THE ‘ORIGINAL BEAVER MAP’
DE FER, NICOLAS
L’Amerique Divisee Selon Lentendue de Ses Principales Parties...
Some original color, 36” x 46-1/2” (42-1/2” x 62-1/2” including title and text). Overall an excellent example of a very rare, oversized separately-issued wall map.
Paris, [1698-] 1705
This is the third state of seven of a “classic wall map of America” (Burden). It is one of the most glorious expressions of the spirit of French expansionism in North America. De Fer’s map has the distinction of being the first to include the famous vignette of beavers before Niagara Falls, which was later popularized by Herman Moll on his map of the British Dominions in North America, 1715.
In addition to the Beaver vignette, the map includes numerous other decorative insets that contain scenes with Native Americans from various parts of the two continents. The map was engraved by Hendrick Van Loon, but the vignettes were the work of Nicolas Guerard. The most famous and important of these was Beaver scene, which Burden calls “one of the most noted in American cartographic history”. Guerard adapted it in part from Louis Hennepin’s engraving of Niagara Falls, which was included in his Nouvelle Decouverte, published in 1697. Ed Dahl comments that “Moll’s famous map will probably continue to be known as the ‘Beaver Map’, but now that De Fer’s map is better known, perhaps Moll’s can be distinguished from de Fer’s by calling the latter the original ‘Beaver map’”.
The map includes both North and South America, with the northern continent displaying the most up-to-date French geography as of the end of the seventeenth century. The Mississippi River is shown flowing into the Gulf along the lower Texas coast, a misconception that led the Sieur de la Salle in his search for the mouth of the river in 1684 to land at Matagorda Bay. The depiction of the Great Lakes is excellent, California is shown as an island, and the English colonies are confined to a slender strip along the north Atlantic Coast.
The map consists of three discreet parts: the map proper, the side panels of text, and the separate title strip. The text and title strip were separately printed and pasted to the map. Many examples of the map lack the text panels. All three parts are separately dated. Burden identifies a total of seven states of the map, dated 1698-1739, of which this is the third of 1705. The text appeared in four states (1703-1717), that here being the third of 1713. The title strip, like the map, is dated 1705.
Burden, The Mapping of North America, 744; Tooley, The Mapping of America, p. 128, no. 70; McLaughlin, California as an Island, no. 165; Ed Dahl, “The Original Beaver Map –De Fer’s 1698 Wall Map of America,” The Map Collector, 29 (Dec. 1984), pp. 22-26.
Inventory No. 8725