A fine example of Guillaume De L'Isle's highly detailed map of the region centered on the Red Sea.
The map extends west to include Sicily, the Southeastern Mediterranean, Barbarie, Nigritie, and Guinea on the West Coast of Africa. To the east, the map includes the Persian Gulf, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf of Aden and the Kingdom of Ajan and Dadel.
De L'Isle's maps provided the first truly scientific mapping of the regions covered, eschewing the flamboyant Dutch style of illustrations and adopting a highly detailed and decorative approach to the printed map. The result is a combination of spectacular detail and accuracy, not approached by the Dutch or any other 17th century map makers. The detail in this map reflects this Renaissance of style and accuracy.
Guillaume De L'Isle (1675-1726) is probably the greatest figure in French cartography. Having learned geography from his father Claude, by the age of eight or nine he could draw maps to demonstrate ancient history. He studied mathematics and astronomy under Cassini, from whom he received a superb grounding in scientific cartography—the hallmark of his work. His first atlas was published in ca. 1700. In 1702 he was elected a member of the Academie Royale des Sciences and in 1718 he became Premier Geographe du Roi.
De L'Isle's work was important as marking a transition from the maps of the Dutch school, which were highly decorative and artistically-orientated, to a more scientific approach. He reduced the importance given to the decorative elements in maps, and emphasized the scientific base on which they were constructed. His maps of the newly explored parts of the world reflect the most up-to-date information available and did not contain fanciful detail in the absence of solid information. It can be fairly said that he was truly the father of the modern school of cartography at the commercial level.
De L’Isle also played a prominent part in the recalculation of latitude and longitude, based on the most recent celestial observations. His major contribution was in collating and incorporating this latitudinal and longitudinal information in his maps, setting a new standard of accuracy, quickly followed by many of his contemporaries. Guillaume De L’Isle’s work was widely copied by other mapmakers of the period, including Chatelain, Covens & Mortier, and Albrizzi.