Cartography Series: Because who doesn’t love looking at old maps? This blog series looks at the cartographic development of Canada.
Carte Physique des Terreins les plus élevés de la Partie Occidentale du Canada (Physical map of the highest elevations in the Western part of Canada) by Philippe Buache (1754).
*Blows dust off Cartography series.* It has been a while since I talked about maps so today we’re looking at Buache’s 1754 map. If you are totally confused by it, trust me you’re not alone. He had a habit of drawing interesting maps. Similar to the Arthur Dobbs and Joseph La France 1744 map, A New Map of Part of North America, it is best described as a stab in the dark at what Western Canada looked in.
Born in 1700 in Neuville-en-Pont, France, Philippe Buache originally studied architecture, but Guilleaume Delisle (who I featured earlier on), took him under his wing and trained him in cartography. Buache actually married Delisle’s daughter. Although he went on to become the official cartographer and geographer for the French king Louis XV and joined the Academy of Sciences in 1730, historian George Kish contends that Buache is largely forgotten today. Overshadowed by his father-in-law and his successor, d’Anville, Kish argued this is a shame because Buache was a pioneer in thematic physical maps.
Fun Fact: This image that Google likes to show is not Philippe Buache, but rather his nephew, Jean Nicolas Buache, who was also the premier géographe du Roi.
In the mid-18th century, the area west of Lake Superior was relatively unknown to Europeans. There were two competing theories about the geography of Western Canada at the time and this map was an attempt to show both. As such, the map above is actually a two-in-one. The top is the east-west river flow as reported and mapped out by Ouchagah, a Cree man, for La Vérendrye, a French Canadian military officer, fur trader, and explorer. The bottom is supposed to be the northwest-southeast flow and a look at the possible geographic terrain. Despite the confusing nature of this map, not all of Buache’s geographic speculations were wrong. If you look at the second, bottom map you can see Buache has drawn both Alaska and the Bering Strait. Nevertheless, these two clashing maps illustrate the difficulty Europeans had in theorizing the shape and scope of Western Canada.
“French West Indies Collection. Collection 219.” The Historical Society of Pennsylvania. http://hsp.org/sites/default/files/legacy_files/migrated/findingaid219frenchwestindies.pdf
Kish, George and Buache, Philippe. “Early Thematic Mapping: The Work of Philippe Buache.” Imago Mundi 28 (1976): 129-36. http://www.jstor.org/stable/1150630.
Murray, Jeffrey S. Terra Nostra: The Stories Behind Canada’s Maps. Kingston: McGill-Queen’s Press. (2006).
“Western Canada, 1754” CKA. (2007). Retrieved from http://www.canadaka.net/modules.php?&name=Maps&do=showpic&pid=123&orderby=dateD
“Western Canada 1754, by Philippe Buache – The Canadian West” Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved from https://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/canadian-west/052910/05291004_e.html