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Maps of Canada

Italian mapmakers Giacomo Gastaldi and Paolo Forlani were some of the first European cartographers to use the place name Canada on maps. In 1577, printmaker Mario Cartero created a wooden table globe based on the work of Gastaldi. Cartero’s globe is the first printed and mass-produced globe to show a named Canada.

French and British explorers returned 60 years after the creation of Cartero's globe to do a deeper search of the upper region of North America. New maps of Canada were created when the French erected a fur-trading post and established a government in the name of Louis XIV of France. The explorer Samuel de Champlain personally drew a chart on vellum for presentation to the king based on his own observations, mathematical calculations, and interviews with natives. The 1607 map is complete in terms of the coastline, rivers, and offshore islands of the Canadian east coast. Champlain added symbols for forests, hills, shoals, French settlements, and Native American villages to the chart. A copy of Champlain’s map is held by the Library of Congress.

Not to be outdone by French competition, the English Hudson Bay Company employed surveyors and mappers to explore the region. English surveyor Philip Turnor was the first to create reliable topographical maps of Manitoba. A map of upper Canada including its settlements, townships, and adjacent countries was prepared for the British crown by surveyor David William Smyth in 1800. Several variations followed, and in the '20s and '30s, most of the remote regions of Canada were mapped aerially.

Quick Facts

  • An 1831 rare immigration map of British Canada by Joseph Bouchette sold for $12,250 at a Dorothy Sloan rare books auction in 2013
  • A hand-drawn 1699 map of New France, Nova Britannia, and other North American colonies by English mapmaker John Thornton sold for $318,000 in 2011 at Lawrence Fine Art in Somerset after being found rolled up at a Scottish estate
  • "Les Voyages du Sieur de Champlain" complete with Champlain’s detailed maps of the coastline sold at Bloomsbury Auctions for $780,000 in 2009

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