue). Falk, M.W. Alaskan Maps: A Cartobibliography of Alaska to 1900, 1799-7. National Maritime Museum. Catalog, 256.