Champlain’s Final Map

Cartography Series: Because who doesn’t love looking at old maps? This blog series looks at the cartographic development of Canada.


Samuel de Champlain’s Carte de la Nouvelle France (1632).

In what would be his last map, Samuel de Champlain sought to bring together his personal observations, accounts from Aboriginals, and pieces of information provided by other European explorers and cartographers into one map. In doing so, Champlain summarized his life’s work and created the most comprehensive cartographic representation of the Great Lakes area in his day. This map depicts North America from Virginia to Newfoundland to northwestern Ontario. Given that Champlain retired from exploring in 1616, the personal observations he drew from came from his Ottawa River and Lake Huron expeditions in 1613 and 1615, respectively.

Champlain was 58 years old by the time it was made available to the public through his book Les Voyages de la Nouvelle France occidentale, dicte Canada. At the time, New France was under the control of the English Kirke Brothers. Champlain, having been kicked out of Quebec three years prior, had been going back and forth between residing in France and working in London to get Quebec back. He got his wish in 1632 when the Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye restored New France to the French.

Unlike the previous map of his that I took a look at, this one itself contains no groundbreaking/new information. As you can see, there are two glaring errors: his representation of Ontario and the Great Lakes. Given that Europeans had yet to properly explore northern Ontario, the future province is missing its top half. With the Great Lakes, Champlain combined the different accounts provided by Aboriginals and Etienne Brûlé in regards to Lakes Michigan and Superior to create the ‘Grand Lac’. In despite of this, Champlain’s last map was still a milestone in Canada’s cartographic history. Champlain’s revisions, (largely thanks to the accounts of the ill-fated Brûlé), made this map invaluable to future explorers and mapmakers. He died in Quebec on December 25, 1635 at the age of 61.


Sources:

Canadian Museum of History, “Champlain, the Cartographer,” (Sept 2009). Accessed from: http://www.historymuseum.ca/cmc/vmnf/champlain/carto_en.shtml

Historical Atlas of Canada: Online Learning Project, “Champlain map, 1632,” Accessed from: http://www.historicalatlas.ca/website/hacolp/national_perspectives/exploration/UNIT_06/U06_staticmap_champlain_1632.htm#

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