La Californie ou Nouvelle Caroline, Teatro De Los Trabajos Apostolicos De La Compa. E. Jesus En La America Septe…


The largest and most important separately-published 18th century map of California in rare original color.

Cartographer(s): Nicholas de Fer
Date: 1720
Place: Paris
Dimensions: 66 x 45 cm (18 x 26 in)
Condition Rating: VG+

In stock


The finest depiction of the island of California ever produced!

One of the most interesting cartographic myths of the European exploration of the Americas is depicted in this magnificent map by Nicolas de Fer which shows the North American west coast with California as a large island. This notable misconception impacted the accuracy of mapmaking for over a century, until its acceptance of California as part of the mainland was established in the mid eighteenth century.

Between the years 1500 and 1747, confusion ensued over whether or not California, previously documented in medieval folklore as a mysterious island filled with an abundance of gold, was thought to be part of a series of various mythical islands that filled an unknown ocean. The “island theory” was perpetuated by Spanish explorers including Juan de la Fuca, who suggested in reports published in 1592, that the large opening identifying the mouth of Mexico’s Baja peninsula joined a great bay in the northern part of the continent.

In 1622, Henry Briggs, produced a map based on these reports and the travels of Samuel Purchas. Published in London, Briggs’ map was accompanied by an article which referred to California as a large island off the coast of Newe Spaine. This “island” appeared to have a rough and rocky coastline complete with smaller islands off the shore. Brigg’s map became the standard outline for depicting California’s insularity and was copied and incorporated in the maps of influential publishers and geographers throughout Europe.

This unique and exquisite map was published in Paris by Nicolas de Fer, whom was one of the most prolific and influential French cartographers of the late 17th and early 18th century. De Fer was the youngest son of the well established Parisian print and mapseller, Antoine de Fer, who passed on his business to his sons. Nicolas de Fer would eventually go on to become the Royal cartographer to the Bourbon Kings of France, most notably Louis XV, under whom he enjoyed a long career as an important mapmaker.

De Fer’s La Californie ou Nouvelle Caroline… is one of the largest and most important depictions of the California island theory. It also illustrates over 300 towns and villages including what is known today as New Mexico and southern Arizona. Below the title is a lengthy engraved text that gives the early history of California up to 1695. It is an invaluable record of late 17th century missions and Indian villages in the western part of the New World.


Nicholas de Fer

Nicolas De Fer (1646–1720) was a French cartographer and geographer, who also worked as an engraver and publisher. He was renowned for his massive output and his pleasant visual designs. He was the son of Parisian cartographer and began apprenticing at an early age. By twelve, however, he shifted his apprenticeship to the closely associated field of engraving – a move his father no doubt condoned, as it might enhance his competitive position on the market with son as a trained engraver. De Fer’s father died in 1673, but Nicolas did not take over the company until 1687, at which point it had been virtually run it into the ground. Nicolas nevertheless had a knack for business and soon turned things around. By 1690, he was so successful that he won employment as the official geographer to Louis, Le Grand Dauphin of France and son of the reigning French king, Louis XIV. Soon after, and with support from the Spanish and French courts, De Fer was also appointed the official geographer for King Louis XIV. In 1720, shortly before his death, he was even given the honor of being appointed royal geographer to Philip V, king of Spain.

De Fer’s popularity in the Bourbon royal circles was largely due to his appreciation of the propagandistic effects of strategic cartography. But no doubt his keen sense of aesthetics helped as well. Whatever the case, his maps were hugely popular, well funded, and widely distributed. He was impressively productive, publishing more than 600 sheets from his atelier, and covering everything from town plans to world maps. Many of his maps rode the political conjunctures of the age. Hardly would a territory have been won or surrendered before De Fer’s atelier was working on a map delineating the new realities.

Condition Description



McLaughlin 196. Tooley 83.