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1703 Delisle Map of Southern South America (Paraguay, Chile, Argentina)

Carte du Paraguay du Chili du Detroit de Magellan etc. - Main View

1703 Delisle Map of Southern South America (Paraguay, Chile, Argentina)


Beautiful Delisle map of southern South America depicting several explorer's discoveries.


Carte du Paraguay du Chili du Detroit de Magellan etc.
  1703 (dated)     19.5 x 26 in (49.53 x 66.04 cm)     1 : 9000000


This is an extraordinary example of Guillaume Delisle's magnificent 1703 map of southern South America. It covers roughly from 18 degrees south latitude south to Tierra del Fuego, and includes the modern day nations of Paraguay, Chile, Uruguay and Argentina along with the southern portions of Brazil and Bolivia. The map renders the entire region in extraordinary detail offering both topographical and political information with forest and mountains beautifully rendered in profile.

This map, like most early maps of the area, offers a fairly accurate mapping of both the east and west coasts with exceptional detail. The interior is where this map gets interesting. Delisle was a cautious and scientific cartographer, who based his maps on the first hand reports from sailors, merchants and missionaries that, at the time, were flowing into Paris at an unprecedented rate. Consequently many of his maps offer significant cartographic advances over their predecessors. This map is no exception and Delisle credits the mappings and explorations of this region to Afonso de Ovalle and Nicholas Techo. The relatively easy navigation along the Rio de La Plata and its tributaries, as well as the relative narrowness of the continent and accessibility of the Pampas, offered ample opportunity for easy mapping. Nonetheless, Delisle's mapping of South America's interior is full of inaccuracy, curiosities, and ample fodder for the gold hunting European.

Our survey of the map begins with Delisle's suggestion that the Santa Cruz River, or the 'Rio St. Julien' as it is labeled here, connects (or nearly so) with the Rio de la Campana coming from the Pacific, thus connecting the Atlantic to the South Seas via an easy overland river route. The idea of a river route transversing Patagonia caught the European imagination in the early 18th Century. The writer Daniel Defoe proposes a similar route further north in his book A New Voyage and such concepts appeared in several maps of the period including Herman Moll's important map of the South Sea Company. Of course, the Andes were in fact an indomitable barrier and short of the treacherous Strait of Magellan itself, no such water route existed.

Some of the most interesting elements of this map appear far from the mainland in the surrounding seas. The routes of several important explorers are indicated including Pedro Sarmiento in 1589, La Roche in 1675, Halley in 1700, Amerigo Vespucci in 1502 and Captain Charp in 1681. The Falklands are depicted in an embryonic form as identified by Captain La Roche in 1675. Also notes Francis Drake's discovery of Cape Horn. In the lower right hand quadrant there is an interesting image of a stylized swan accompanied with a description in French, probably attributable to the explorer Lozier Bouvet, so charming that I felt obligated to translate and include here,
In this Glacial Sea there are many animals that are half bird and half fish; on the surface they pass like a swan coming out of the water only to take the air, the rest is always under water.
Also in the lower right quadrant Amerigo Vespucci's ship appears as he crosses into the Western Hemisphere. Slightly to the northwest of this little ship another island appears, supposedly discovered by La Roche in 1675, and is mostly likely a mis-mapping of South Georgia Island.

Altogether this is a spectacular map set in extraordinary conditions. Stands up to hours of perusal and presents dramatically.


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 damage and verso reinforcement along original centerfold. Extended margins. Lower border repaired and extended.


Rumsey 4764.103.