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The map’s title block features Indigenous and European people against the backdrop of a small settlement. At lower-right, a cartouche features cartographic tools.

L’Amérique Meridionale, et Septentrionale Dressee selon les derniers Relations et suivant les Nouvelles Decouvertes

[South and North America Drawn up according to the latest Relations and according to the New Discoveries]
Nicolas de Fer
Paris, 1726

Nicolas de Fer, L’Amerique Meridionale, et Septentrionale Dressee selon les derniers Relations et suivant les Nouvelles Decouvertes, Paris: J.F. Bernard, 1726, Map #95134, Map Collection, Archives and Records Program, Texas General Land Office, Austin, TX.

Nicolas de Fer first published this heavily annotated folio map, a reduced version of his large wall map of the Americas, in 1699.[1] This 1726 edition features remarkable details and colorful imagery in an exotic landscape. The title block at lower-left includes images of Indigenous people and colonial Europeans against the backdrop of a mountainside settlement dotted by windmills. The cartouche on the lower-right, decorated with cartographic tools, lends an air of scientific credibility to de Fer’s efforts, while matching decorative compasses appear in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. In the latter, de Fer also illustrates three ships on fire. A third cartouche in the upper-left corner depicts Indigenous people standing under a shining sun, with an extensive description of America and its principal nations.

A cartouche in the upper-left corner provides a description of America and its principal nations.

The map’s notations provide a particularly thorough representation of early French explorations along the East Coast and into eastern Canada. De Fer also features contemporary colonial developments and missionary activity throughout New France, which covered much of North America, including present-day Texas. Named Indigenous nations and French forts appear throughout French claims; however, comparatively fewer details are present in Spanish domains. One exception is the Mines de Jean et de Ste. Barbe, the famous Santa Barbara mines in northern Mexico that carried a particular strategic significance for French ambitions on the continent. This site had been a potential target for seizure since La Salle’s 1685 arrival in Texas, should the French attempt to invade New Spain via the Río Grande.[2] Along with artistically visualizing France’s imperial dreams, this map influenced European views of the Western Hemisphere at the turn of the eighteenth century.

[left] Heavy annotations appear throughout New France, which stretches from Northern Canada to the approximate present-day U.S.-Mexico border. They provide information on French colonial activity, Indigenous settlements, and more. [right] In northern Mexico, de Fer identifies the mines of Santa Barbara.
This edition of de Fer’s map perpetuates the cartographic myth of “Island California” despite it having been disproven over two decades earlier.

De Fer composed this map by incorporating several sources, including the Académie Royale des Sciences of France and records of Jesuit missionaries. Unlike some of his peers, de Fer correctly positioned the Great Lakes below Hudson Bay. He also replicated notable geographic errors, however, like placing the Mississippi River too far west and depicting California as an island. De Fer perpetuated the latter error despite the work of Father Eusebio Kino, a Jesuit missionary who had definitively proven that lower California was a peninsula in 1701 and displayed it on a map published in Paris in 1705.[3] Although some of de Fer’s work, including his “Beaver Map” and the first edition of this map, predate widespread knowledge of Kino’s discovery, he declined to correct his maps and continued to chart California as an island throughout his career.[4]

  1. L’Amerique Meridionale, et Septentrionale Dressee selon les dernieres Relations et suivant les Nouvelles Decouvertes. . .,” Barry Lawrence Ruderman Antique Maps Inc. Accessed January 11, 2021, https://www.raremaps.com/gallery/detail/73844/lamerique-meridionale-et-septentrionale-dressee-selon-les-de-fer.
  2. Gene R. Tucker, “La Salle Lands in Texas: La Salle and the Historians,” East Texas Historical Journal: Vol. 48, Iss. 1, Article 9 (2010). Accessed January 26, 2022, https://scholarworks.sfasu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2595&context=eth. Richard Gross and Craig P. Howard, “La Salle’s Texas Enterprise and Louis XIV’s Imperial America,” Southwestern Historical Quarterly 125, no 3 (2022): 225.249. Accessed January 26, 2022, https://muse.jhu.edu/article/845065.
  3. “Passage by Land to California. Discovered by Father Eusebius Francis Kino, A Jesuit, Between the Years 1698 & 1701 Containing Likewise the New Missions of the Jesuits,” California Map Society. Accessed January 11, 2021, https://californiamapsociety.org/Kino-1705.
  4. “The Original Beaver Map & Its Legacy,” Swann Auction Galleries, June 12, 2018. Accessed January 11, 2021, https://www.swanngalleries.com/news/maps-and-atlases/2018/06/the-original-beaver-map/;L’Amerique, Divisee Selon Letendue De Ses Principales Parties, Et Dont Les Points Principaux Sont Placez Sur Les Observations De Mes.rs . . . 1717,” Barry Lawrence Ruderman Antique Maps Inc. Accessed January 11, 2021, https://www.raremaps.com/gallery/detail/77866/lamerique-divisee-selon-letendue-de-ses-principales-partie-de-fer.

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