Small Map of Discoveries by the Russians between Asia and North America


This French map of Alaska, Siberia, and the North Pacific, published in 1747, was based upon geographical information gleaned from earlier Russian voyages. It was created by the French cartographer, Jacques-Nicolas Bellin (1703‒72), and published by the French author, Abbé Prévost. Trained as a hydrographer, Bellin was attached to the French Marine Office and specialized in producing maritime maps showing coastlines. In 1764 he published Le Petit Atlas Maritime (Small maritime atlas), a work in five volumes containing 581 maps. This map outlines the routes taken on the voyages by Semen Dezhnev around the Chukotka Peninsula in 1648; Vitus Bering through what became known as the Bering Strait in 1728; Mikhail Gvozdev and Ivan Fyodorov through the Bering Strait to Cape Prince of Wales in Alaska in 1732; and Vitus Bering and Aleksei Chirikov to southern Alaska in 1741. This map was not greatly improved upon until the voyage of Captain Cook to Alaska more than 30 years later, in 1778. Parts of the map later were proved to be erroneous, such as the large landmass reported by natives on Kamchatka and depicted north of the Aleutian Islands. A note below the title cartouche and scale refers to the putative voyage of the Spanish admiral Bartolomé de Fuente in search of a Northwest Passage. The map includes specific and accurate details on the Russian Asian coast south to Japan, as well as Sakhalin Island and the Kurile Islands. It also shows parts of California, which were known from Spanish explorations, as well as interior sections of North America near Hudson Bay. This last area was well known to French voyageurs who had thoroughly explored the north-central parts of North America by this time. The names and territories of the indigenous peoples of Siberia and the Russian Far East are indicated with underlining, and include the Chukchis (marked as Tchuktschi), Yakuts (Iakuti), Tungus (Tungusi), and others.

Last updated: January 27, 2016