17th Century Maps, 18th Century Maps, American Maps, Copperplate, Engraving, Maps

Carte de la Californie

We have a great find to share with you today- a copper engraving illustrating the cartograhic depiction of California over time. Carte de la Californie, by Didier Robert de Vaugondy, was published in Diderot and d’Alembert Encyclopaedie supplement, in Paris, 1770-79. This famous composite map illustrates conceptions of California over two centuries. From right to left, it shows the California coast as depicted by an Italian map of 1604, Sanson in 1656, Delisle in 1700, Father Kino in 1705, and the Jesuits in 1767. Only Sanson’s map portrays California as island, although most maps over nearly a hundred-year period did the same. It was the Jesuit priest Kino who proved the island concept false by walking from the mainland to the California coast. But this map was not generally accepted, and in 1747, King Ferdinand VII of Spain was compelled to issue a formal decree that California is not an island.

For more information, or if you would like to buy this map from our gallery, please visit our website here.

18th Century Maps, Copperplate, Engraving, Maps

Tabula Selenographica by Johann Ebersberger

Tabula Selenographica by Johann Doppelmayr. Handcolored copperplate engraving. Published by Homann Heirs, in Nuremberg, 1742.

Our next post features the map Tabula Selenographica in qua Lunarium Macularum exacta Descriptio, a decorative map of the moon’s surface by Johanna Gabriel Doppelmayr. This copperplate engraving was published by the Homann Heirs in Nuremberg, c.1742. In beautiful, original hand coloring, this double hemispheric map provides a comparative analysis of the topographical information and nomenclature used by two different astronomers- Riccioli and Hevelius. The map also features lunar phases on the four outside corners, as well as a plan of lunar phases around a single point, oriented in between the two hemispheres. Along the top, Doppelmayr engraved a cherub using a telescope and the goddess figure Diana, lady of the moon. This embellishment is a beautiful celebration of the mystery and mythology of the planets, and serves as a contrast to the scientific technical precision used to map the moon’s surface.

The left hemisphere of Tabula Selenographica depicts the lunar map according to Johannes Hevelius, a brewer from Gdansk, whose Selenographica was the first treatises devoted entirely to the moon. This map showed all features of the moon equally – a composite view that showed the Moon in a way that it never appeared in reality, but had accurate placement of the moon’s surface features. The founder of selenography (named after Selene, the goddess of the moon), Hevelius’ nomenclature was always based on earthly features. This nomenclature was used by all Protestant countries until the eighteen century, when it was replaced by a naming system published in 1651 by Jesuit astronomer Giovanni Battista Riccioli.

Riccioli’s lunar maps are referenced in the right hemisphere of Tabula Selenographica. In contrast to the maps of Hevelius, Riccioli gave the large naked-eye spots of the moon names of seas (Sea of Tranquility, Sea of Storm) and the telescopic spots ( what we now call craters) the names of philosophers and astronomers. The Riccioli moon map is historically of great importance, as it is the basis for all lunar nomenclature still in use. Thus, Mare Tranquillitatis, located on this map and named in 1651 by Riccioli, is the same Sea of Tranquility traversed by the Apollo 11 astronauts in 1969.

Johann Gabriel Doppelmayr

This map by Doppelmayr compares these two contrasting lunar representations with great detail and expertise. Doppelmayr, 1677-1750, was a mathematician and student of physics and astronomy. A professor, he wrote many works on astronomy, geography, cartography, as well as designed sundials, mathematical instruments, and the first celestial globes.

He often collaborated with cartographer Johanna Baptist Homann, a former Dominican monk and founder of one of the most influential cartographic publishing firms. After Johann’s death, his cartographic business was continued by his son, and later his friend and stepsister’s husband, under the name of Homann Heirs. It was the Homann Heirs who published Doppelmayr’s best-known astronomical work- his Atlas Coelestis– in 1742. This atlas is a collection of the majority of Doppelmayr’s astronomical and cosmographical plates, which he prepared over the years for the Homann publishing firm. Tabula Selenographica is plate 11 in the atlas, and is a variation of a plate that was previously published in Homann’s first atlas, the Neuer Atlas of 1707.

Doppelmayr’s achievements have been celebrated both during and after his life. He was elected a member of several scientific societies, including the Berlin Academy of Sciences, the Royal Society of London, and St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences.  The lunar crater Doppelmayr, the nearby rille (lunar channel) Rimae Doppelmayr, and a minor planet 12622 Doppelmayr are all named in his honor.

To view or purchase Tabula Selenographica on our website, click here. To see other works by Doppelmayr, click here.

18th Century Maps, Copperplate, Engraving, Foreign Maps, Maps

Carte Réduite des Mers du Nord

Carte Reduite des Mers du Nord, by Jacques-Nicolas Bellin


Carte Réduite des Mers du Nord is a map that concentrates on the North Atlantic and Arctic Ocean areas from Greenland to Scandinavia, including Iceland, Norway, Sweden, and Great Britain. This handsome copperplate engraving, by Jacques Nicolas Bellin, royal hydrographer of France, was published in Antoine Prevost’s Historie Genrale des Voyages. Published in Paris, between the years 1747 and 1780, this atlas served to identify coastlines, important cities and ports, and was also used as a sea chart. In beautiful and striking black and white detail, the map is very typical of the French cartography of the mid-18th Century.

This map features a gorgeous cartouche with the title engraved in a clear and precise manner. Very different from the elaborate cartouches of the 16th and 17th century, this cartouche borders on simple and almost delicate, with slight flourishes, and the interspersing of small flowers. Along the map’s right border is the phrase “Echelle de Lieues Marines de France et d’Angleterre de 20 au Dégré”, roughly translated to mean “Scale of Marine Leagues from France and England at 20 degrees”- a useful declaration of the map’s scale, emphasizing its use by sailors, navy men, and explorers. The coastlines of Carte Réduite des Mers du Nord are very accurate for the time. Bellin was sure to identify which coastlines were certain and which areas were drawn with speculation, such as Greenland’s eastern coastline, which reads “Tote cette Coste n’est traceé que sur des Conjectures [Trans: All of the Coast is drawn on Conjecture].”

Among the most striking of the map’s details are the crisscrossing straight lines, radiating from the Mer Glaciale. These lines represent the 32 directions of the mariner’s compass from a given point, similar to a compass rose displayed on later maps and charts. Demonstrating all 32 principle points, as Bellin has done on this map, is referred to as “boxing the compass”.

Bellin, 1703-1772, was born in France, and lived in Paris for the great majority of his life. At 18, he was appointed Hydrographer (chief cartographer) to the French Navy. In 1741, he became the first Ingénieur de la Marine of the Depot des cartes et planes de la Marine, and was named the Official Hydrographer of the French Navy. A hydrographer focuses on the measurement of depth of inland waters and its variation over time and space, as well as the description of the morphological characteristics of the marginal land. Highlighting navigable waters and detailing both natural and man-made shore features, Bellin was praised for his workmanship and accuracy. During his time at the Depot, his large folio format sea charts and sea atlases of the world were declared some of the best of the 18th century, and continued to be published into the next century. Copied by many other mapmakers, Bellin’s maps gained for France a leading role in European cartography and geography.  

Jacques-Nicolas was a member of the Académie de Marine, the Royal Society of London, and also an active member of the French intellectual group, the Encyclopédistes. This group of 18th century minds, including Voltaire, Rousseau, Montesquieu, and Diderot, compiled the 35-volume Encyclopédie, an important exposition of Enlightenment ideas. To this work, Bellin contributed an astounding 994 articles.  Bellin, along with the other contributors, was also a member of the group Philosphes, intent on the advancement of science, secular thought, rationality, and open-mindedness.

His maps reflect his involvement with such rational thinkers; they are accurate and clearly labeled. He wastes no space with pomp and flourishes- and there is a definite beauty to the map’s clarity. One of the best at displaying such an expansive amount of information, Bellin created a legacy for the French- one that is still honored today among map collectors and cartographic-enthusiasts.  

We are lucky to have many of his maps and sea-charts at The Old Print Gallery. To view or purchase this map online, click here. To view other maps by Bellin, click here or come visit the gallery, located in the heart of Georgetown.