Map Curator Pat Coleman gives us an introduction to ‘Minnesota on the Map:’ Four Centuries of Maps from the Minnesota Historical Society Collection: an exhibit he has curated that opens on February 28. The exhibit includes 100 maps from the MHS collection of over 22,000. Pat also shares his insights to a recently acquired globe from 1765.
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Globe Terrestre: Revu et Corrige sur les Dernieres Observations et les Meilleurs Carties… Paris: Desnos.
As beautiful and as informational as maps can be, globes literally add a third dimension. They are fabulous artifacts that allow a user to interact with maps in a way that a two dimensional map cannot. Mid 18th -century French globes are considered to be among the finest examples of the art of globe making. This globe, based on the cartographic work of Guillaume Delisle, is interesting in the extreme.
To begin with, Delisle was a cartographic “rock star”. He was born in Paris in 1675, the son of Claude Delisle, a famous geographer and historian. Trained in mathematics and astronomy, Guillaume was perfectly suited to make scientific corrections on earlier Dutch cartography. Delisle made giant leaps forward in mapmaking. For his work he was appointed “Premier Geographe du Roi” in 1718.
This globe is not representative of Delisle’s most accurate cartography, however. There are many inaccuracies on the North American continent alone. Notice the two North West passages, which are clearly based on wishful thinking, and the Mer de l’Ouest, (Sea of the West), is shockingly incorrect. Since Delisle had been dead for 40 years when this globe was made, and since Delisle was know for excluding hearsay on his maps, it seems safe to conclude that his successors- his younger brother, Joseph-Nicholas Delisle and his nephew Philippe Buache – were responsible for the “Mer de l’Ouest,” based on the supposed voyage of an Admiral de Fonte who claimed to have found a river that flowed through North America. Ten years later Cook’s voyage would disprove the existence of both these inaccuracies. California is still attached to the mainland on this globe, but the shape of the Great Lakes are poorly rendered for the time period and the Missouri and Rio Grande (Rio del Norte) have nearly identical headwaters. The Mississippi River takes an exaggerated eastward bend but the location of the head of the river is a fairly accurate guess. All of these strange features add to the fascination of the globe.
There are two cartouches (think of a cartouche as the title page and copyright page of a book) and an advertisement printed on the globe. The main cartouche promises that the globe is “revised and corrected on the latest observations and the best maps” and, of course, is dedicated to the king of France. The other main cartouche mentions “Delisle, the astronomer…” as the cartographer behind this terrestrial globe that was “Monte par l’Auteur” or “mounted” by Desnos the publisher. The globe also shows the routes of the explorers via dotted lines suggesting the inclusion of information gathered from those excursions.
Globes dating from the 18th century are extremely rare, which might lead one to assume that they were not widely used in their day. This is not the case at all. Globes were common educational tools used in classrooms, libraries, and even as navigational instruments on ships. It is their inherent fragility that has led to their scarcity.