Earliest Chicago Maps

Rewriting the Earliest Cartographic History of the Heartland of North America

The Louis Jolliet Map
is not an
Authentic 17th Century Document


Jolliet Map Appropriated Content

The Jolliet Map is one of the iconic maps of 17th Century North American Heartland discovery, however recent evidence suggests it is not authentic. Its main content was plagiarized from several actually-legitimate 17th Century maps. The Jolliet Map was never questioned when it was discovered into history in 1879 and published to the world the following year. There are two main sources from which the content was appropriated.

Source 1. Of 63 Mississippi Valley names on the 1674 Hughes Randin Map (column E), 62 were plagiarized by the Jolliet Map (column D). Compare names in column D with those in column E. Other details from Randin Map farther below.

For legible resolution of the the two appropriate columns, see here.


Source 2. The schematic design of the Mississippi and its tributaries on the Jolliet Map (right) were taken from the (formerly called) Jolliet Parkman (left) (my current nomenclature calls these maps with camels on them Camel Map 1 and Camel Map 2. 1674 Camel Map 1).



In addition to place names, details of Randin Map plagiarized by Jolliet Map

Hudson Bay


More calligraphy emulations

Scribal error plagiarized. Should be Metchigamea


jolliet brown map

Now archived in the John Carter Brown Map Collection, this Jolliet map was unknown before 1879. In that year, it was discovered into history as an authentic Louis Jolliet long-lost map. It was confidently published by Gabriel Gravier, in 1880, with his fifty-page text known as:

Étude sur Une Carte Inconnue (Study on an Unknown Map).
Gravier subtitled it, La première dressée par Louis Joliet dans 1674 apres son exploration du Mississipi avec P. Jacques Marquette (The first, i.e., map, drawn by Louis Joliet in 1674 after his exploration of the Mississippi with P. Jacques Marquette).

(Note: Although eminently controversial and exciting no small cognitive dissonance, there is no 17th Century authentic contemporaneous evidence that Marquette was ever on a Mississippi exploration voyage. The first person Jacques Marquette account as published in 1681 by Thevenot, has been shown to be a deceitful attribution by Marquette's superior, Claude Dablon, after the former had died.The only evidence of Marquette's participation in a 1673 Mississippi voyage is that which was "discovered" in 1844, evidence in the company of the fake Marquette Map.

Returning to the Jolliet map, believing it to be authentic, some historical commentaries on the Jolliet Map map were by:

Gabriel Gravier, see above, 1880.
Gravier understood the map to have been drawn by Jolliet, himself, in 1674.

Ernest Gagnon, in Louis Jolliet, 1902.
Gagnon understood the map to have been drawn, also, by Jolliet, himself, in 1674.

Jean Delanglez, in Mid-America, "The Jolliet Lost Map of the Mississippi", 1946. Delanglez understood the map to have been drawn by a Jolliet acquaintance in 1674 from a Jolliet original, under Jolliet's supervision.

Lucien Campeau, in Les Cahiers des dix, "Les Cartes relatives à la découverte du Mississipi par le P. Jacques Marquette et Louis Jolliet", in 1992. Campeau understood the map to have been drawn also by Jolliet, himself, in 1675, with the help of a newly arrived Marquette map from the western missions.

David Allen, map historian, seemed, ten-plus years ago, to be the only person prior to the current writer who doubted the authenticity of the Jolliet map. His doubt was registered on the Map History Fakes Page. The current writer had, at that time, discussed the Jolliet map with Allen. His doubts were based on an acadeimic's informed inferrence, not on anything specific.


The Real 17th Century Jolliet Map

There is good evidence from primary sources that Jolliet did in fact draw a map in 1674 when he returned from his exploration toward the "South Sea". If the map that was discovered in 1879 is not authentic, a likely candidate for the actual map he drew is a never-before published map in the Ayer Collection at the Newberry Library.

Right, the probable actual map Jolliet drew in 1674. The Randin Map, left, shows the region, La Frontenacie, also reproduced on several maps at the time. A few years later, when Jolliet was rewarded for his discoveries, it was not for any mention of the Mississippi, but rather, for this area, the country of the Illinois (tribes).


This area, the country of the Illinois, is that for which he was rewarded with the seigneury of Antcosti Island....

"...and in consideration of the discovery that the said Sieur Jolliet made of the country of the Illinois, of which he gave us the plan [map sketch]...


the 1673 Mississippi River expedition was to find the discharge of the Mississippi into the Pacific Ocean, NOT the Gulf of Mexico.

Extract of a letter of Comte de Frontenac (Governor of New France) to M. Colbert (the King's Minister in France), November 1672:

M. Talon [Intendant, senior official with the governor, in Canada] judged it expedient for the service [of the King] to send Sieur Jolliet to discover [explore toward] the South Sea by way of the Maskoutens [tribe west of Green Bay] and [by way of] the great river called the Mississippi, that is believed to discharge into the Sea of California. He is very knowledgeable in these sorts of explorations and has already been near this great river, of which he promises to learn of its discharge (trans. CJW).

The translation of the same Frontenac letter in the Documentary History of the State of New York, Vol 9., p. 92, is misleading:

He [Talon] has likewise judged it expedient for the service to send Sieur Joliet to the country of the Maskouteins, to discover the South Sea, and the Great River they call the Mississippi, which is supposed to discharge itself into the Sea of California...

The impression to the English reader is that the Mississippi is part of that which is to be discovered, rather than the means by which its discharge into the Sea of California is to be accomplished.

In addition to historians not having recognized the historical deceit of the map, they have collectively made the considerable blunder of conflating the Mer de Sud (South Sea) with the Gulf of Mexico. The South Sea is the Pacific Ocean.