Magnificent Atlas reveals the Riches of Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec’s Cartographic Collections

by NationTalk on October 29, 2007972 Views

MONTREAL, Oct. 29 – Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec (BAnQ) announces the publication of a superb work that revisits the history of North America. Jointly published with Septentrion under the title Mapping a Continent: Historical Atlas of North America, 1492-1814, the work is an invitation to discover the riches of BAnQ’s cartographic collections. Mapping a Continent goes on sale October 30 at the Boutique of the Grand Bibliothèque and on BAnQ’s portal. It tells the story of the daunting quest for cartographic knowledge that occupied coureurs de bois, missionaries, navigators, soldiers and academic geographers from the first contacts between Europeans and Amerindians to the major expeditions across the continent at the dawn of the 19th century. Seeking not only a passage to China, but also fish, furs and precious metals, the explorers paddled rivers, made portages, trekked through forests and, with the help of the Amerindians, unlocked the secrets of a true terra incognita. Written by Jean-François Palomino, map librarian at BAnQ, and historians Raymonde Litalien and Denis Vaugeois, the work outlines the history of the continent and its cartographic representation. Featuring about 40 chapters on subjects as varied as Amerindian cartography, Acadia, North American place names, the Northwest Passage, the hydrography of the St. Lawrence, and England’s conquest of Canada, Mapping a Continent is superbly illustrated with some 200 old maps and prints, taken for the most part from BAnQ’s collections but also from several other famous collections from Canada, the United States and Europe.

The atlas has notably benefited from the participation of the Bibliothèque nationale de France, which holds some of the most beautiful cartographic treasures of New France. At once a reference work and a collector’s item, Mapping a Continent also includes very useful indexes on place names and the aboriginal presence in North America.

“BAnQ, at once a keeper of Québec’s memory in all its forms and in all media, a major distributor of historical, scientific and literary culture, and a burgeoning virtual library, has found in this work a complement to the diversity of its efforts.” These words from the preface to the work Lise Bissonnette, Chair and Chief Executive Office of BAnQ, show just how seriously BAnQ takes its mission of collecting Québec heritage and making it available to all, as well as those of promoting research on its collections and contributing to the advancement of knowledge about them. Released in time for the 400th anniversary of Québec City, Mapping a Continent is a reminder of the vital role played by that city in transmitting geographic knowledge. Indeed, it will be the main supporting document of the exhibition Ils ont cartographié l’Amérique, a major event to be presented at BAnQ’s Grande Bibliothèque from February to September 2008.

Mapping a Continent: Historical Atlas of North America, 1492-1814 (cloth with dust jacket, 300 pages, colour throughout with index and bibliography) will be on sale for $89 at the Boutique of the Grande Bibliothèque ( – Montréal region: 514 873-1101, ext. 3424 – toll-free, elsewhere in Québec: 1 800 363-9028, ext. 3424) and in bookstores throughout Québec. The book is available in its original French version, La mesure d’un continent : atlas historique de l’Amérique du Nord, 1492-1814. The English version was translated by Kdthe Roth and jointly published with McGill-Queen’s University Press.

About BAnQ’s collections of maps and plans

Spread among several buildings, BAnQ’s collections of maps and plans are among the most complete on the Québec of yesterday and today. Eloquently documenting Québec-related cartographic production, these collections are brimming with documents: tourism maps, fire insurance maps, geological maps, topographic maps, cadastral maps, hydrographic maps, settlement maps, military maps, land use plans and much, much more. Many old maps reproduced in Mapping a Continent are now available in the all new digital collection entitled America, 1500-1800, available on BAnQ’s portal (

About BAnQ

Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec (BAnQ) is a cultural institution whose mission is to acquire, preserve and disseminate the publications, archival documents and films constituting Québec and Québec-related documentary heritage. BAnQ also offers all Quebecers free access- on site, on the Internet and through interlibrary loan- to vast universal collections and to the services of a major public library. BAnQ encompasses the Grande Bibliothèque, a preservation centre (Centre de conservation) and nine archives centres in Montréal, Québec City, Gatineau, Rimouski, Rouyn-Noranda, Saguenay, Sept-Iles, Sherbrooke and Trois-Rivières.

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For further information: Geneviève Dubuc, Direction des communications et des relations publiques, Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec, (514) 873-1101, ext. 3165,

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