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2. Image scanned from a 4 x 5" transparency of a copy held by the National
Archives of Canada. Contact National Archives of Canada for reproduction
Nova Francia acurata delineatio (western sheet), 1657
Father Bressani was a missionary to the Huron Indians, who lived near Lake Huron in modern Canada. In the course of his activities he was captured by the Mohawk Indians and taken to their villages near Albany, where he was horribly tortured and mutilated. Rescued by the Dutch, he managed to escape with the loss of several fingers, and returned to his missionary activities in Canada.
Eventually Father Bressani retired to Italy, where he published a brief history of the Jesuit missions in Canada (1653). His map of New France was probably engraved for publication with the book, but it was not actually included in the book. Only a few copies exist.
Bressani's map provides a good overview of the extent of French knowledge of North America around 1650. It is best known for its careful depiction of Huronia, but it also shows that the French had acquired by this time a fairly good overall picture of the geography of western New York. Lake Oneida, the Finger Lakes, and the Iroquois villages can easily be recognized. Even the edge of the Alleghany Plateau and the headwaters of the Ohio River are shown.
The iconography of this map is also remarkable. It contains a number of accurate drawings of American Indians going about their daily activities, including a Canadian Algonkian hunting a moose on snowshoes, and women preparing food and tending children. It is also a brilliant example of a propaganda map. The "barbarous" activities of unconverted Indians are contrasted with they image of praying Indians at the upper-left corner of the map. The map thus makes a powerful appeal for support of the Jesuit missions.
Burden, Mapping of North America, no. 323
Heidenreich and Dahl, The French Mapping of North America, 1600-1760.Return to Table of Contents