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One of the most splendid combinations of hard fact and speculative fantasy to appear in the history of cartography. This map, prepared by Joseph-Nicholas de Delisle 1762 and republished by Vaugondy in 1772, covers parts of Siberia and northeastern Asia as well as the northwestern parts of the American continent, including the Hudson Bay, and the legendary Northwest Passage. Traces the routes of several important explorers, most notably Tchirikow, Frondat, Bering and De Fonte. Today, based upon inaccuracies and falsities, we know the entire De Fonte article to have been a fabrication, however, it set 18th century afire with speculation that a Northwest Passage must indeed exist. When Joseph-Nicolas Delisle, younger brother of the better known Guillaume Delisle, returned from his tenure at Russian Tzar Peter the Great’s “Academy of Sciences” he decided to publish a compilation of secret cartographic data obtained from previously unknown Russian expeditions to Kamtschaka and the coast of Siberia. These seminal explorations included the discoveries of Tchirikow, Frondat, Bering, among others. He produced a ground breaking and largely accurate mapping of the peninsula of Kamchatka and the coast of northeast Asia. Dominating the northern part of the map is a great Arctic continent which blocks any further potential for a northwest passage to the north. These two disparate cartographic interpretations of the De Fonte story inspired considerable debate among European intellectual circles until the matter was finally put to rest by the expeditions of James Cook.
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