1723 Delisle Map of the Caucuses and the Caspian Sea

Carte des Pays voisins de la Mer Caspiene. - Main View

1723 Delisle Map of the Caucuses and the Caspian Sea


One of the first accurate depictions of the Caspian Sea.


Carte des Pays voisins de la Mer Caspiene.
  1723 (dated)     18.5 x 25 in (46.99 x 63.5 cm)     1 : 3150000


This is an attractive 1723 Guillaume De L'isle map of the Caucasus, one of the earliest to place Carl Van Verden and S. I. Soimonov's 1719-21 mapping of the Caspian Sea in the geographical context of the surrounding region. This is one of De L'isle's most important and misunderstood maps. Coverage extends from the Black Sea to Independent Tartary, and from Russia to Persia, inclusive of the entire Caspian Sea, and the modern-day nations of Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Iran, and Turkey.
A Closer Look
Knowledge of the Caucasus and Caspian Sea region was limited in Western Europe and so Delisle composed this map from assortment of sources, many of which are named in the cartouche, including the Russian explorers, Persian diplomats, Georgian aristocratic and religious figures, and various Russian surveys.
Historical Context
Around 1718 Russian Tzar Peter the Great, sponsored several expeditions to the farthest reaches of his vast empire. One such was a command to map the Caspian Sea given to Dutch navigator Carl Van Verden. Though well known since antiquity, the world's largest lake was largely ignored by surveyors until Van Verden's survey in the early 18th century. Van Verden's work was the most advanced mapping of the Caspian Sea to date, offering a new perspective on the region and opening the navigational possibility of the world's largest lake.
Further Context
In 1721 Peter presented the French Royal Academy with a copy of S. I. Soimonov and Carl Van Verden's map of the Caspian region,
Without further delay, Delisle redrew the map (with great care), translated the inscriptions into French and printed it on separate sheets in reduced size in the travaux of the Academy. He also included the map in his atlas. In this way, the exact outline of the Caspian Sea, drawn on the Russian map of 1720, first appeared in a map prepared in western Europe. In 1723, Delisle returned anew to the map of Verden and Soimonov and transposed from it the correct outline of 'Caspia' to the map which he was preparing. This can be seen by the outline of Verden and Soimonov on their map of 1720. This point is confirmed by the caption on the map of 1723 which describes it as 'dressee pour l'usage du Roi (Louis XIV) sur la carte de cette mer faite par l'ordre du Czar (Peter I).' The fact that Delisle used a map with Russian names becomes clear from the inscriptions on the map of 1723. 'Dua Brata ou Les Deux Freres,''Ostrov Giloi-Isle Habite,' 'Ostrov Svinoi ou Isle des Cochons,' 'Krasnie Vodi ou Les Eaux Rouges,' and others.
The result is this remarkably accurate map, a major step forward in the cartographic perspective of the region, and one of the finest maps Delisle ever produced. Peter the Great, Russia's most expansionist Tzar, was determined to make the Caspian a 'Russian Lake' and invaded the region in 1722 seizing Derbent and Baku.
Publication History and Census
This map was engraved by Marin (Marin Desmarest?) and drawn by Guillaume De L'isle in 1723. Appears both as a separate issue an in some De L'Isle atlases.


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. More by this mapmaker...


Very good. Minor wear along original centerfold. Original platemark visible. Minor offsetting.


Rumsey 4764.080. Allen, W. E. D., 'The Sources of G. Delisle's 'Carte des Pays Voisins de la Mer Caspiene' of 1723,' Imago Mundi, vol 13 (1956), pp. 137-150. Laor, E., Maps of the Holy Land: Cartobibliography of Printed Maps, 1475 - 1900, E 111, p. 74.