Imperiia: a spatial history of the Russian EmpireMain MenuAboutDashboardsData CatalogMapStoriesGalleriesGamesWho said history was boring?Map ShelfTeach Our ContentCiting the ProjectKelly O'Neilldc20b45f1d74122ba0d654d19961d826c5a557f5The Imperiia Project // Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, Harvard University
12020-05-01T04:28:43-04:00Kelly O'Neilldc20b45f1d74122ba0d654d19961d826c5a557f592Full Title: Map of New Discoveries in the North Pacific (Carte Des Nouvelles Decouvertes au Nord de la Mer de Sud) // by Joseph Nicolas de L'Isle (Paris, 1752) // David Rumsey Historical Map Collection. Catalog permalink: https://www.davidrumsey.com/luna/servlet/s/dvw08fplain2020-05-01T04:29:39-04:00Kelly O'Neilldc20b45f1d74122ba0d654d19961d826c5a557f5
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12020-04-30T14:16:53-04:00Kelly O'Neilldc20b45f1d74122ba0d654d19961d826c5a557f5Pairing 4 (Round of Sixteen)Kelly O'Neill8plain2020-05-05T14:01:16-04:00Kelly O'Neilldc20b45f1d74122ba0d654d19961d826c5a557f5
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12020-04-30T21:54:57-04:00Smuggler's Glory19The fruits of French espionageplain2020-05-05T13:51:12-04:001752That's right... This map is an act of cartographic treason.
You see, while Vitus Bering and company were adventuring in the North Pacific, Joseph de L'Isle (of The General fame) was far from St. Petersburg himself: he was off in Siberia observing the transit of Mercury. One of his rivals at the Academy decided to take advantage of his absence to accuse de L'Isle of having spent decades smuggling secret documents and particularly maps to France. Joseph was booted from the Academy in 1747.
He returned to Paris, but he did not go empty-handed. In 1750 he executed one of his greatest feats: he presented a map of the North Pacific showing the discoveries of the First Kamchatka Expedition based on information that the Russian Imperial Academy of Sciences believed they had under lock-and-key. Two years later, he published it.
The map is full of curiosities, such as the "Sea of the West," which Joseph dreamed up, and a rather sketchy description of the North American coast.
The Russians were furious, both with the act of espionage and with what they described as de L'Isle's egregious mistakes. So they did what any self-respecting empire would do: they commissioned a different cartographer to make a new map. To issue a retort.