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Saint Pierre and Miquelon: Plan de L’Ile de Saint Pierre au Sud de Terre-Neuve Levé en 1793 par le Sr. Fortin Ingénieur Géographe, et Publié au Dépôt Général des Cartes, Plans et Journaux de la Marine Pour le service des Vaisseaux du Roi Sous le Ministèr


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A highly detailed map based on survery by Fortin and published by Dépôt Général de la Marine (the maritime chart printing office of the French government) in the year of the Treaty of Paris, which put an end to the Seven Years’ War, shows the island St. Pierre & Miquelon, located off the southern coast of Newfoundland. 


In 1763, Britain had won the Seven Years’ War, however, the Treaty of Paris compelled Britain to cede the tiny islands of St. Pierre & Miquelon to France and to provide the French with limited fishing rights along Newfoundland’s shores and the adjacent Grand Banks.  The Newfoundland fishery was then big business, in fact, it was annually worth nearly as much as Virginia’s tobacco crop, which was Britain’s largest single source of revenue from British North American colonies.  The British had an imperative to properly manage the fishery (and limit French activities to strictly what was conceded in the Treaty), the problem was, all existing charts of Newfoundland’s coasts were wildly inaccurate. 


That year, Admiral Thomas Graves, the Governor of Newfoundland, appointed Lt. James Cook (1728-79) to survey the shores of Newfoundland and southern Labrador.  Cook had already won acclaim for his masterly chart of the St. Lawrence River that was used by the British fleet to successfully besiege Quebec City in 1759.  However, given the ferocious weather and the exceptional cragginess of Newfoundland’s shores, this would prove to be a dramatically more difficult assignment.  Fortunately, Cook was assisted by Michael Lane (fl. 1763-84), a highly competent surveyor who refined his skills to the highest levels under Cook’s mentorship. Cook’s survey of St. Pierre & Miquelon was made in 1764.


In 1763, the same year as the Fortin’s map was published, Dépôt Général de la Marine issued a copy of this map, signed by J. N. Bellin. 


Not much is known about Fortin, however it is possible that he was the same person who made manuscript maps of the fortifications of the French colonies in the Caribbean, hled in the Bibliotheque Nationale (http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b53033099x.r=fortinhttp://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b84937249.r=fortin.…)


Fortin’s map of St. Pierre & Miquelon is very rare. We cold only trace a few copies in the institutions.


References: Voyage fait par ordre du roi en 1771 et 1772 en diverses parties de …, Vol. 2, 1778, p. 226.

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Place and Year