Jacques Nicolas Bellin; 1703-1772
A first rank cartographer, Bellin worked for some fifty years at the French Hydrographic Service (Dépôt de la Marine); which he ran till his death. In this position he had a unique access to prime cartographic data, which he used to further his own private business interests. He was succeeded at the head of the service by the very talented, and no less prolific, Rigobert Bonne.
His career was mainly devoted to charting and mapping coast lines, harbors, sea lanes,… Most of his publications were related to nautical matters: maps for “Histoire Générale des Voyages”* between 1747 and his death, “Atlas Maritime” in 1751, “Neptune François” in 1753, “Petit Atlas Maritime” in 1764,… for the benefit of the French Navy, merchantmen, and the public at large.
He is known to have used informations from the best fellow cartographers of his time, to complement the in-land parts of his maps, notably: Guillaume de l’Isle and Jean-Baptiste Bourguignon d’Anville, often giving them credit.
Fame, enormous output and fastidious quality of work, earned him the appointment of “Hydrographer to the King” by Louis XV of France. He was also a member of the Royal Society in London.
* A major work published by Antoine François Prévost d’Exile. The first edition in 1747 was already of an encyclopedic size. A major remodeling was done in the mid fifties, incorporating some two hundred new maps (quite a few drawn by Bellin). Later editions, till 1789, incorporated verbatim other authors travel writings (e.g.: Gmelin’s “Voyage au Kamchatka par la Sibérie” was incorporated in volume 25 in 1779).
Carte du golphe du Mexique et des isles de l’Amerique
This attractive, large (14 7/8” X 10 ¾”), and increasingly rare map of the whole Caribbean region, was issued in the “Histoire Generale des Voyages”.
Amazingly, it is quite uncharacteristic of both Bellin (a noted detail precise cartographer), and of Prevost (an encyclopedic exactitude minded publisher).
The Florida peninsula delineation shown here is reminiscent of late XVI century maps: a “rectangular” shape, long discarded by mapmakers of Bellin’ s time. The other coastlines are of a somewhat better quality, albeit not as good as drawn in 1718 by Guillaume de l’Isle.
The voyages of Francisco Hernandez de Cordoba in 1517, and of Hernan Cortez in 1519 are correctly plotted…but are interverted!
Conversely, the track of Juan Ponce de Leon when he discovered on Palm Sunday (known then as Pascua de flores, hence Florida) the “island” of Florida in 1513, seems conform to known accounts. Except that he landed a little bit north of present day San Augustine before following the coast south till the Tortugas. And that on his return, he did not stop at La Havana, which was not set up yet! (first settlement recorded in 1514, town established in 1519).
No text on verso.