Ile Saint-Jean appears on the Maps of the Seventeenth Century

In this essay I have gathered together in chronological order all the maps produced in the Seventeenth Century that I could find in a year of searching that showed the existence – or not – of Ile Saint Jean. Because of its location, size and extensive sand banks on the side that faced the centre of fishing activity in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, it seems not to have been of any interest to France, or other European powers concerned with the extensive exploitation of the fisheries of New France. In my last post, based on very early portolans, I suggested that there was an island called Saint Jean somewhere in the upper Gulf of Saint Lawrence, but I had difficulty, for lack of evidence, identifying it with the Ile Saint Jean that finally makes an appearance in the lower Gulf at the beginning of the 1600s.

I emphasise again that, considering all the other Islands and harbours found in great land masses, Ile Saint Jean had nothing significant to offer to the greater powers with imperial designs. However, the enterprising Basques, who did not have imperial designs, had most likely been fishing from North Shore harbours on Ile Saint Jean since before Jacques Cartier’s “discovery” in 1534.

We are very fortunate to be able to begin this survey – hopefully not too fragmentary – with a grand portolan on animal skin, richly illustrated with fact and symbol, and right from the beginning of the new century.


On July 12, 1601 the great cartographer Guillemme Levasseur associated with the Dieppe mapmaking school, produced this Carte de l’Océan Atlantique / A Dieppe. It was a manuscript map, illuminated with bright colours on vellum, a refined form of parchment. It was a great achievement because not only were the countries surrounding the Mediterranean represented, but also northern Europe and everything that was known about the Atlantic Ocean. Most importantly, it showed everything that was known about New France, which was on the verge of being exploited by the French king.


1601 [Carte de l’Océan Atlantique] / A Dieppe Par Guillemme Levasseur, le 12 de Juillet 1601, painted on parchment, 74,5 x 99 cm , Bibliothèque nationale de France, ark:/12148/cb43591772n.

In this portolan, when you study the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, in relation to the maps that came before, it all looks somewhat familiar. Everything is more or less in its own place, and for the first time, the various islands in the Gulf begin to make sense.

Most of the tiny anonymous specks copied from earlier portolans are gone and now we can see, for the first time ever that I have been able to determine, Ile Saint Jean at the bottom of the Gulf. We see it curiously placed at right angles to its actual orientation, but that does not matter. It is there and it is labelled I S Jean.

I attach a pdf file of this important map so that you can study the relevant detail in its context.

1601 – Levasseur

Champlain’s Maps

There are two engraved maps associated with the various editions of Champlain’s works. They are very finely done, as up to date as was possible at the time, and full of human and natural history information. The one from 1612 is full of detail showing the appearance of some of the aboriginals and some beautiful examples of plants, seeds, and even a frog! The sea is filled with creatures that had become a convention in earlier maps, but there are no longer any sea monsters, but cod and animals seen in the region. It discards earlier verbal tradition fantasy and replaces it with actual observation.

You can also see that the process of producing maps on paper by the engraving process was in full swing here, with the map folded so that it would fit inside the book, Les voyages du sieur de Champlain, Xaintongeois, capitaine ordinaire pour le Roy en la marine.


Champlain, Samuel de, 1574-1635, CARTE GEOGRAPHIQVE DE LA NOVVELLE FRANSE FAICTE PAR LE SIEVR DE CHAMPLAIN SAINT TONGOIS CAPPITAINE ORDINAIRE POUR LE ROY EN LA MARINE, 1 carte en 2 coupures, 30.6 x 17.7 inches, Bound in Les Voyages du Sieur de Champlain Xaintongeois, Capitaine ordinaire pour le Roy, en la marine. Divisez en deux livres. Ou, Journal tres-fidele des observations faites és descouvertures de la Nouvelle France. Paris :Chez Jean Berjon,1613.  Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec (BAnQ).


You will no doubt have been shocked to see that in all this wealth of detail that strives to be based on real observation, the Island has been left out entirely!!! I have no idea how this happened, except perhaps that the various portolans that the cartographer who produced this map used simply did not have Ile Saint jean on them – just an empty lower Gulf of Saint Lawrence. This cartographic thinking reminds one of Jacques Cartier’s failure to see the Island for what it was and assuming that it was part of the mainland. Could it be that the cartographer who drew this map 78 years later used old portolans from Cartier’s time to draw the Gulf?

In his later map of 1632, which I will present later in sequence, Champlain has rectified this, and the Island is where it should be.



A Portolan of the Atlantic Ocean

This most elegant map was drawn, with rich colours, on a large vellum hide by Pierre de Vaulx, son of a great Norman cartographer. It limits its focus to Western Europe and Africa, the Atlantic Ocean and North and South America. It is a work of great scholarship and study to the point where the major aboriginal tribes of New France are identified.


1613 –  [Carte de l’Océan Atlantique] / Ceste carte a Esté faiste Au havre de Grace Par Pierre Devaux, Pilote Géographe Pour le Roy, l’an 1613, painted on parchment, 68,5 x 96 cm, Bibliothèque nationale de France, ark:/12148/cb40596986p.

1613 – Pierre de Vaulx, – Carte_de_l’Océan_Atlantique (Ile St Jehan).

 As well as a work of scholarship it is very much a piece of propaganda asserting the French possessions and claims in the New World. The heraldic and other symbols are full of political meaning. The first object of our scrutiny is the maritime region and we can see that, although de Vaulx departs from the clarity of Levasseur’s 1601 map, you can nonetheless find, in the scramble of islands placed in the lower Gulf, a rectangular red spot that is clearly labelled Isle Saint Jehan.

This is the best enlargement possible from the Bibliotheque nationale scan.

This map contains a wealth of information about what was known or believed about the New World at that time. Acadia – spelled La cadye, occupies a vast area that includes parts of Quebec, New Brunswick and of course Nova Scotia. It is very interesting to note the prominence given to Acadia in this map, letting it slip down the new England coast to the area where it first appeared on Renaissance maps. It is a significant link to the continuity of the perception of the Acadian presence from the time of Verrazzano.


Champlain’s Second Map

The territorial claims of France in North America were focussed after Samuel de Champlain’s exploration and trading in the Saint Lawrence River Valley up to the Great Lakes. This hard-to-find map was bound into his 1632 account of his explorations up to 1629, when he withdrew in the face of British opposition. He was however successful in establishing a small settlement at Quebec. He was aware of the Great Lakes network and depicted what he has discovered. He was also very interested in the North American aboriginal tribes and carefully noted their names and locations.

1632 – Carte de la nouuelle France, augmentee depuis la derniere, servant a la navigation faicteen son vray Meridien, par le Sr. de Champlain Capitaine pour le Roy en la Marine; lequel depuis l’an 1603 jusques en l’année 1629; a descouvert plusieurs costes, terres, lacs, rivieres, et Nations de sauvages, par cy devant incognuës, comme il se voit en ses relations quil a faict Imprimer en 1632, ou il se voit cette marque

ce sont habitations qu’ont faict les françois. 87 x 57 cm, copperplate engraving, Norman B. Leventhal Map Center Collection, Boston Public Library. The map appears in Champlain’s Voyages de la Nouuelle France occidentale… Paris, 1632.

Champlain was very careful to note the locations of all the settlements that he encountered and even went to the trouble to devise a symbol for French villages (see map title above) as opposed to native areas, which had their own icon. This is visible in the detail of the vicinity of Port Royal which you see here.

The Champlain map of 1632 makes up for its omission of Ile Saint Jean in its first very fancy representation of the region that had been published in 1612. In this fine map an attempt has been made to show everything that had been learned about New France in the subsequent 20 years.

This detail from the map shows Ile Saint Jean as a credible crescent shape with a multiplicity of inlets and bays, but it does not name any part of it, unlike all the names given to Ile Royale (Cape Breton) and Acadia. Even aboriginal tribes are named. The fact is that Ile Saint Jean, even though now a known and clearly named and delineated possession, was simply of no interest at a time when all the focus was on Quebec and Port Royal and the New Brunswick/New England coast.


Holland: its Maritime Empire and Maps

Holland was a great maritime power with the biggest navy in world that without pause, brought the treasures of the East into European markets, and so there was an increased interest in cartography and hydrography. Holland had always been a centre of mapmaking and this intensified during the Seventeenth Century – its Golden Age. The Dutch sought to produce extremely accurate maps of the provinces that made up the Netherlands but also were so ambitious that they began to produce huge maps of the world, printed on paper and glued to cotton panels mounted on rollers. Enthusiastically and proudly they hung these maps on their middle-class walls and the artists were quick to include them in their paintings of interiors. In this detail of Jan Vermeer’s The Art of Painting (1666-68) now in Vienna, you see a huge map of the Low Countries hanging on the wall with a border consisting of engraved views of all the major towns and cities of Holland.

This tendency to produce gorgeous highly illustrated maps became a characteristic of the Dutch. In the next map in our search for Ile Saint Jean we see not only a fine example of a highly decorated border, but in its component vignettes we see the astrological and alchemical symbols which were still considered to be the essence of human scientific and psychological knowledge, in spite of enormous progress in science at that time.


1635 – Willem Janszoon Blaeu – Nova Totius Terrarum Orbis Geographica Ac Hydrographica Tabula auct Guiljelmo Blaeuw, 41 x 55 cm, engraver, Josua van den Ende, (ca. 1584-ca. 1634). Printed in Amsterdam. Source: internet, owner unidentified.

Willem Janszoon Blaeu (1571-1638), the son of a prominent herring merchant, was a very well-known geographer and publisher. He had a passion for astronomy and studied with the famous Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe. He was inspired to develop more accurate astronomical instruments and begin work on producing actual globes of the world which were made of wood covered with trimmed engraved sheets that, with glue, could be applied to a globe and take on its shape when it dried. A number of these globes survive from this period, but they are not, to my knowledge, useful in our search for Ile Saint Jean. Blaeu set up a shop in Amsterdam that catered to a remarkable number of intellectual tastes from selling scientific instruments, globes, maps he had published and edited, to publishing the works of foreign intellectuals like Rene Descartes. There works were smuggled around Europe at great risk as intellectuals everywhere wanted access to these revolutionary new thoughts. In 1635, he produced a most impressive atlas called Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, sive, Atlas novus. In it was a mappamundi called Nova Totius Terrarum Orbis Geographica Ac Hydrographica Tabula auct Guiljelmo Blaeuw. This map would be reworked and issued a number of times in the course of the century.

1630-35 Blaeu world map

Along the top are personifications of the seven planets as they were known at that time: the Moon, Mercury, Venus, the Sun, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. On the left side are the Four Elements which were believed to make up everything in the world: fire, air, water and earth. Along the right edge are the four winds, vital to mariners, and along the bottom are the Seven Wonders of the World: the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Colossus of Rhodes, the Pyramids, the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, the Temple of Diana at Ephesus, the statue of Jupiter Olympicus at Olympia and the Pharos at Alexandria. Here is a detail from the bottom left corner of the map to give you an idea of the complexity of these vignettes, just like the bird’s eye view of towns on the Vermeer map.

It is when we laboriously make our way over the surface of the map to Canada and New France that we see, in a credibly represented Gulf of Saint Lawrence, what may be Ile Saint Jean. But it is not yet labelled as such. That it appeared in such a grand and unimaginably complicated design is miracle enough.




1643 – Jean Boisseau – Description de la Nouvelle France

Jean Boisseau flourished from c 1631-57 and was a French cartographer, publisher and map colourist. He produced many important maps and atlases including this 1643 reduction of Champlain’s map with many additions which extend the original borders. It is considered to be the first map to show all five great lakes, and precise identifications of which lake is which is an ongoing discussion among scholars.  The date of this revised printing is given by the Bibliotheque Nationale as 1664.


1643/1664 – Boisseau, Jean, (fl. 1637-1658). Description de la Nouvelle France : ou sont remarquées les diverses habitations des François, despuis la première descouverte jusques a present, receuillie et dressée sur diverses relations modernes, 1643,  35 x 55 cm, printed in Paris Chez Jean Boisseau. Bibliothèque nationale de France, ark:/12148/btv1b84433694.

There is an interesting detail of this map that I want to bring to your attention and that is the cartouche shown below. As expected it provides the title of the map but at the very top there is a blank shield for coat of arms. It could be that this particular printed proof did not yet have the arms of the patron engraved on it, but it is equally possible that the space was left blank so that the person who bought the map could paint in their own coat of arms. It is a continuation, on printed paper, of the grand armorial bearings found on the old velum portolans. It is a mark of ownership.

I post here a composite of the cartouche of 1643 and that of 1664 to show you how copper plates could be modified to suit other demands. Here some of the data has been scraped away leaving more space for a planned inscription that was never inserted.

Boisseau places Ile Saint Jean where it belongs and identifies it accurately. He only names two places on the Island, North Cape, which he calls C de S Jean, and probably East Point, which he calls C Baturier.


C de S Jean – North Cape

C Baturier – East Point



Maps showing the Atlantic fisheries

Maps of the North Atlantic in the region of New France continue to appear. There is greater and greater emphasis on identifying and delineating the major fishing banks. This map positively celebrates the banks and the fisheries in its content and its very fine decoration.


[1662] – Blaeu, Johannes – Extrema Americae Versus Boream, ubi Terra Nova Nova Franci, Adjacentiaq, from the Atlas Major, 22 x 17.5 inches, Amsterdam. From the Boston Public Library Collection.

Joan (Johannes) Blaeu (1596 – 1673) was a Dutch cartographer who was the son of Willem Janszoon Blaeu, founder of the Blaeu family firm of cartographers. This map, Extrema Americae Versus Boream, ubi Terra Nova Nova Franci, Adjacentiaq. (and adjacent territories) was Johannes Blaeu’s 1662 representation of eastern Canada, including Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, Cape Breton Island, and Labrador and was based on the 1632 Nouvelle France map of Samuel de Champlain as well as various Dutch East India Company maps. At that time, this was one of the most comprehensive and reliable maps of the eastern part of New France then available. The focus of the map is the rich cod fisheries of the Grand Banks, here clearly indicated by stipple shading and the theme of cod fishing is continued in the cartouche. Blaeu introduced this map in the 1662 first edition of his Atlas Major which added some 185 new maps his six volume Theatrum Orbis Terrarum. It is important to note, that of all the maps contained in this Atlas, this was the only one to describe the eastern part of North America.

The cartouche at the top right is of special interest because, although the frame is in the late Mannerist style, instead of gods and goddesses the supporting side figures, like on a coat of arms, are fishermen in full gear. Instead of floral ornament the swags consist of hooks, jigs and fish. It is unique and very special, making the map greatly prized among collectors. It is also a very specific source of information about the clothing of the fishermen and the gear they use.

In this Blaeu map the lower Gulf of Saint Lawrence is well articulated and Ile Saint Jean is clearly named and North Cape is identified.

C de Isle S. Jean – North Cape



The great Denis de Rotis Basque Portolan

Here is another of those large portolans drawn and painted on a hide that has been turned into vellum. It is a map of the Atlantic Ocean and its details reflect the race that was on to find a passage to the Pacific and the riches of the East. In the middle of the Seventeenth Century, conversations with the Amerindians suggested to explorers that there was a sea north of California. The cartographers, with no evidence except the rumours from mariners, began tentatively to insert this body of water.


1674 – [Carte de l’Océan Atlantique nord] Faict à Sainct Jean de Luz par Moy Denis de Rotis, painted on vellum, 43,5 x 88 cm, Bibliothèque nationale de France, ark:/12148/cb43591772n.

1674 Denis de Rotis, Map of the North Atlantic, Bibl Nat

The great cartographer, Denis de Rotis, a Basque from Saint-Jean-de-Luz, was convinced there was a north-west passage. In this very beautiful and unencumbered portolan from 1674 he places it above the Saint Lawrence River and parallel to it.

The portolan is set up with the usual lines denoting the 32 wind directions recorded on the compass face, and this compass rose is a thing of beauty.

The map portrays as complete a coastline as possible, showing the interests of England along the Atlantic Seaboard and the deep-penetrating interests of France in what was called variously Canada and New France.

The Basque navigators were among the first to produce charts of the North Atlantic because of their extremely extensive interest in the whale and cod industry, starting around 1525, and they had lots of time to teach the Amerindians a few words of Spanish that Jacques Cartier heard in 1534. These fishermen would leave their home ports in the Gulf of Gascony in the early spring and return in December before the sea ice set in.

Most remarkable in this portolan is the amount of information it provides about the Gulf of Saint Lawrence and the placement of Ile Saint Jean in it. There was a reason for this because finally Europeans saw the Island, at least its North Shore, as a valuable location to establish fishing stations with the huge waters of the Gulf in front of them. We do not know precisely when they built fishing stations on Ile Saint Jean, but, as we have seen in a previous post , it was before Cartier’s visit.

In the clear – and specifically Basque – representation of the Island they identify four fishing stations along with North Cape Reef, which even then, stretched out to sea in a northwesterly direction for miles. They are all named and scholars (Loewen and Goya) believe them to be of aboriginal origin.

This detail from de Rotis’ portolan shows a Gulf that we recognise. There are tantalising black dots arranged in lines or in groups which must be connected to the fishery, but to date I have not found out what they represent.

Let us catalogue the place names, even though de Rotis has not given a name to the Island. Contrary to the 1689 Detcheverry portolans, to which this is similar, there are only four North Shore inlets depicted, instead of five. These transcriptions were difficult and may be altered after consultations with others interested in this period. It is likely that except for North Cape, that they are all aboriginal names.

C. doest – North Cape

caiscoupet – Cascumpec

marpet – Malpeque

guibibuet – Petit Havre/New London

pauchimy – Rustico

To date, this is the earliest Seventeenth Century map that shows Ile Saint Jean in a configuration that will be a specific characteristic of the other three maps Basque maps that appear later in this post. That outline of the Island must come from a single source.



The 1678 Franquelin map with Ile St. Jean left out

This large map (1092 x 1907 cm) was drawn in 1678 by Jean-Baptiste Franquelin on 8 sheets of paper glued together, for the clarification of land titles in New France. Its a strange geometrical chart, elegant, yet no inclusive of such insignificant places such as Ile St. Jean.


1678 – Carte pour servir à l’éclaircissement du papier terrier de la Nouvelle-France… / Joannes Ludovicus Franquelin pinxit 1678, 8 pages assembled together, 1092 x 1907 cm, Bibliothèque nationale de France, ark:/12148/cb40634435v.

Franquelin was born in France in 1651 and by 1687 had been appointed the King’s hydrographer at Quebec. Properties in Quebec were arranged in long narrow strips fronting on the Saint Lawrence River and were called seigneuries (or fiefs) and Franquelin had to record all the names of the landowners on their properties. The focus therefore was on Quebec and not other parts of New France. It was called, appropriately, Carte pour servir a l’eclaircissement du Papier Terrier de la Nouvelle France, [Map serving to clarify the Land Registry in New France].

In recent years when a high resolution copy of the map was obtained, Canadian scholars were assured that the name Toronto, called Tarontos Lac, was located where Lake Simcoe is now found. The following pdf file tells the story of this great excitement in Ontario.

1678 Franquelin GE SH ARCH-23 (B)

In the Gulf of Saint Lawrence there is no excitement, only sadness and confusion, because Ile Saint Jean has been left out completely, and in its place a beautiful sailing ship, typical of the kind that brought settlers and goods to New France, was put in its place!

Acadia and the surrounding territory is represented in a strange angular fashion with lots of straight lines obscuring details not relevant to the purpose of this map. It is beautiful, but strange in its very abstract approach to representing the region.

The dedicatory or secondary cartouche is particularly elaborate and is typical of the late Baroque grand effect that was on the way out.





Emmanuel Jumeau (?-1707) entered the Récollet noviciate in Arras in 1675 and accompanied another missionary to Canada in 1682 and spent eight years as a missionary in the Miramichi area. He moved on to various missions in Quebec and returned to France in 1690. Little else is known about his life except that he drew an extremely important map of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence.

The map appears to have been first published by Ganong in 1897 in his A Monograph of the Cartography of the Province of New Brunswick. As far as I can discover this representation of the map is from a photograph provided by the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris. To date I have not been able to discover whether it is a drawing or an engraving. The BNF has no listing for it in its public catalogue. The map dates from 1685 and is rich in the kind of detail that would appeal to a priest with a Catholic focus, not that of an adventurer or coloniser. For example, the cartouche of the map contains a title which is a long excited description of how Saint Croix Island was the site of a pre-European contact by God Himself who directed the aboriginals to erect wooden crosses all over the place. Even so, the rest of the map is filled with fascinating human detail.


1685 – La grande baye de S. Laurens en la nouvelle france mise dans un jour ou elle n’avoit juqu’icy parue, l’exactitude, la curiosité et la justesse y aiant esté observées autant quil à esté possible et que les memoires des habitans du mesme lieu ont pu fournir, jointe a celà la prore connaissance du geographe quil à de plusieuers endroits, notamment de la riviere de Ste. croix, ou faisant la mission il à eu l’honneur d’adorer plusieurs fois de grandes croix arborées au milieu des deserts et des bois par les sauvages nationnaux nommes porcrois, aiant receu la croix divinement du ciel longtemps avant l’arrivée des francois en ce pais. faite par le R. pere Emmanuel jumeau recollect, missionnaire en canada. 4 oct. 1685,  13 3/4 x 18 1.2 in. Copie de P.M. O’Leary Ptre. 6 aout, 1909, conforme à l’original.  LAC 4154241; original in  Bibliothèque nationale, Department des Estampes, série V, Topographie, subdivision Vd. Vol. 20A.

It is very intriguing, in these early times, to see interest shown in Ile Saint Jean to the point where new place names appear, replacing, for the time being, the aboriginal names given by the Basques in earlier years.

Here we have six place names that for the most part do not correspond with the Basque settlements listed in the De Rotis portolan. I am very curious why Jumeau introduced the names of three saints to replace names already used by the Basque cartographers. These saints are Saint Catherine, Saint Philip and Saint Anthony of Padua. Why those saints in particular? Did Jumeau express particular devotion to them, or are they saints especially venerated in the Récollet order?  This is something I will try to resolve because these names will influence two subsequent maps produced by Basque cartographers.

c. d’ouest – North Cape

R. S. catherine – Cascumpec

R. S. philippe – Malpeque

(not noted – Petit Havre/New London)

R. Gabochimik – Rustico

R. S. antoine de pade – Saint Peter’s?

c. de sud-est – East Point

R. Gabochimik is very close linguistically to the Bauchimicq and Bauchymy found in the two 1689 versions of Detcheverry and which Loewen and Goya have placed at Rustico. I do the same but wonder in which cove the River of Saint Anthony of Padua is found. Relatively speaking it is quite far to the east and so I guess at Saint Peter’s Harbour, which would eventually be designated as the chief harbour of the 1720 colony. I would imagine that input and suggestions are bound to come from in from interested colleagues and may require some later adjustments to this proposed arrangement.



Franquelin is influenced by Jumeau

1686 – Franquelin, Carte gé[né]ralle du voyage que Mons[ieu]r De Meulles intendant de la justice, police et finances de la Nouvelle France a fait par ordre du Roy, et commencé le 9e novembre, et fini le 6e juillet 1686 en suivant; comprenant toutes les terres de l’Acadie, Isle du Cap Breton, Golfe et Rivière St. Laurens, depuis la rivière St. Georges limites de la Nouvelle France, et de la Nouvelle Angleterre jusqu’à la ville de Québec, avec toutes les bayes, îles, ports, havres et rivières qui s’y trouvent, selon les remarques et observations qui en ont été faites pendant ledit voyage / Par son très humble très obéissant et très obligé serviteur Jean Baptiste Louis Franquelin, Me d’Hydrographie pour le Roy à Québec 1686, manuscript map tinted with watercolour, 124 x 189 cm, Bibliothèque nationale de France, ark:/12148/btv1b55012939c.

In 1688 Jean Baptiste Louis Franquelin, the King’s Hydrographer at Quebec, produced a map of the journey made by M. de Meulles, intendant of justice, police and finances for New France. More of a hand-written document than a formal map, it was drawn in ink and touched up with watercolour on a 124 x 189 cm piece of paper and is now in the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris. It is certainly a major departure from his huge map of the region made in 1678 where he leaves out Ile Saint Jean altogether. Perhaps M. de Meulles noticed it in his travels and required that it be included in his narrative. Here is a detail of it. The writing is very small and the image has to be magnified to read the names written with a fine pen.

The original map is damaged in places and it is possible to see reinforcing patches here and there. The name of Rivière Saint Philippe is partly missing. Look at the lovely drawing of a ship of the kind used to cross the Atlantic.

The outline of Ile Saint Jean is almost identical to that found in the map of the Récollet friar Jumeau drawn in the previous year (see above). Five locations on Ile Saint Jean are indicated and we present them together with the Jumeau data for comparison. Curiously, Franquelin seemed prepared to accept these religious names at this time. He probably knew Jumeau and they would have discussed his map. Their map life would be short.

Franquelin obviously delighted in drawing boats and ships of various kinds that were found in the waters of Atlantic Canada. There are no less than nine different boats and three whales! Here is a small fishing boat in the Bay of Fundy.




Vincenzo Maria Coronelli (1650–1718) was an Italian Franciscan Friar who had many talents, and for his day was exceptionally well educated as a cosmographer. He was a cartographer who published books and encyclopedias and who is particularly remembered for his atlases and globes. He spent nearly all of his life in Venice, which was an exciting place to be at that time for a man of his interests and abilities.

Coronelli produced two maps of interest to our search for an emerging Ile Saint Jean in world maps. This second one displays an unusual degree of awareness as far as place names go that the first one lacks completely. The place names taken from saints introduced by Jumeau and carried over by Franquelin are present in this map. Coronelli must have had access to one or both of their maps, but it is hard to figure out how since both were locally produced manuscript maps. The connection however is probably through Jumeau, since both he and Coronelli were members of the Franciscan order of monks of the French and Italian branches. The Récollet (French Franciscan) Jumeau could easily have been in contact with his Italian counterpart with a deep interest and skills in mapmaking. Another observation supports this idea because the saints’ names have not been Italianised but kept in their original French form.


1688 – Vincenzo Coronelli – Canada/ Orientale nell’/ America Settentrionale,/ descritta/ dal P. Mro Coronelli M C Cosmografo/ della Seren Republica di Venetia/ dedicata/ Alli Mto. Reverendi Padri/ Li P.P. Minori Conventuali/ del Monastero insigne/ di S. Francesco/ di Bologna, [1688], engraving on copper, 53 x 69 cm, Archives de la Ville de Montréal, BM005-3-D15-P002.

[Dedicated to his religious brothers, the monks of the convent complex of PP. Minor conventuals of S. Francesco in Bologna]

This other map by Vincenzo Coronelli, now in the Quebec provincial collection, has been mounted on linen for extra support. It has been quite enthusiastically coloured, perhaps not in the best taste. Nevertheless it is filled with information vital to the study of the region as the century draws to a close. All the fishing banks, major and minor, have been identified, and the general layout of the region is orderly and easy to follow and explore.

Here are two details from the map. The first is of Ile Saint Jean in its wider setting and the second is a detail of the Island itself.

Coronelli is familiar with the religious place names that appear in Jumeau’s map and uses all three of them in this version.

As with Jumeau, who first introduced Saint Anthony of Padua to us, I am somewhat at a loss as to where I should place Rivière Saint Antoine. With trepidation I have again chosen Saint Peter’s Harbour as a likely place at the eastern end of the Island. We should recall that that, of all places possible, this is the one chosen by the French as their primary fishing establishment  when they established their colony in 1720. One rather suspects that they built it on the foundations of Basque seasonal fish factories.

C Ouest – North Cape

R. S. Catarine – Cascumpec

R. S. Philippe – Malpeque

R. Babochimik – Rustico

R. S. Antoine – St. Peter’s Bay?



A Very Grand Franquelin Map of the Region

1688 – Franquelin – Carte/ de l’Amerique Septentrionnale/ depuis le 25: jusqu’au 65⁰ deg. de latt. & environ/ 140, & 235 deg. de longitude/ Contenant/ Les Pays de Canada ou Nouvelle France/ La Louisiane, La Floride, Virginie, Nlle/ Suede, Nle Yorc, Nlle Angleterre, Aca-/ die, Isle de Terre-Neuve &c:/ … Par Iean Baptiste Louis Franquelin, Hydrographe du Roy/, à Québec en Canada,  ms. map, coloured; 103 x 160 cm. Copied between 1909 and 1910 from the original 1688 ms in the Archives du dépôt des cartes et plans de la marine, Library of Congress, G3300 1688 .F7.

In 1688 Jean Baptiste Louis Franquelin, the King’s Hydrographer at Quebec, produced this magnificent, highly ornamented map called Carte de l’Amerique Septentrionnale: depuis le 25, jusqu’au 65⁰ deg. de latt. & environ 140, & 235 deg. de longitude. I have not been able to obtain a scan of the original but the Library of Congress has this copy done between 1909-10 on four sheets pasted together.

The map is one of the most highly decorated to appear at this time in the century. Dominating everything is the royal coat of arms in the upper left. In the right hand corner is the map is an elaborate cartouche, giving all the necessary information about it. I include a detail of it for edification and pleasure. And in the lower right corner is a splendid engraved view of Quebec that shows the upper and lower cities as they had evolved by this time. It does not at all look like the New World but a prosperous city of the Old.

Here is the elaborate cartouche for this map, with a very heavy border of flowers, typical of Baroque taste at the time. It is worth including as an example of the sorts of details we ought to observe in these grand maps that help create the whole impression of grandeur.

Here, converted to black and white for legibility, is the fine print of the cartouche, interesting for the background provided on how the map was produced.

On Ile Saint Jean only two place names are indicated, but R. S Catherine is significant because it is a carry over  from Jumeau’s 1685 map.

R. S.  Catherine– Cascumpec

C. du Sud-Est – East Point

The Basque Presence in the Region

A most important characteristic of the Basques is that they never seemed to dream of conquest and empire, like the rest of Europe. Of course, they had an aristocracy and were governed by the local nobility and generally, ruled long distance by greater powers. They seemed to have turned their face to the sea in the earliest times, and instead of empire building they concentrated on fishing cod and hunting whales. In early Mediaeval times they were already sending boats to the coasts of Ireland and Scotland and even beyond. Their empire was one based on fish and its sale to a Catholic fish-hungry Europe to feed their population on the great number of fasting days that dotted the liturgical year. They also provided huge quantities of the new commodity of whale oil, so useful for burning in lamps.

The Basques became skilled at extracting and processing iron and early on they became great shipbuilders in those sandy inlets. They are even credited with having invented the rudder so that heavy sailing ships could be steered easily. They went farther and farther afield, and it is possible that they reached the Gulf of Saint Lawrence many years before their presence is documented there. By the time Jacques Cartier claimed what is now Canada for France in 1534 the Basques had already had so much contact with the aboriginals that they had set up, working with them, a sort of new language so that they could communicate more easily. Cartier was surprised to hear what he was sure were Spanish words in the speech of the aboriginals he met. It was not the sort of thing he would want to report to the French king as he presented him with this new virgin land – Terra Nova.

In time tensions between the various national fishing fleets would begin to intensify in the region, especially with the French. Loewen and Goya (p 141) say that that possibly the Basques began to fortify their ports on Ile St. Jean following tensions with the French in 1623. Evidence for this tension is to be found in this account by Samuel de Champlain who wrote of an incident on 16 July 1623:

On the same day [23 July 1623] also the pilot Doublet arrived [at the mouth of the Richelieu River in Canada] with five other men in a double pinnace, which came to St. John’s Island and Miscou, where the Sieur de la Ralde was engaged in fishing. He (Doublet) informed the Sieur de Caen that some Basques had retired to Saint John’s island, in order to put themselves in a condition of defence in case they were attacked, not being willing to recognise the commissions issued by his Majesty; and that they had seized a middling-sized vessel on which was one named Guers [Guérard?], who, the year before, had come to Tadoussac as I had mentioned above. They contented themselves with taking his trading goods, and let him go with his munitions and bronze cannons. (Champlain, p 101)

In the 1670s there was a lot of European activity in the vicinity of Prince Edward Island and Nicolas Denys provides us with an interesting description of the Basque presence on the Island in his 1672 book, The Description and Natural History of the Coasts of North America (Acadia).

… At eight or ten leagues therefrom (Brion and the Magdalen Islands) one meets with the Island Saint Jean, upon the route to Ile Percée. One passes in view of it [or not] according to the direction of the winds. It is necessary not to approach near to it, for all the coast on this side of the Bay is nothing but sand, which forms flats for more than a league out to sea.  This island has all of twenty-five or thirty leagues of length, and one league of breadth in the middle. It is almost the shape of a crescent, and pointed at the two ends. The side which is opposite the mainland is bordered with rocks. There are two coves, through which two rivers pass to discharge into the sea [Hillsborough Bay and Bedeque Bay]. Longboats are able to enter, for within are a kind of small harbours. On this side the woods are very fine. Such land as it has seems rather good. This island is covered with almost nothing but Firs mingled with some Beeches and Birches. On the side which faces the Great Bay there are also two harbours [probably Cascumpec and Richmond Bays], from which issue two little streams, but the entrances are very shallow, [though] there is water enough within. I once entered that which is nearest to the point of Micscou [Cascumpec Harbour]. I have seen there three large Basque vessels, but, in order to enter, it was necessary to discharge them of everything in the roadstead [nautical term for a temporary safe harbour], to carry everything on shore, and to leave only the ballast to sustain the vessel. Then it was necessary to lay her upon her side as though she was careened, then to tow her inside with the boats. They came out in the same manner, after which all the fish were taken to the roadstead for loading. One can no more go there at present, its entrances being closed up, and the risk too great. That which induced them to go there was the abundance of fish which exists on this coast …(pp. 207-208).



1689 – The Detcheverry Portolans

Two almost identical nautical charts of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence were drawn in 1689 at Placentia, the French capital of Newfoundland, by the Basque cartographer Pierre Detcheverry for the governor, Antoine Parat. They are significant for the large number of Basque place names to be found everywhere in the region, and a hitherto unknown design for Ile St. Jean that will become the Basque trademark for representing the island. This is the inscription on the little round cartouche found at the top of the portolans:



Pierre Detcheverry and His Voyages to the Gulf of Saint Lawrence Cod Fisheries.

Laval scholars Brad Loewen and Miren Egaña Goya, wrote an extremely interesting and important article called Le routier de Piarres Detcheverry, 1677. Un aperçu de la presence basque dans la baie des Chaleurs au XVIIe siècle. Here is a pdf file of it.

Loewen and Goya – Routier de Piarres Detcheverry, 1677

The article, written in French, contains little information on Detcheverry because there doesn’t seem to be any, for when I searched the internet for more, I could find almost nothing except this Wikipedia article in the Basque language from which I extracted this information. He was a writer who wrote in the èuscar Basque dialect and was the first to publish a technical book in this language in 1677.

Little is known about his life. His book was called Liburu Hau Da Ixasocoa Nabigacioneco which translates as Book of Maritime Navigation and was printed at Bayonne in 1677. In it are precise descriptions of how to navigate the Basque coastline to Newfoundland by following the traditional routes of Basque fishermen in the cod fishery.

Detcheverry does not seem to mention the Island at all in his book. However, it is the maps associated with his book at a later date that tell us he knew the Island well. Associated with his publication were two almost identical maps produced in 1689. In Version 1 of this map in the Bibliotheque Nationale the Island is identified a La terre de Bauchymicq and not as Ile Saint Jean.



1689 – Pierre Detcheverry – [Carte de l’île de Terre-Neuve] / Faict A plesance par pierre Detcheuerry dorre pour Monsieur parat gouuerneur de plesance et l[‘]islle de terreneufe, ms. col. sur parchemin, 31,5 x 57 cm, Bibliothèque nationale de France, ark:/12148/btv1b59055710.

1689 Detcheverry version 1 Bibl Nat

Here is a detail of the Island portion of it. You can see that he has labelled it as La terre de Bauchymicq.

This, and the subsequent table summarise the place names he deemed necessary to record in these portolans. In these charts his spelling of some of the place names is not consistent, suggesting a phonetic spelling approach to names they frequently spoke or heard but did not write down.

Map Version 1 – La terre de beauchymicq

c: doest – North Cape

caiscoupet – Cascumpec

marpet – Malpeque

guymuybuecq – Petit Havre/New London

bauchimicq – Rustico


Here is Version 2,  where the island is not named, from the Bibliotheque Nationale, which identifies four separate fishing stations on the North Shore of the Island. Note the variations in spelling of place names from one map to the other.


1689 – Pierre Detcheverry – [Carte de Terre-Neuve et Acadie] / Faict à Plesance par Pierre Detcheverry ; pour Monsieur Parat gouverneur de plesance en lisle de Terre Neuve, 1689, col. sur parchemin; 32,5 x 57 cm; Bibliothèque nationale de France, /ark:/12148/cb42450851k.

1689 Detchevery Bibl Nat

The Island is very clearly delineated in a crescent shape with a series of deeply indented ports on the north shore. Four of the ports, and North Cape are clearly identified.

Map Version 2 – not named

c doest – North Cape

caiscoupet – Cascumpec

marpet – Malpeque

guymuybuit – Petit Havre/New London

bauchymy – Rustico

In Version 1 of the map the Island is labelled a La terre de Bauchymicq, presumably an aboriginal name like the others on the map. This is curious in the light of the other aboriginal name we now believe to be the Island’s original name – Abegweit derived from Abahquit, meaning “parallel with the land,” or, more romantically, “cradled in the waves” (Rayburn, p 15). Were the aboriginals who named the Island Bauchymicq perhaps not Mi’kmaq? What could account for a change in names so recently in the historical calendar?



Yet another Basque Map of the Region

There is  yet another late Seventeenth Century Basque map of the Maritime region in the Bibliothèque nationale  with special emphasis on the fishing banks and also in the careful identification of all the major fishing stations they visited in their seasonal work. Even Ile Saint Jean, which they do not name, has five harbours listed, among then, for the first time Tracadie.



[c 1690] Carte Basque de L’Isle de Terreneuve de La Cadie et Canada, manuscript map with colour, 54 x 83,5 cm, Bibliotheque Nationale.

c 1690, Carte Basque … BNF

A detail of the western portion reveals the extreme clarity the cartographer applied to this map, placing the compass rose and all its wind lines to the right of the land masses so that nothing would distract from the absolute clarity of the various port names.

Ile Saint Jean, which is not identified, has the usual ports listed with the addition of trocgaty (Tracadie) which appears in the maps I have assembled for the first time. Its outline is very similar to the Detcheverry maps and one might assume that it comes from the same workshop.

Here is a list of the fishing stations.

C d’oest – North Cape

Caisqupet – Cascumpec

marpet – Malpeque

quihudet – Petit Havre/New London

trocgaty – Tracadie

pauchimy – Rustico




Mapmakers were slow to focus their attention on Ile Saint Jean. For the most part it was sufficient to identify the island and leave it at that.

It was only in the last quarter of the century that we begin to have specific places identified, and that was thanks to Basque cartographers. The Catholic Church, always on the prowl for new converts, travelled in the region and two cartographers who were also monks, Jumeau and Coronelli, did their best to Christianise the barbaric aboriginal and Basque names. This was at first adopted by the French cartographers in Quebec. In the next century, the Eighteenth, these names would be gradually replaced by new ones that in some instances have remained to this day.

This table summarises what we have learned to date of Basque and missionary colonisation in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence and on Isle Saint Jean.

In this essay I have tried to find the earliest possible appearance of the name Ile Saint Jean placed on an island in a location that made sense. I have searched through Seventeenth Century maps for two years and present what I have found. It is by no means complete and does not claim to be. There will be additions and corrections and that is part of the joy of working with electronic media – everything is simple and flexible.


A Speculation

I wish to leave you with a speculation that some of you may consider a bit on the wild side. In my research it has become apparent that many of the Basques who sailed into the Gulf of Saint Lawrence to establish fishing stations came from the mother port of Saint-Jean-de- Luz at the heart of the mother country at the bottom of the Gulf of Gascony.

I was struck by the great similarity of the shoreline with its deep indented port protected by its breakwaters that so resemble the barrier dunes in our north shore seaports. Could it be – and I must ask the question – that the Basques exploring the gulf in the early Sixteenth Century (or before, even!) had come across this little island that reminded them of their home port and so named it after it? It would explain the very early presence of the name of Ile Saint Jean in the general area of the Gulf in the earliest maps. It does not explain why, only once in the Basque maps we know of the island is named and called la terre de beauchymicq.




From time to time revisions will be necessary as more maps are found or as the narrative requires clarification or correction. The dates when revisions were made are listed below:







Bakker P., “Basque Pidgin Vocabulary in European-Algonquian Trade Contacts,” Papers of the Nineteenth Algonquian Conference, ed. William Cowan, Carleton University, Ottawa, 1988.

Champlain, Samuel de, The Works of Samuel de Champlain, Volume 5, The Champlain Society, reprinted by the University of Toronto Press, Toronto, 1971.

Denys, Nicolas, The Description and Natural History of the Coasts of North America (Acadia), 1672, Translated and edited with a memoir of the author, collateral documents, and a reprint of the original, by William F. Ganong Ph.D., The Champlain Society, Toronto, 1908.

Douglas, R., Place Names of Prince Edward Island with Meanings, F. C. Acland, Printer to the King’s Most Excellent Majesty, Ottawa, 1925.

Ganong, William F., A Monograph of the Cartography of the Province of New Brunswick, Transactions of the Royal Society of Canada, Second Series 1897-98, Volume II, Section II, Ottawa, 1897.

Ganong, W. F., Crucial Maps in the Early Cartography and Place Nomenclature of the Atlantic Coast of Canada, University of Toronto Press and the Royal Society of Canada, Toronto, 1964, reprinted 2017.

Harvey, D. C., The French Regime in Prince Edward Island, (Reprinted from the 1926 edition), Ams Press, New York, 1970.

Kershaw, Kenneth A., Early Printed Maps of Canada, Vol. 1 – 1540-1703, Kershaw Publishing, Star Communications, Hamilton, Ontario, 1993.

Kershaw, Kenneth A., Early Printed Maps of Canada, Vol, II – 1703-1799, First Edition, Second Impression, Alexander Books, Ancaster, Ontario, 2002.

Lennox, Jeffers, Homelands and Empires: Indigenous Spaces, Imperial Fictions, and Competition for Territory in Northeastern North America, 1690-1763, University of Toronto Press, Toronto, 2017.

Loewen, Brad and Goya, Miren Egaña, “Le routier de Piarres Detcheverry, 1677. Un aperçu de la presence basque dans la baie des Chaleurs au XVIIe siècle,” Revue d’histoire de l’Amérique française, Volume 68, Number 1-2, Summer–Fall 2014.

Macnair, Andrew, Anne Rowe and Tom Williamson, Dury and Andrews’ Map of Hertfordshire: Society and Landscape in the Eighteenth Century, Windgather Press, Oxbow Books, Oxford, 2016.

Parshall, Peter and Rainer Schoch, Origins of European Printmaking: Fifteenth Century Woodcuts and their Public, National Gallery of Art Washington and Germanisches Nationalmuseum Nuremberg, Yale University Press, 2005.

Rayburn, Alan, Geographical Names of Prince Edward Island, Surveys and Mapping Branch, Department of Energy, Mines and Resources, Ottawa, 1973.

Rotis, Denis de, Carte de l’océan Atlantique Nord, 1674, Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris.

Sobey, Douglas, Early Descriptions of the Forests of Prince Edward Island – A Source Book – Part I, The French Period 1534-1758, Prince Edward Island Department of Agriculture and Forestry, Charlottetown, 2002.

Sociedad Estatal para la Exposicion Universal Sevilla 92, 15th Century (catalogue of the 1992 Seville Universal Exposition Theme Pavilion), Centro Publicaciones, Seville, 1992.

Swift, Historical Maps of Canada, Prospero Books, 2001.

Thomson, Don W., Men and Meridians: The History of Surveying and Mapping in Canada, Volume 1 Prior to 1867, The Queen’s Printer, Ottawa, 1966.