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1771 Bonne Map of Tierra Firma (Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Brazil)

Carte de La Terre Ferme, de la Guyane et du Pays des Amazones. - Main View

1771 Bonne Map of Tierra Firma (Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Brazil)


Bonne's mapping of northern South America with the apocryphal Lake Parima.


Carte de La Terre Ferme, de la Guyane et du Pays des Amazones.
  1771 (dated)     13 x 17.5 in (33.02 x 44.45 cm)     1 : 11000000


A beautiful 1771 example of Rigobert Bonne's decorative map of northern South America. Covers from Honduras and the Windward Isles south as far as 12 degrees south latitude. This region, known since the days of Columbus as Tierra Firma, consists of the modern day nations of Columbia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Guyana, and Brazil. Offers excellent detail throughout showing mountains, rivers, national boundaries, cities, regions, and tribes.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this map is Bonne's treatment of the apocryphal Lake Parima. Lake Parima was first identified by Sir Walter Raleigh in the 16th century - though he admittedly never saw the lake himself. Raleigh associated the lake with indigenous legends of Manoa and the supposed site of El Dorado. Many early maps actually show 'El Dorado' on the shores of Lake Parima, though Bonne curiously does not. The reality of Lake Parima and the Manoans is based upon Raleigh's misinterpretation of local trade networks. The Manoas were a river trading tribe based in the Amazon. Each year during the rainy season flooding on the Orinoco and Parima rivers would create a large flood plain and open channels of trade between the two otherwise unconnected regions. Raleigh misinterpreted these watery trade channels as a great lake.

Curiously, despite the popularity of Raleigh's assumptions, the true homeland of the Manoa, along the Rio Negro, was known by the early 18th century. This map actually identifies the 'Ancienne demeure des Manaos' in the correct region. This once a great trading empire was defeated in the earliest years of European exploration of the regions by a series of terrifying Small Pox outbreaks - no doubt carried by the explorers themselves.

A large decorative title cartouche appears in the upper right quadrant. Drawn by R. Bonne in 1771 for issue as plate no. A 34 in Jean Lattre's Atlas Moderne.


Rigobert Bonne (October 6, 1727 - September 2, 1794) was one of the most important French cartographers of the late 18th century. Bonne was born in Ardennes à Raucourt, France. He taught himself mathematics and by eighteen was a working engineer. During the War of the Austrian Succession (1740 - 1748) he served as a military engineer at Berg-op-Zoom. It the subsequent years Bonne became one of the most respected masters of mathematics, physics, and geography in Paris. In 1773, Bonne succeeded Jacques-Nicolas Bellin as Royal Cartographer to France in the office of the Hydrographer at the Depôt de la Marine. Working in his official capacity, Bonne compiled some of the most detailed and accurate maps of the period - most on an equal-area projection known erroneously as the 'Bonne Projection.' Bonne's work represents an important step in the evolution of the cartographic ideology away from the decorative work of the 17th and early 18th century towards a more scientific and practical aesthetic. While mostly focusing on coastal regions, the work of Bonne is highly regarded for its detail, historical importance, and overall aesthetic appeal. Bonne died of edema in 1794, but his son Charles-Marie Rigobert Bonne continued to publish his work well after his death. More by this mapmaker...

Jean Lattré (170x - 178x) was a Paris based bookseller, engraver, globe maker, calligrapher, and map publisher active in the mid to late 18th century. Lattré published a large corpus of maps, globes, and atlases in conjunction with a number of other important French cartographic figures, including Janvier, Zannoni, Bonne and Delamarche. He is also known to have worked with other European cartographers such as William Faden of London and the Italian cartographer Santini. Map piracy and copyright violations were common in 18th century France. Paris court records indicate that Lattré brought charges against several other period map publishers, including fellow Frenchman Desnos and the Italian map engraver Zannoni, both of whom he accused of copying his work. Lattré likes trained his wife Madame Lattré (né Vérard), as an engraver, as a late 18th century trade card promotes the world of 'Lattré et son Epouse.' Lattré's offices and bookshop were located at 20 rue St. Jaques, Paris, France. Later in life he relocated to Bordeaux. Learn More...


Lattre, Jean, Atlas Moderne ou Collection de Cartes sur Toutes les Parties du Globe Terrestre, c.1778.    


Very good. Some toning and wear along original centerfold. Minor foxing. Original platemark visible.


Rumsey 2612.077. Phillips (Atlases) 664. National Maritime Museum, 215.