Collection MSG 1332 - Jean Bourdon plans collection

Title and statement of responsibility area

Title proper

Jean Bourdon plans collection

General material designation

  • Cartographic material

Parallel title

Other title information

Plans of the first French settlements on the Saint Lawrence, 1635-1642

Title statements of responsibility

Title notes

  • Variations in title: Ten unknown manuscript maps of Canada, 1635
  • Source of title proper: Title based on content of the collection.

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Edition area

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Edition statement of responsibility

Class of material specific details area

Statement of scale (cartographic)

Various scales

Statement of projection (cartographic)

Statement of coordinates (cartographic)

Statement of scale (architectural)

Issuing jurisdiction and denomination (philatelic)

Dates of creation area


  • between approximately 1635-1642 (Creation)
    Bourdon, Jean, 1601 or 1602-1668

Physical description area

Physical description

10 maps : paper ; 35 x 47 cm and smaller (on sheet 42 x 54 cm)

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Archival description area

Name of creator

(1601 or 1602-1668)

Biographical history

Jean Baptiste Bourdon (sometimes called M. de Saint-Jean or Sieur de Saint-François) was born c. 1601 at Saint-André-le-Vieil in Rouen, Normandy, France.

He was a seigneur, the first engineer-in-chief and land-surveyor in the colony of New France, cartographer, businessman, procurator-syndic of the village of Quebec, head clerk of the Communauté des Habitants, explorer, and the first attorney-general of the Conseil Superieur. He arrived in the colony in 1634 and settled on the outskirts of Quebec, on the Sainte-Geneviève hill. In 1639, governor Huault made him a commoner’s land grant of 50 acres that he had named “terre Saint-Jean.” He built a mill and a chapel where his friend Jean Le Sueur was to officiate. Bourdon received several other seigneuries in return for his services, e.g., the Rivière au Griffon seigneury, the seigneury of Autray, the seigneury of Dombourg (an anagram of Bourdon), which was situated at the spot now called Pointe-aux-Trembles, and the seigneury of La Malbaie. He lived on the Saint-Jean fief and carried on his profession as an engineer and surveyor. In 1641-42, he drew up a detailed map of the region between Quebec and Cap Tourmente, including the Île d’Orléans. In 1645, he was appointed acting governor of Trois-Rivières. In 1647, he was elected procurator-syndic of the town of Quebec, and then the governor appointed him head clerk of the Communauté des Habitants. In 1663, he became attorney-general and occupied this office until 1668.

In 1635, he married Jacqueline Potel (1620-1645), and in 1655, he remarried Anne Gasnier (1611-1698). He died on January 12, 1668, in Quebec City.

Custodial history

Previously held in a private collection in Switzerland before being sold to a New York-based bookdealer and acquired by McGill Library in 1956.

Scope and content

The collection consists of 10 ink manuscript maps and plans on paper, some hand-coloured, depicting the earliest settlements and fortifications at Montreal and Quebec City. The earliest dated document is a plan of the fort of Quebec and is dated 1635. The earliest document in the collection depicting Montreal is believed to date back to 1642. The maps and plans were prepared by Jean Bourdon, seigneur and surveyor for the French colony. Included in the collection is a plan of the earliest Fort Richelieu of which nothing had previously been known. There are also detail drawings of riverside fortifications, probably near Montreal.

Notes area

Physical condition

Maps are pasted onto larger paper sheets, which show evidence of having been removed from a bound volume (including pagination).

Immediate source of acquisition


Language of material

  • French

Script of material

Location of originals

Availability of other formats

Facsimile copy at the McGill Library Rare Books and Special Collections. (see library catalogue record).

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Terms governing use, reproduction, and publication

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Accompanying material

With envelope of photocopies and CD of digital surrogates.

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Standard number

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