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 unequal
access to prime cartographic data, often 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,
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
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
*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).
Plan de la baye de St. Yago dans
l'isle de Cube.
This very detailed map of Santiago de Cuba (6 5/16" X 8 3/8")
was engraved for the 1764 edition of the "Petit atlas Maritime".
It shows fascinating details about the anchorage and its defenses.
Depths are shown in fathoms (brasses d'eau), a underwater
reef is indicated at the entrance of the bay, and an islet
where vessels are careened is marked next to the jetty. Forts
and gun emplacements are also clearly identified, in particular
the massive San Pedro de la Roca defending the approach to
the harbor. At the very top, a small river is said to be the
source of fresh water for the passing ships.
Even though long established (founded in 1514, and serving
as capital of the Island between 1522 and 1589), the town
itself is quite small, having lost much of its importance
to La Havana.
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