1786 La Perouse Large Antique Map of British Columbia & Vancouver Isle, Canada

Cartographer : Jean Francois La Perouse

  • TitleCarte Particuliere de la Cote du Nord-Ouest de l Amerique reconnue par les Fregates Francaises la Boussole et l Astrolabe en 1786. 2e. Feuille.
  • Ref #:  31912
  • Size: 20 1/2in x 16 1/2in (520mm x 420mm)
  • Date : 1786
  • Condition: (B) Good Condition

This large very handsome original antique ofWashington, British Columbia & Vancouver Island coastline from Cape Rond or Tillamook Head, Oregon in the south to Baie de Clonard or The Queen Charlotte Islands or Haida Gwaii in the north by Jean-François de Galaup, Comte de la Pérouse in 1786 - dated in the title - was published in the 1st edition of the Atlas du voyage de La Perouse, Paris 1797.

La Perouse set sail from France in 1785 to continue the discoveries of Captain Cook. He was shipwrecked in 1788 but his narrative, maps, and views survived and were published in 1797. 

This is La Perouse's important 1787 map of the west coast of Vancouver Island and the coastlines of Washington and British Columbia. When drawn in 1787 La Perouse's map was the only available map of this region not based on the survey work of Captain Cook.
The map covers the coastline from Cape Rond (Tillamook Head, Oregon) northwards past Vancouver Island as far the north-western top of the Baie de Clonard (The Queen Charlotte Islands or Haida Gwaii). The cartography here may be a little hard to understand for most casual observers due Perouse's use of archaic French language place names and well as a number of major errors. Perouse, like Cook, entirely missed the entrance to the Strait of Juan de Fuca, consequently Vancouver Island is erroneously attached to the mainland. Nonetheless, many of the sites visited by early explorers, including the Nootka Sound, the Bay of St. Louis (Quatsino Sound), Pointe Boisee (Cape Cook), Mont Fleurieu (Silverthrone Mountain), Cape Fleurieu (Goose Island), Cap Hector (Cape St. James), and many others are noted.
Cartographically Perouse's mapping of this region, though still quite incomplete, is a major advancement over the work of Cook who after leaving Nootka Sound was forced offshore by stormed and skipped much of the coast until he reached Alaska near Sitka. This is thus the first chart to map the British Columbia coastline between 49°34' and 57°. In its day the importance of this chart went largely unknown for, though the survey work and original engraving date to 1786, the atlas of La Perouse's discoveries was not officially published until 1798, by which time other more advances mappings of the region had reached the mainstream. Nonetheless, this map is a vital addition to any serious collection focusing on the cartographic development of America's northwest coast.

For much of the time (between 1768 and 1783) while Captain Cook was exploring the North Pacific, Britain and France were at war. Even in times of peace, the Anglo-French rivalry was strong. With the news of Cook’s death in 1779 and the cessation of hostilities in 1783, the French government resolved to mount a competing expedition to the “Great Ocean” (the Pacific Ocean) to “complete various discoveries” and engage in “astronomical observations” and research into physics and natural history. The man entrusted with this mission was Jean-François de Galaup, comte de La Pérouse, an experienced captain in the French navy. He was placed in command of two fine frigates, La Boussole and L’Astrolabe.

La Pérouse sailed west from Brest in August 1785 and on 24 June 1786 made landfall off the coast of present-day southeast Alaska, just below 60˚ N latitude and within view of Mount Saint Elias. For the next three months he sailed south along the coast, eventually reaching Monterey. This map, printed in Paris in 1797 as part of a general atlas of the La Pérouse expedition, show the meticulously charted coastline surveyed by the crews of La Boussole and L’Astrolabe. In contrast to the imaginative speculations of many earlier explorers and cartographers, the areas not explored are left blank by La Pérouse, but he did substitute his own names for many—but not all—of those endowed by Captain Cook. Mount Elias, Cross Sound, and Nootka are shown on the La Pérouse maps but, for example, Cape St. James at the southern tip of Moresby Island in the Queen Charlotte Islands just south of 50˚ N latitude is renamed Cape Hector and Mount Edgecombe (named by Captain Cook) near Sitka at 57˚ N latitude is relabeled Mont Saint-Hyacinthe.

After leaving Monterey, La Pérouse crossed the Pacific to Macao (near Hong Kong) and, in the summer of 1787, worked his way up the Asiatic coast of the Pacific. Encountering difficult and contrary winds as he approached the Bering Strait, he retreated to the Russian port of Petropavlovsk at the southern tip of the Kamchatka Peninsula. There he decided to send a report overland via Russia to Paris. He dispatched Jean, baron de Lesseps, on the eight thousand-mile trans-Siberian journey to France. De Lesseps carried with him the reports, ships’ logs, maps, and sketches made by the expedition to date.

This map were derived from the dispatches carried by de Lesseps. As it turned out, he was the only member of the expedition to complete the circumnavigation; indeed the only member to survive. La Pérouse and his companions left Petropavlovsk just before the ice set and sailed south. Calling at Samoa, the captain of L’Astrolabe and ten of his men were murdered. La Pérouse sailed on, stopping at Tonga, Norfolk Island, and Port Jackson, the newly established British penal colony in New South Wales, Australia. They left Port Jackson in February 1788 and were never seen again. Thirty-eight years later the scattered remains of La Boussole and L’Astrolabewere discovered wrecked on a vicious reef on an atoll in the New Hebrides. (Ref: Tooley; M&B)

General Description:
Paper thickness and quality: - Heavy and stable
Paper color: - off white
Age of map color: -  
Colors used: - 
General color appearance: - 
Paper size: - 20 1/2in x 16 1/2in (520mm x 420mm)
Plate size: - 20 1/2in x 16 1/2in (520mm x 420mm)
Margins: - Min 1/2in (10mm)

Margins: - Small repairs to margins, no loss
Plate area: - Age toning, light soiling
Verso: - Top and bottom centerfold re-joined