This is a 1780 Bellin map of the southeastern coast of Africa, starting at the Cape of Good Hope and continuing around to the island of Comoroa (Comore ou Angasi on the map) and part of Madagascar. Bellin drew the information for this chart from his own superb 1740 chart of the Indian Ocean, Carte Reduite de l'Ocean Oriental ou Mer des Indes Contenant Les Costes d'Afrique. It was this grand chart, and not the present lovely if narrowly-focused engraving, that was produced 'Par Ordre' of the Count de Maurepas. It seems slightly misleading that Bellin should here invoke this famous French statesman, naval strategist and spymaster, given that the present map was to appear in Harpe's 1780 Abrégé de l'histoire générale des voyages, which epitomized Prévost's Histoire générale des voyages - a work perhaps better known for its imaginative flourish than for its factuality. This map is notable, however, for its focus on the indigenous African national names that appear on it.
Publication History and CensusThe map was executed in 1742 for inclusion in Prévost's Histoire générale des voyages, and was again printed in 1780 for Harpe's abridged edition of that work. This map appears on the market from time to time, but OCLC lists perhaps seven copies of the separate map in this edition, although inconsistencies in cataloguing mean this number may be higher. Prévost's Histoire and Harpe's abridged version of it are well represented in institutional collections.
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...
De la Harpe, Abrégé de l'histoire générale des voyages. (Paris) 1780.
Very good condition; minor creasing on old fold lines.
OCLC 163336665. Afriterra 1739.