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Matthaus Seutter: Accurata delineatio celeberrinier Regionis Ludovicianae vel Galliee Louisiane

Map: USA9157
Cartographer: Matthaus Seutter
Title: Accurata delineatio celeberrinier Regionis Ludovicianae vel Galliee Louisiane
Date: c. 1740
Published: Augsburg
Width: 22 inches / 56 cm
Height: 20 inches / 51 cm
Map ref: USA9157
Louisiana, Canada and the Eastern Seaboard. Allegorical cartouche of the Mississippi Bubble. This map is generally more famous for its cartouche than its geography.

It portrays the 18th century European colonial claims in the eastern and central United States. It is based on a very controversial map published by Guillaume de L’Isle in 1718, which laid claim to the southern and central United States for the French crown. A vast Louisiana which subsumes Florida, is shown as the whole of the southern United States, but also reaching all the way to the mid-west. France’s Canadian colonies, here named as Canada ou Nouvelle France show a southern border encroaching past the Great Lakes and abutting to the northern border of this enlarged Louisiana. No indication of the Spanish possessions of Florida is given while the English are given a thin strip of the eastern coast to indicate their presence in North America. An inset on the upper left shows the Gulf coast and the mouth of the Mississippi River.

The map was very controversial when it was first issued; several English mapmakers immediately produced maps of the English possessions in North America which differed enormously from de L’Isle’s map; on these, the British colonies had western borders reaching as far as the Mississippi River. Despite their best efforts and much to English fury, de L’Isle’s map was widely adopted as a geographical template and is often cited as one of the major reasons for continuing tension between the British and the French in the early to mid 18th century.

However, it is the cartouche for which this map is justly famous. Situated on the lower right, this large, illustrated image alludes to the famous “Mississippi Bubble” a notorious French financial scheme of the early 18th century, which aimed to exploit the wealth of the Mississippi River, interpreted as a gateway to the unknown but surely very wealthy interior of North America. The cartouche shows finely dressed individuals purchasing shares in the newly incorporated “Compagnie des Indes” which held a monopoly for any business dealings within the new scheme. These individuals were then led up a tree, then down again, signifying their gullibility; after all, as everyone knows, money grows on trees; ultimately they are left destitute and suicidal, with one figure about to hang himself, another about to fall on his sword and a third tearing his hair out.

Although the Bubble had finished in 1720, it was so notorious and its effects so long lasting that the region of Louisiana was forever associated with this scheme. Several maps allude to it but Seutter’s is by far the most elaborate and lavishly illustrated.

Original hand colour. [USA9157]