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L’Amerique Septentrionale

Guillaume De L’Isle

A Progressive Mapmaker
This cartographer championed the cause of using up-to-date information to make maps as accurate as possible. It was a novel idea at the time.

This map portrays what was known of the New World from near the equator to the Arctic Circle. While this map may not appear highly accurate today, Guillaume De L’Isle was one of the reformers in French cartography whose work greatly improved the representation of much of the world. For example, De L’Isle correctly showed that California was not an island, but part of the mainland.

De L’Isle notes on his map that his changes represent accurate updates, and he advertises his new book on geography. He was fighting a conservative trend in cartography at the time: cartographers often relied upon sources that were decades old, and most maps were nearly a half-century out of date by the time they were published.

De L’Isle’s maps were among the best made before longitude could be determined accurately and before systematic land and lake surveys were conducted.

The colored divisions on the map do not represent the land holdings of the European powers laying claim to North and Central America; rather, they represent the names given to broad geographical areas.