1784 Vaugondy Map of the World on Mercator Projection

Mappe Monde suivant la projection des cartes reduites.

1784 Vaugondy Map of the World on Mercator Projection


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Mappe Monde suivant la projection des cartes reduites.
  1784 (undated)    9.5 x 15.5 in (24.13 x 39.37 cm)


This uncommon 1784 map of the world on a Mercator projection by Robert de Vaugondy occupies the ephemeral period between Captain Cook's second and third voyages. Cooks explorations along the eastern coast of Australia as well as around New Caledonia and are in evidence while his later work in the Pacific, including his important exploration of American northwestern coastline, is noticeably absent. Instead the northwest coast of America is loosely ghosted in with minor inland notations regarding the fictional discoveries of Admiral de Fonte.

Barthlomew de Fonte was supposedly a Spanish Admiral who, sailing up the Pacific coast c. 1640 discovered a series of gigantic lakes, seas, and rivers heading eastward towards the Hudson Bay. Upon one of these great inland lakes he met with a ship from Boston that claimed to have come through a Northwestern Passage. De Fonte's story appeared in a short lived 1706 English publication entitled 'Memoirs of the Curious.' The story inspired no less than Joseph-Nicholas de L'Isle, younger brother of the better known Guilleme de L'Isle. Joseph-Nicholas was at the time employed by the Russian Tzar Peter the Great in the compilation of Russian surveys and discoveries in Siberia and the extreme northeast of Asia. When he published his somewhat accurate map of northeast Asia, he paradoxically decided to include on the same page an entirely speculative map of North America based largely on De Fonte's letter. De L'Isle's mantle was later taken up by Jefferys, another ardent supporter of the Northwest Passage theory, who incuded De Fonte's discoveries in his own map of the region, which was, ultimately, the inspiration for this map by Vaugondy.

Elsewhere on this map Tasmania or Van Dimenians land is erroneously attached to the Australian mainland. Similarly, between Korea and Kamtschatka, Hokkaido, Japan's northernmost island, is attached to Sakhalin – a common error of the period.

This map typically appears in one of three color schemes designed to illustrated either world religious, skin tone, or race. This particular example is colorized to emphasize the predominance of various skin tones in different parts of the world. Whites (les Blancos) are represented by green, brown skin (les Bruns) are identified by red, yellow skin (les Juanatres) by yellow, and olive skin (les Olivatres) by light green.

Published by Robert de Vaugondy in the 1784 eidition of his Nouvel Atlas Portatif.


Gilles (1688 - 1766) and Didier (c. 1723 - 1786) Robert de Vaugondy were map publishers, engravers, and cartographers active in Paris during the mid-18th century. The father and son team were the inheritors to the important Sanson cartographic firm whose stock supplied much of their initial material. Graduating from Sanson's map's Gilles, and more particularly Didier, began to produce their own substantial corpus of work. Vaugondys were well respected for the detail and accuracy of their maps in which they made excellent use of the considerable resources available in 18th century Paris to produce the most accurate and fantasy-free maps possible. The Vaugondys compiled each map based upon their own superior geographic knowledge, scholarly research, the journals of contemporary explorers and missionaries, and direct astronomical observation - moreover, unlike many cartographers of this period, they commonly took pains to reference their source material. Nevertheless, even in 18th century Paris geographical knowledge was severely limited - especially regarding those unexplored portions of the world, including the poles, the Pacific northwest of America, and the interior of Africa and South America. In these areas the Vaugondys, like their rivals De L'Isle and Buache, 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. Vaugondy's feuds with other cartographers, most specifically Phillipe Buache, resulted in numerous conflicting papers being presented before the Academie des Sciences, of which both were members. 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.


Vaugondy, R., Nouvel Atlas Portatif, 1784.    


Very good. Minor mat-burn. Old framing tape on verso.


Pedley, Mary Sponberg. Bel et Utile: The Work of the Robert de Vaugondy Family of Mapmakers. 15.