Gorgeous example of the first edition in English, which was published the same year as the French edition. Of the two, Lahontan considered this to be the superior work, for he was able to supervise the printing himself. The English edition includes a new map of Newfoundland and incorporates expanded contents of the supplement, detailing the author’s travels in Europe and the five imaginary dialogues with the Indian chief Adario, identified by some historians as the recently deceased Huron chief Kondiaronk (Adario being a partial anagram of Kondiaronk).
Along with Louis Hennepin, Lahontan was the most widely read author on North America in the first half of the 18th century. He came to New France in 1683 as captain of a regiment which he led in expeditions against the Iroquois: “Between the fifteenth and sixteenth year of my Age I went to Canada, and there took care to keep up a constant Correspondence by Letters with an old Relation Tis these very letters that make the greatest part of the first Volume. They contain an account of all that pass’d between the English, the French, the Iroquese, and the other Savage Nations, from the year 1683 to 1694” (“Preface” to this English edition).
The two principal maps, which were engraved by Herman Moll, are described as follows:
1. A Map of ye Long River and of some others that fall into that small part of ye Great Great River of Missisipi wich is here laid down
A fascinating and very significant map that influenced a generation of some of the most important cartographers of the 18th century including Guillaume de l’Isle and John Senex, and their depictions of the American Northwest. The intriguing map is a composite of two depictions. The first draws a fictitious “Rivière Longue” emanating from the Great Lakes region and the Mississippi, while the second is a depiction of the “Rivière Morte” that was claimed to have been drawn from reports by the Gnacsitares tribe. This latter river system emanated from a Western mountain range, which we now know as the Rocky Mountains and was linked to another river system on its western side in the region of the “Pais des Mozeemlek.”
Lahontan’s map was influential because it provided the possibility of an internal river route to the Pacific from the Great Lakes region. Lahontan’s depictions of the “Rivière Longue” and the “Rivière Morte,” which eventually became known as the “River of the West” with its various fanciful drawings, might be pure fabrications on the part of Lahontan.
His map is adorned with different markings showing his route to the interior from the French outpost of Misilimakinak as well as displaying the different French trading outposts and forts near Superieur or Upper Lake and Ilinese Lake (Michigan) and native tribes such as the Mozeemlek, the Gnacsitares, the Tahuglauks, the Esanapes, the Eokors who were supposedly located on Lahontan’s fictitious rivers. Also added by Lahontan are drawings of lodgings and canoes of the Tahuglauk tribe and their copper medals.
However, it is conceivable that Lahontan’s depictions were not entirely fabrications and were actually the result of his discovery, or (more likely) his access to native reports of the Missouri River. It should be noted that Lahontan is basing his recollections on actual travels to the upper Mississippi River valley in 1688 whilst leading French forces in their conflicts with the Iroquois Nations. As such, native claims of the Missouri River, the longest river in North America which does in fact begin in the Rocky Mountains in Montana and does flow east into the Mississippi north of St. Louis, Missouri, could have come to his attention.
Lahontan’s map should therefore be seen not only as possibly a fanciful depiction that influenced the cartography of the Northwest, but also as a potential first impression of the Missouri, America’s longest river.
2. A General map of New France, com, call’d Canada
Filled with extensive notations in English, this map extends from the Gulf of St. Lawerence to the Mississippi River. Two important updates have been made over the corresponding map from the French edition: Long Island now appears, and Long River veers west as a tributary of the Mississippi, thus forming a connection with the Long River map. Essentially a French fur trading map, canoe routes, portages, and outposts are all delineated in great detail.
Overall, Lahontan’s New Voyages to North America is a highly readable and seminal work for the history of New France and North America in the 17th century.