When Ontario was Western Canada

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

Partie Occidentale du Canada ou de la Nouvelle France… (Western Part of Canada or New France) by Vincenzo Coronelli (1688).

Vincenzo Coronelli (1650-1718) was a talented Franciscan monk, cartographer, and cosmographer, renowned for his atlases and globes. He was commissioned by Louis XIV to create a pair of globes and afterwards Coronelli soon found his craft in high demand across northern and central European courts.

The terrestrial globe (left) and the celestial globe (right) that Coronelli made for Louis XIV.

It was during the construction of Louis XIV’s globes that Coronelli came into contract with cartographic material from New France. The globes contained the latest information from French explorations in North America, based on René-Robert Cavelier’s, and Sieur de La Salle’s expeditions. As a result, when his New France map was published in 1688, it was “the first printed map of Canada to incorporate information from the explorations of Allouez, La Salle, Hennepin, and Jolliet.”

If you look at the bottom right corner, you can see that the map has a super long subtitle. The part that stands out is: “…ou sont les Nations de Ilinois de Tracy, les Iroquois, et plusieurs autres Peuples.” To me, this is really a map about people. Might be hard to imagine, but at one point Ontario and Eastern Manitoba were considered to be “Western Canada.” The fancy blurb at the bottom talks about how aside from this region being called “Western Canada” or “New France,” this area is also referred to as “the nations of the Illinois, Iroquois, and many other peoples.” All along the Great Lakes, you can see the names of various Indigenous nations. I did a rough count and there are about 50 different ones mentioned. Some of the names are familiar, but most aren’t. Sadly, the majority of these nations would be wiped off the map over the course of the next century.


“Coronelli map, 1688,” Historical Atlas of Canada Online Learning Project. Accessed from: http://www.historicalatlas.ca/website/hacolp/national_perspectives/exploration/UNIT_06/U06_staticmap_coronelli_1688.htm

“Coronelli, Vincenzo, 1650-1718,” Yale University Map Department. Accessed from: http://maps.commons.yale.edu/venice/test-gallery-page/vincenzo-coronelli/



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