This is a map, truly, to be reckoned with. It’s a map that was made by a Frenchman by the name of Guillaume de L’Isle and is entitled “Carte de la Louisiane et du cours du Mississippi.”
The map was originally made by de L’Isle in approximately 1718. What we have here is a, uh, reprint of the map by a French firm Cóvens and Mortier dating to 1730. When it was first made in 1718, this map was a real breakthrough. It charted the course of the Mississippi with an accuracy that had never been seen before. Of course, the Mississippi, uh, the Upper Mississippi and the Lower Mississippi were both, at that time, the province of French explorers and, perhaps equally important, French fur-traders who went up and down the Mississippi as the main “highway” plying their fur trade.
The map is important for other reasons as well. It is the first map ever to name Texas, which appears as “Mission de los Teijas” on the map, but it is that expression that matured to the name of America’s largest state among the forty-eight lower states. It is also distinctive because the territory in the middle called “La Louisiane” is huge. It surrounds all of the Mississippi, plunges down into Florida, presses up against the Carolinas and Virginia, and the overwhelming sense is that the French occupy most of the new North American continent. The British Colonies along the eastern seaboard barely cling on to the, uh, seaboard that they occupy, and this would be followed, later, by maps prepared by Englishmen showing the French portion of North America as much reduced and the English Colonies as extending a lot further out into the middle of the country than they do here. In many ways, this map is the father, or mother, of many maps to follow. De L’Isle was highly respected and this work of his would be reflected in maps for many generations to follow.