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1799 Vancouver Map of the West Coast of North America - California, Vancouver, Alaska

Carte de la Partie de la Cote Nord-Ouest de L'Amerique Reconnue pendant Etes de 1792, 1793, et 1794 - Main View

1799 Vancouver Map of the West Coast of North America - California, Vancouver, Alaska


The first published map of the northwest coast to show Vancouver Island, the Puget Sound, and the Columbia River.


Carte de la Partie de la Cote Nord-Ouest de L'Amerique Reconnue pendant Etes de 1792, 1793, et 1794
  1799 (undated)     31 x 25 in (78.74 x 63.5 cm)


One of the great navigator George Vancouver's most important and influential maps, this is the 1799 general reconnaissance of the west coast of America from San Diego to Kodiak Island, Alaska. At last the west coast of America, particular the Pacific Northwest, appears on the map much as it is in reality. This beautifully engraved map features a number of notable firsts, including the first published mapping of the Puget Sound, the first mapping of Vancouver as an Island, the first mapping of the Johnston Strait, and the first published map of the Columbia River. Vancouver's mapping of the Columbia River, which he initially missed, was of crucial importance to the development of the western fur trade. Just five years after this map was published, Lewis and Clark would consult this map when planning their own important overland expedition to American's west coast. The subsequent opening of the west to the fur trade heightened British and American rivalries in the region as well as ushered in the Great Age of the Mountain Men. Mount Rainier, Mt. St. Helene, Mount Baker are all noted, Baker being named after one of Vancouver's Lieutenants. San Francisco Harbor is noted as 'Port Sd. Francisco.' Slightly further north, Drake's Harbor appears. Here Sir Frances Drake supposed wintered in 1579 and in the process claimed the American northwest, as New Albion, for england. Vancouver's tracks in 1792, 1793, and 1794 are noted. The amazing detail of this chart, the finest mapping of the American west coast to appear for nearly 90 years after its publication, is an extraordinary monument to Vancouver's meticulous nature.

This particular example of Vancouver's map was issued as plate no. 3 in the highly desirable 1799 French edition of Vancouver's Atlas. The rare and coveted French edition of Vancouver's Atlas is more beautifully produced with better engraving, higher quality paper, and more detail then the 1798 english edition. This scarce map is a core piece for any serious collection focusing on California, Vancouver, British Columbia, or the Pacific Northwest.


George Vancouver (June 22, 1750 - May 10, 1798) was a British naval officer and explorer active in the late 18th century. Vancouver was the last of the great naval explores of the 18th century and, along with Captain James Cook and Perouse, is credited with the first accurate mapping of the Northwest Coast of America. Vancouver was born in King's Lynn, England and joined the Royal Navy at age 13 as a seaman. While little is known of Vancouver's early life, he first appears in the annals of history as a midshipmen aboard the HMS Resolution of Captain Cook's second voyage in search of Terra Australis. On this expedition Vancouver claimed to have "been nearer the south pole than any other man" (after climbing the bowsprit before the ship turned back in the face of mountains of Antarctic ice). He also accompanied the third Cook expedition as a midshipman on the HMS Discovery where he witnessed the discovery of the Hawaiian Islands as well as Cooks tragic death on those same islands. Returning to England under Cook's second, Captain Clerke recommended Vancouver for promotion to Lieutenant. Under his new commission he spent several years learning surveying in the Caribbean aboard the HMS Martin, where he also distinguished himself in a number of military altercations with the French. In 1790 Vancouver received an appointment as the Captain of the HMS Discovery and was commissioned to complete the exploration of American's Northwest Coast begun by Cook and Perouse. Between 1791 and 1795 Vancouver's remarkable diligence and attention to detail created the first truly accurate cartographic picture of the American Coast between San Francisco Bay and California. Vancouver was the first to map countless rivers and inlets and to identify Vancouver Island. During his four years of exploration he also spent three winters in Hawaii, creating in the process the first accurate map of the islands. Unlike many earlier explorers Vancouver generally maintained good and respectful relations with the indigenous peoples he encountered. In Hawaii Vancouver allegedly negotiated the cession of Hawaii to England as well as introduced beneficial flora and fauna to the archipelago. Vancouver returned to England in 1795 where he immediately ran afoul of the powers that be. During his voyages Vancouver excited the ire of more than one crew member, including the well-connected naturalist Archibald Menzies, the sailing master Joseph Whidbey, and Thomas Pitt, the powerful Baron of Camelford. Slandered and assaulted by these influential enemies, one of Britian's greatest explorers fell into obscurity. He died shortly after in 1798 and was buried in an unremarkable grave at St. Peter's Churchyard, Petersham, Surrey, England. The journals of Vancouver's expedition, as well as his all-important maps, were published posthumously in the same year as his death. Robin Fisher, the academic Vice President of Mount Royal University in Calgary and author of two books on Vancouver, writes:

He [Vancouver] put the northwest coast on the map...He drew up a map of the north-west coast that was accurate to the 'nth degree,' to the point it was still being used into the modern day as a navigational aid. That's unusual for a map from that early a time.
Today Vancouver is memorialized by Vancouver Island, which he discovered, the Hudson Bay Company's Fort Vancouver, the city of Vancouver, Vancouver Peninsula Australia, Mount Vancouver, the 8th highest mountain in Canada, Vancouver Bay in Jervis Inlet, and the Vancouver Maritime Museum. For his 250th birthday, the Canada Post issued a special postage stamp in his honor. More by this mapmaker...


Vancouver, G., Voyage de decouvertes a l'ocean Pacifique du Nord, et autour du monde : dans lequel la cote nord-ouest de l'Amerique a ete soigneusement reconnue et exactement relevee : ordonne par le roi d'Angleterre, principalement dans la vue de constater s'il existe, a travers le continent de l'Amerique, un passage pour les vaisseaux, de l'ocean Pacifique du Nord a l'ocean Atlantique septentrional : et execute en 1790, 1791, 1792, 1793, 1794 et 1795, (Paris : De l'Imprimerie de la Republique) 1799.    


Good. Some wear and soiling on original fold lines - especially at fold intersections. Platemark visible. Blank on verso.


Rumsey 0233.004 (1828 edition). Falk, M.W. Alaskan maps, 1799-3 (1799 ed.). Wagner, H. R., The Cartography of the Northwest Coast of America to the Year 1800 (2 vols), 853-860. Falk, M.W. Alaskan maps, 1799-4 (1799 ed.).