PUBLISHER: Paris: Guillaume de L’Isle (1675-1726), 1708.
TYPE: Atlas map
TECHNIQUE: Engraved map in outline colour.
DIMENSIONS: 49 x 63 cm
SCALE: 1 : 9 100 000
Very good condition.
REFERENCES: Norwich #165 (Chatelain); Tooley, R.V. 1969. Maps of the African Continent and Southern Africa. London: Carta Press, Plate 53.
VALUE: This map of De L’Isle was considered a master map by many cartographers who copied it.
This meticulously detailed map of southern Africa by the eminent French cartographer Guillaume De L’isle is emblematic of all his maps which can be identified by their clear, balanced and informative appearance. The map covers Africa south of the Equator, includes Madagascar and several islands in the Indian Ocean, and is filled with information concerning European trade, native kingdoms, wildlife and mineral wealth. The legendary towns so characteristic of 17th century Dutch maps are absent as the cartographer obviously wanted to rather reflect the existing situation and convey information regarding the location of the various Khoi tribes which had by then been identified by the Dutch settlers, as well as the location of the African kingdoms (many of them legendary) which inhabited the subcontinent. .
Guillaume de L’Isle is important as the first “scientific” cartographer who incorporated the most current information on exploration and topography into his maps. He was tutored by die well-known French astronomer J.D. Cassini in astronomy, science, mathematics and cartography and was elected to the French Academie Royale des Sciences at the age of 27. In 1718 he was also appointed “premier Geographe du Roi”, an office created especially for him. Apart from following a more scientific approach with regard to the contents of his maps, he also initiated important changes to the medium of cartography, eschewing the flamboyant Dutch style of the previous century in favour of a highly detailed yet still decorative approach which yielded his maps both beautiful and informative.
This map of De L’Isle work was the basis of many African maps made in the 18th century and it was in later years reprinted by various cartographers under their own imprints. Examples are maps by the widow Visscher (1710) , Chatelain (1719), De Leth (1740), and Jan Barend Elwe (1792) .