Map Making in France and England

Around 1700 Europe began to see of shift of importance in map making. Even though the Dutch remained active in map production the importance of French map making was on the rise from about 1650. Through efforts from those such as Nicolas Sanson French map making, especially in the North American regions, became of greater importance than that of the Dutch industry. French map making did not compare to that of the Dutch in terms of visual appeal, but they were often more up-to-date and accurate. Though this did not stay the case as Alexis Hubert Jaillot, using the maps of Sanson, published an excellent series of large-scale, finely engraved maps of all parts of the world. Jaillot published this series in Paris and then Amsterdam from 1681-1696. The production quality was every bit comparable to Dutch maps being produced at the time, only Jaillot's were twice the size.

French map making had begun to receive international acclaim by the middle of the seventeenth century with maps from Sanson, de L'Isle, and others being printed outside France. During 1700 the French took a new approach to map making with the practice of what is known today as "theoretical" cartography. Guillaume de L'Isle was one of the leading producers in modern French cartography, having published maps and atlases of magnificent quality. His maps and atlases were reissued many times after his death and his influence can be traced throughout the eighteenth century in many reprints and  the great number of maps that credit the de L'Isle originals.

Philippe Buache, another publisher of the seventeenth century, began producing a more innovative style of map making involving some of the most bizarre and atypical cartographic outlines ever published. Some of his maps focused emphasis on physical features while others were simply pure conjecture. Buache was one of the leading practitioners of ''theoretical" cartography with many other French mapmakers following his unique style during the mid-to-late-eighteenth century. There are four common features worth noting that can be identified in  maps based on French "theoretical" cartography:  1. The possibility of a south polar landmass. 2. The steep curve of  South America's west coastline. 3.  The northwest coastline of North America, the pacific and the Hudson Bay were joined by a channel known as the "Mer de l'Quest".  4. The extended eastern seaboard of Australia. It was not until voyages made by James Cook, Vancouver and others that these concepts were disproved.

Alexis Hubert Jaillot's World Map - One of the earliest examples of French "theoretical" cartography.

The English did not significantly contribute to the development of European cartography until the mid-eighteenth century. John speeds A Prospect of the Most Famous Parts of the World is however an exception to this.  Published in 1627, this was the first atlas created by an Englishman. From about 1670 many English map makers such as John Senex, Robert Morden, and Herman Moll were producing good maps, although there was very little in the way of cartographic innovation. It was not until 1750 that Britain began to form its own brand of map making. English map making of 1750 showed excellent progress in the mapping of individual areas. England had the the best available surveyors of India, America, and the West Indies and through the voyages of James Cook England was able to uncover many mysteries of the Pacific Ocean. The English began to put more focus into the scientific aspects of cartography as opposed to the artistic qualities emphasized in earlier map making. The invention of the marine chronometer by John Harrison was a breakthrough in navigational devices. The chronometer was a maritime clock that was able to maintain accurate time for extended periods from which the ships longitude could be calculated. This invention revolutionized marine surveying techniques and by 1800 map making became a much more accurate and precise science.

This detailed map published in 1800 is an example of the quality of English map making.


Early Routes and Maps of the New World

Map Making in the Low Countries