Nicolas de Fer; 1646-1720.
Engraver, publisher, and geographer, de Fer knew a great reputation during his lifetime.
Not so much because of his contribution to the advancement of world mapping, nor for the publication of his atlases (1695 “Atlas Royal”, 1697 “Petit et nouveau Atlas”, 1700-1705 “Atlas curieux”,..), but above all because of his large wall maps.
For these individual maps, he expanded on the Blaeu “carte à figures” style; and incorporated flamboyant representations: royals in heroic postures, mythology and history characters, allegories and famous vistas,… the decoration taking over the cartographic content with a profusion of baroque scenery.
He was appointed Geographer to the King, even though it appears retrospectively, that his cartographic skills might not have been too accurate.
Mappemonde en deux plans-hémisphère
This rather small map (11 1/8” X 8 ¼”) by de Fer’s standards, is an amazing testimony of the extant of the world geography knowledge of that time:
- the Alaska coastline is still pretty much un-chartered territory (and will stay that way until James Cook third voyage in 1779);
- coast lines are left conveniently broken in the bay of Hudson and on the Pacific shores… just in case someone would finally discover the fabled North West passage;
- California is still commonly represented as an island (despite the work of the jesuit padre EusebioKino, who had just walked into it following the Colorado river in 1702… some myths have a life of their own);
- Australia, and both Macronesia and Micronesia, are all still very conjectural, in spite of the 1642 landings of Abel Tasman on New Zealand, Tonga, Fiji and his sighting of Tasmania. Tasman was also the first to have fully circumnavigated Australia (without having ever sighted any part of it!);
- a very large continent is still believed to cover most of the southern hemisphere, the rationale being that earth must be somehow in balance for her to rotate in space without wobbling;
Also notice that the longitudes are given with respect to Ferro island, as it was customary at that time.
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