The Land Alternative

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Bellin, Jacques Nicolas, 1703-1772.
“Carte Reduite Des Parties Septentrionales Du Globe, Situées Entre L'Asie Et L'Amerique . . .”(1758). Copperplate map, 19.1 x 32.4 cm., handcolored. From l'abbé Prévost's multi-volume work Histoire générale des voyages (Paris, 1746-1789). [Historic Maps Collection: purchased with funds provided by Robert M. Backes, Class of 1939.]

Bellin's map dramatizes the wide gap in cartographic knowledge of northern North America in the eighteenth century. Like giant bookends, his longitudes of 90 and 180 (west from Paris) enclose an unknown world. Here, Bellin's note is simple and instructive: (loosely translated) ‘One doesn't know if there is land or sea in all this area’.

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