Sun, 10/16/2011 – Sat, 12/31/2011

Fuller Gallery

A 1982 gift from Bethlehem Steel Corporation provided a very fitting complement to grace the grand displays of Renaissance and Baroque art that celebrated the museum’s reopening. Made in Paris between 1698 and 1700, the engraved maps of the continents feature scenes of their native inhabitants, local industries, and key sites.

The ambitious production and publication was a joint venture among French royal cartographer Nicholas de Fer (1645–1720) and engravers H. Van Loon and Nicholas Guerard (1648–1719). Pasted onto the margins of each map are separately printed descriptions of the areas depicted. Through image and text, de Fer promoted the crown’s economic and colonial interests, and his dedication displays the coat of arms of his patron, the Dauphin, heir to the French throne.

The Americas are shown in a rare first edition of 1698, notable as one of the era’s most important and influential maps of North America. While it incorporated some misguided information from written accounts of early missionary explorers (California, for example, appears as a massive island and the scene of Niagara Falls is a fantasy), this was the first map to include a vignette of Canada’s industrious beavers, a clear nod to competitive colonial interests in the lucrative North American fur trade. It is famously known as “the original beaver map.”

Nicolas De Fer, cartographer; Harmanus Van Loon, engraver; Nicolas Guerard, artist and engraver. detail “L’ Amerique (America),” 1698, engraving, watercolor added. Gift of Bethlehem Steel Corporation, 1982.