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SANSON D'ABBEVILLE, Nicholas (1600-1667). Amerique Septentrionale. Paris: Chez l'Auteur Et chez Pierre Mariette rue S. Iacques a l Esperance, 1650

SANSON D'ABBEVILLE, Nicholas (1600-1667). Amerique Septentrionale. Paris: Chez l'Auteur Et chez Pierre Mariette rue S. Iacques a l Esperance, 1650

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SANSON D'ABBEVILLE, Nicholas (1600-1667). Amerique Septentrionale Par N. Sanson d'Abbevelle Geog. du Roy A Paris Chez l'Auteur Et chez Pierre Mariette rue S. Iacques a l Esperance 1650. Avec privilege du Roy pour vingt Ans

Single sheet (16 7/8 x 22 6/8 inches; 15 2/8 x 22 6/8 inches to the neat line; full margins showing the plate mark). Exceptionally fine engraved map of North and Central America, showing the northeastern and southern coasts and territories in close detail, particularly New France and the Great Lakes, all of which are shown her for the FIRST TIME, the west coast extends as far north as as California, which is shown as an island, and New Mexico; the title appears within a fine rococo cartouche upper right, with lines of latitude and longitude, all with fine original colour in outline, paper watermark, Coat of Arms, Heawood 673, but without c-k (central vertical crease, one of two insignificant marginal stains)

Provenance: Galerie Grand Rue, Genève, 1980; from the important cartographical library of Warren Heckrotte, his sale, Rare Cartography, Exploration and Voyages, Part I, 29th October, 2015, lot 175


Sanson's "Amerique Septentrionale" is the most influential map of North America of the 17th-century. On it for the first time on a printed map are depictions of all five of the Great Lakes: on this early state Lake Ontario is indicated by boundaries which do not have engraved shading, in contrast to the other lakes portrayed; the latitudes at the right and left sides are numbered every 10 degrees; the longitudes along the lower edge are numbered every 10 degrees; the Azores are not yet depicted in the Atlantic; the short segment of the coastline running almost due west just to the north and west of the island of California in not present; in the northwest quarter there are to be found the place names of Anian, Quivira, and Nouvelle Albion; and Conibus is slightly to the east of where it appears in subsequent issues.


"In 1650 Sanson published his LANDMARK MAP OF NORTH AMERICA. It was drawn, with his usual car, using the sinusoidal projection which is sometimes known by the name Sanson-Flamstead. It is, perhaps, most important for being the first printed map to delineate the five Great Lakes in a recognisable form... Sanson's map was the first to name Lakes Superior and Ontario, and Lakes Erie and Huron, unnamed, appear in a more familiar form... Montreal, recorded here at the important junction of the R des Prairies, Ottawa River, and the St. Lawrence River, was chosen by Champlain in 1611 as the site for a trading post, but it was not until 1642 that it became occupied year round. The waters of the north illustrate the continued hope of a North West Passage. The majority of the cartography of New France was new and would remain as the most accurate until seperseded by Coronelli in 1688. The east coast of North America does not bear much detail, but one interesting feature is the location of "Novelle Amsterdam" on an island some distance off shore. The reference to N. Suede is the first on a printed map of the Swedish colony founded in 1638. The south and south-east are largely similar to those of the Hondius, America Septentrionalis, 1636.

"To the west S. Fe, Navajo, Apache, Taosij and others all appear for the first time. The first is incorrectly placed on the west bank of the Rio Grande, here again flowing to the south-west. These were the first advances in the geography of this region for some time... California as an island is of the Briggs type with some important alterations; Sanson introduces four placenames from the de Laet map of 1630, C. de Fortune, C. de Pinos, C. de S. Martin and C. de Galera. THE EXTREMELY RARE FIRST STATE OF THIS MAP, KNOWN ONLY IN TWO EXAMPLES, bears no coastlines to the west or north of California, only the names Anian, Quivera, Nouvelle Albion and Conibas appear above" (Burden 294). 

Louis XIV, The sun King, King of France (1643–1715) had ruled his country and a large proportion of North America for a mere 7 years when Sanson created this magnificent map of his French Dominions there. His reign, principally from his great palace at Versailles, covered one of Frances most brilliant periods and Louis, the Sun King, remains the symbol of absolute monarchy of the classical age. However the beginning of his reign was fraught with conflict at home and abroad. "Louis was nine years old when the nobles and the Paris Parlement (a powerful law court), driven by hatred of the prime minister Cardinal Jules Mazarin, rose against the crown in 1648. This marked the beginning of the long civil war known as the Fronde, in the course of which Louis suffered poverty, misfortune, fear, humiliation, cold, and hunger. These trials shaped the future character, behaviour, and mode of thought of the young king. He would never forgive either Paris, the nobles, or the common people. In 1653 Mazarin was victorious over the rebels and then proceeded to construct an extraordinary administrative apparatus with Louis as his pupil" (Encyclopedia Britannica).

On the world stage, the war begun in 1635 between France and Spain was entering its last phase by the 1650s, and the outcome  would transfer European hegemony from the Habsburgs to the Bourbons; in a further series of conflicts between 1667 and 1697, he extended France’s eastern borders at the expense of the Habsburgs and then, in the War of the Spanish Succession (1701–1714), engaged a hostile European coalition in order to secure the Spanish throne for his grandson.

Sanson family members were revered among the foremost map makers in France for nearly a century. A leading exemplar of the French school of 17th century cartography, Nicholas Sanson is widely regarded as the founder of modern geography and it is generally held that the so-called "Great Age" of French cartography originated with his publications. This exquisite, hand-colored map of is a prime example of Nicholas Sanson's cartographic mastery. Sanson was born in Abeville, a town in the Picardy region of France, in the year 1600. As a young adult Sanson was a fervent historian, focusing his studies particularly on the ancient world. Many have hypothesized that Sanson turned to cartography simply as a way of illustrating his work on ancient history. Whatever his motivations for pursuing a career in map-publication, Sanson was undoubtedly the most prolific French cartographer during the reign of Louis XIV and as a result he was appointed Géographe Ordinaire du Roi in 1630. Sanson also served as a private geography tutor for the King. In the span of his career, Sanson published some 300 maps and two world atlases. He produced his first map when he was 16 and published his first atlas in 1645. Sanson also produced a series of four octavo volumes, each one devoted to one of the four known continents. Sanson's productions were praised for their precision and renowned for their attention to detail without excessive decoration. Indeed, some critics argued that his maps were too stark. Burden, MNA 294 ( R this copy). W-TW 47. Wa-NWC 360. Leighly 20 ( Rep 3rd state ). Pastoureau, Les Atlas Français. Pastoureau, Atlas du Monde ( Rep 2nd state ). Heidenreich, "Mapping the Great Lakes 1603-1700" in Cartographia, Vo. 17, No. 3, 1980, pp 32-64. This article is followed by sequel on the period 1700 -1760. This map was the subject of a study by Warren Heckrotte published in The Map Collector in 1980, at which time it was the only known copy. A copy of the article, "Nicholas Sanson's Map of North American 1650: An apparently unrecorded first state," accompanies the map.

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