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1744 Bellin Map or Plan of New Orleans, Louisiana

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

1744 Bellin Map or Plan of New Orleans, Louisiana


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


Plan de la Nouvelle-Orleans sur les Manuscrits du Depot des Cartes de la Marine.
  1744 (undated)     8.5 x 11.5 in (21.59 x 29.21 cm)     1 : 4800


This scarce 1744 map by J. N. Bellin is the earliest obtainable map of New Orleans, Louisiana. Oriented to the northwest, 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, although after the first state, distinguishable for the inclusion of the engraver's name in the lower right margin, it is difficult to distinguish specific editions. The preset example most likely dates to a 1745 or 1746 edition. 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 - March 21, 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. More by this mapmaker...


Charlevoix, Pierre Francois Xavier de, Histoire et description generale de la Nouvelle France, avec le journal historique d'un voyage fait par ordre du roi dans l'Amerique septentrionnale, (Paris: Chez Rollin) 1744.    


Very good. Minor wear along original fold lines. Minor toning and offsetting, with some foxing at places. Original platemark visible.


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