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1793 Manuscript Pocket Atlas of the World

[Untitled Manuscript Pocket Atlas] - Main View

1793 Manuscript Pocket Atlas of the World


Beautifully Executed Manuscript Atlas.


[Untitled Manuscript Pocket Atlas]
  1793 (undated)     5 x 4 in (12.7 x 10.16 cm)


This is a beautifully-executed late 18th manuscript pocket atlas of the world. It is a student work - similar to later, 19th century 'schoolgirl' or 'schoolboy' maps - but has been produced with an unusual level of uniformity and care, and it has been attractively bound. The maps, all done in the same hand, are painstakingly drawn and lettered, and have been carefully and attractively illuminated in original hand color. While we generally associate this form with 19th century British and American students, this example is the work of a late 18th or early 19th century French student - or possibly more than one, as some place name notations appear in a different hand, and possibly at a later date than either of the source maps.
The Sources
Students of history and geography, well into the 19th century, were expected to be able to digest and reproduce the work of authorities in the field; the process of producing fair copies of a map taught not only geography and history but also geometry, mathematics, penmanship, and the values attendant to the careful production of a beautiful object. Students would use, as the basis of their maps, whatever general or student atlases were made available to them.

In the present work, fifteen of the seventeen maps are reduced and slightly simplified versions of the maps of Brion de la Tour's 1774 Atlas et Tables Élémentaires de Géographie. Two of the maps, however - the British Isles, and a map showing the directions of prevailing winds and monsoons around the globe - appear to have been sourced from the 1793 Bonne Atlas Portatif.
The Contents
In addition to the world map and the continents, the atlas contains maps of France, Spain, Italy, and the British Isles; three maps cover parts of Germany
  1. Mappemonde. (The world map, in double-hemispheres) The map's detail suggests that it was informed by the first Cook voyage of 1768-71, though the explorer is nowhere named (this is also true of the Brion map upon which this one is based).
  2. L'Europe. (Europe, on a conic projection, from Iceland to Russia). Borders are outlined in red and green, barring the borders between the parts of Germany, which are lined in brown. Rivers and major lakes are painted in a delicate blue, with mountains shown pictorially in grey. The neat draftsmanship and lettering on this map is matched in format and quality throughout the atlas.
  3. L'Asie. (Asia and the Spice Islands, with part of Australia and New Guinea.) Russia is shown extending to encompass Kamchatka. Part of North America appears across the Sea of Kamchatka. The Great Wall of China is marked but unnamed.
  4. L'Afrique. (Africa.) Although not abandoning ancient geographical notions (such as the source of the Nile in the Mountains of the Moon) the map focuses on French colonial activity: the Senegal and Gambia rivers are shown; the Niger appears although its source and mouth are undetermined. Madagascar - long a French stronghold - appears with the Isles de France and de Bourbon.
  5. Amérique méridionale. (South America) General colonial divisions - New Granada, Guyana, Peru, Paraguay Chile and Brazil are named. The cities of Lima and Potosi are named. The course of the Amazon is marked to include its Peruvian headwaters in the Maragnon.
  6. Amérique Septentrionale. (North America, with an inset of the Windward Islands) In faithfully following the 1774 Brion de la Tour, this map is reproducing a remarkably conservative view of North American geography. The Pacific Northwest is based on the mapping of Gerhard Friedrich Müller, which was state-of-the-art in 1754. By the time Brion's map was produced, Buache and De l'Isle's Mer de l'Ouest was in vogue; no hint of this appears here beyond its possible precursor in Müller's Riviere de l'ouest. Political boundaries, too, are retrograde. This map reproduces Brion's meager delineation of New England, and his extremely generous Louisiane. Despite this map's probable execution well after the 1783 Treaty of Paris, there is no indication here of the passage of the American Revolution nor the birth of the United States.
  7. La France divisée en tous ses gouvernem's. (France) Although it does not quite live up to its title in showing all of France's governmental regions, this is (perhaps unsurprisingly) the most detailed of the country maps appearing in the atlas, displaying accurately and naming more rivers and mountains, and including a much greater array of place names. These are made surprisingly legible by the artist's ingenious use of varying shades of color in his lettering, in some cases only lightly pencilling them in (to be fair it may be the case that these last were assed in haste, and not inked in.)
  8. L'Espagne et le Portugal. (Spain and Portugal) Detailed to rival the France map, this map is further enhanced with a wee little ship, off the coast of Valencia. A faint line suggests a course leading from Oran, hinting that this may be a Barbary Corsair - is this indeed meant to be a pirate ship? It is, alas, too small to sport an identifying flag.
  9. l'Italie. (Italy, with an inset of southern Sicily and the Tunisian coast.) Among the features of this charming map of Italy are several of southern Italy and Sicily's volcanos. Vesuvius appears and is named. An island volcano marked 'Volcan' corresponds with the position of Stromboli. Sicily's Mount Etna is here named 'Mt. Gibel,' which derives from the Sicilian 'Mungibeddu' or the Italian Mongibello - the name now referring to the area of Mount Etna containing the two central craters. The name Mongibel also appears in Arthurian romance as the otherworldly lair of Morgan le Fay.
  10. I. carte d'Allemagne comprenant les cercles de Westphalia du haut e du bas Rhin avec les pays bas Autrichiens et les Provinces unies. (Northeastern Germany, Belgium and The Netherlands)
  11. La hongrie et la Turquie d'Europe avec Partie de la Turq. Asia. (Hungary, Greece and the Balkans, Asia Minor and the Black Sea.) It's not at all clear why our student breaks the order of maps here, as presented in the Brion de la Tour. Perhaps the lectures occurred in a different order? Perhaps the maps came to the binder shuffled? Here, at any rate, the trio of Germany maps has this map of Ottoman territories in Europe interposed. The student artist excels, with especially fine penning of the rivers and mountains, and another minuscule sailing ship prowling the Black Sea.
  12. III. carte d'Allemagne comprenant les cercles de Baviere d'Autriche et de Soube avec la Suisse. (Southern Germany, Austria, Switzerland.) The Swiss Alps and the Jura are particularly attractively depicted here. Mount St. Gothard is singled out, (as it is in the 1774 Brion,) perhaps because it was the location of the Urnerloch, the first road tunnel to be built in the Alps. In Austria, and in a different hand than the neat calligraphy that is seen on the rest of the map, is the place name 'Wagram.' (see below)
  13. II. Carte d'Allemagne Comprenant les cercles de Franconie, de basse Saxe, et de haute Saxe avec les etats de Boheme. (Northeastern Germany, Silesia, Bohemia and Moravia.) In Moravia, Austerlitz has been included, in the same hand as 'Wagram' on the previous map. (see below)
  14. L'Angleterre L'Ecosse et L'Irlande. (The British Isles) The Brion de la Tour, for whatever reason, lacked a British Isles map; the unnamed creator of this atlas was compelled to find another source, and the formats and contents of this map and that of the final 'winds and monsoons' map most conform to the corresponding maps in the Rigobert Bonne 1793 Atlas Portatif. This is a much-simplified version of the map, executed to the same level of detail (and the same level of care) as the rest of the atlas.
  15. I. carte Pour la lecture de l'ancien et du nouveau Testament. (The Eastern Mediterranean, Egypt and the Fertile Crescent)
  16. La judée / II. Carte Pour la lecture del'ancien et du nouveau testament. (The Holy Land, with an inset plan of Jerusalem with the Temple of David)This map, intended to support study of the Bible, is centered on the Holy Land and shows Asia Minor, the Eastern Mediterranean, Egypt, part of northern Arabia, and what is now Iraq and western Iran. Interestingly, although Jerusalem is not marked, Babylon is, along with many place names in Asia Minor and the Fertile Crescent.
  17. Carte de la direction des Vents Généraux et des Moussons. (map showing equatorial prevailing winds and the South Asian monsoons.) This map shows the oceans of the world between the two tropics and centered on the equator; the upper part focuses on the eastern hemisphere, from Africa to Australia and the western Pacific Ocean. The lower part shows the middle and eastern Pacific Ocean, South America and the South Atlantic. The map shows the prevailing directions of global winds, and the directions and seasons of the monsoons in both southern Asia and on the coast of Brazil.
Napoleonic Additions
For the most part, throughout the atlas, the unknown student adhered to the source maps of 1774 and 1793 - sometimes omitting detail for clarity, but not adding it, save in the occasional nautical flourish, with two exceptions. On cartes II. and III. d'Allemagne, the place names 'Austerlitz' and 'Wagram' have been added. Neither appear on the original Brion de la Tour maps, and in both cases, other place names present on the source maps have been omitted. So why Austerlitz? Why Wagram?

Both names appear in a different, less formal hand than the neat calligraphy which characterizes the rest of the work. Neither location was of particular importance or consequence at all - until the Napoleonic Wars, in which each place would be the site of a crucial French victory: the 1805 Battle of Austerlitz, also known as the Battle of Three Emperors, and the costly French 1809 victory of the Battle of Wagram, which marked the end of the War of the Fifth Coalition. Especially as the handwriting for these names appears nowhere else in the atlas, we suspect these notations to be those of a different student than who executed the work: perhaps even a son; if the book were completed near the 1793 date of the Bonne maps, sixteen years pass before the battle of Wagram.


Louis Brion de la Tour (1743 - 1803) was the Cartographer Royal to the King of France, his official title being Ingenieur-Geographe du Roi. Despite a prolific cartographic career and several important atlases to his name, little is actually known of his life and career. He may have been born in Bordeaux. His son of the same name was born in 1763 and published until his death in 1832. It is nearly impossible to distinguish the work of the father from the work of the son, as both used the same imprint and were active in roughly the same period. Much of their work was published in partnership Louis Charles Desnos (fl. 1750 - 1790). Their most notable work is generally regarded to be his 1766 Atlas General. More by this mapmaker...

Rigobert Bonne (October 6, 1727 - September 2, 1794) was one of the most important French cartographers of the late 18th century. Bonne was born in Ardennes à Raucourt, France. He taught himself mathematics and by eighteen was a working engineer. During the War of the Austrian Succession (1740 - 1748) he served as a military engineer at Berg-op-Zoom. It the subsequent years Bonne became one of the most respected masters of mathematics, physics, and geography in Paris. In 1773, Bonne succeeded Jacques-Nicolas Bellin as Royal Cartographer to France in the office of the Hydrographer at the Depôt de la Marine. Working in his official capacity, Bonne compiled some of the most detailed and accurate maps of the period - most on an equal-area projection known erroneously as the 'Bonne Projection.' Bonne's work represents an important step in the evolution of the cartographic ideology away from the decorative work of the 17th and early 18th century towards a more scientific and practical aesthetic. While mostly focusing on coastal regions, the work of Bonne is highly regarded for its detail, historical importance, and overall aesthetic appeal. Bonne died of edema in 1794, but his son Charles-Marie Rigobert Bonne continued to publish his work well after his death. Learn More...


Very good. Small calfskin octavo, gold embossed on spine. Seventeen maps, pen and ink with original hand color. Some minor splits at folds, upper and lower margins close, some trimming. Spine cracked and corners worn, with some worming within binding not affecting images.