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Louis Jolliet:  [First Map of the Mississippi River] Carte de la decouverte faite l'an dans l'Amerique Septentrionale

Maps of the American South (Tennessee, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky)

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Title: [First Map of the Mississippi River] Carte de la decouverte faite l'an dans l'Amerique Septentrionale

Map Maker: Louis Jolliet

Place / Date: Paris / 1682

Coloring: Uncolored

Size: 15.5 x 6.5 inches

Condition: VG+

Price: $35,000.00

Inventory ID: 50224


The First Map of the Mississippi River, Based Upon The Works of Jolliet and Marquette

Fine example of Melchisedech Thevenot's map of the Mississippi River.  The earliest separate map depict the expedition of Louis Jolliet and Father Jacques Marquette down the Mississippi River.

In 1663, the French government began a more systematized effort to search for furs, minerals, and a shorter route to China. The initial objective was locating the Mississippi River, whose existence was known through Indian reports. An expedition was sent out under the command of Louis Jolliet, a fur trader and explorer, and the Jesuit Father Jacques Marquette. Jolliet and Marquette left Green Bay in May 1673, and by following the courses of the Fox and Wisconsin rivers, reached the upper Mississippi River. Continuing south, they discovered the mouths of the Missouri, Ohio, and Arkansas rivers, before turning back out of fear of encountering a Spanish force. On the return trip, they found a short cut to Lake Michigan by following the Illinois and Des Plaines rivers to a portage at Chicago.

Several manuscript maps survive based on the discoveries of the Jolliet and Marquette expedition.  This map was first adapted for inclusion in Melchisedech Thevenot’s Recueil des Voyages, Paris, 1681. It shows for the first time on a printed map the Mississippi and its tributaries north of the Arkansas based upon first-hand observation. The depiction of the river between the Arkansas and the gulf is based on speculation. It is also the first map to include the place name Michigan (“Mitchigami”).

A second edition of the map (with a different title) appeared in the rare 1689 German book which included an edition of Hennepin’s Description de la Louisiane, to which Thevenot’s account of Jolliet and Marquette’s expedition was appended. Both editions of the map are rare. The cartography in the second edition is identical to the first, but in the second state the title and one or two legends have been translated from French into Latin.


The Jolliet map is very rare on the market.  While the book appears occasionally, this is only the second example of the map we have seen on the market in the past 15 years.

Condition Description: Trimmed a little close at the bottom edge, with latitude numbers just touching the edge of the paper in a few places.

References: Burden, The Mapping of North America, 540; see Heidenreich and Dahl, The French Mapping of North America in the Seventeenth Century, p. 8.

Related Categories:
Maps of Midwest America (Michigan, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Ohio)
Maps of the American Plains (Indian Territory, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota)
Maps of the American South (Tennessee, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky)