Catalog Archive
Auction 174, Lot 791

Decorative French Atlas with Elaborate Borders

"Atlas General Methodique et Elementaire, pour l'Etude de la Geographie et de l'Histoire Moderne...", Desnos, Louis Charles

Subject: Atlases

Period: 1770 (published)


Color: Hand Color

12.8 x 16.8 inches
32.5 x 42.7 cm
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This complete French atlas contains 59 double-page maps that are surrounded by elaborate rococo borders. Each map is flanked by panels of related text that were printed from a separate plate. Although not all of the maps are dated, most bear a date of 1766. There are 7 plates showing globes, armillary spheres, and diagrams of the planets, the winds, the earth and more. There are maps of the world (3), Europe (30), Asia (4), Africa (3), Americas (4), as well as 15 regional maps of France. Please see images for the full list of maps.

The double-hemisphere map (dated 1778) of the world features a large Sea of the West and a Northwest Passage in North America, as well as a conjectural shape for Australia. The title and dedication cartouches are tucked between the cusps; the hemispheres are supported on the shoulders of two men bearing clubs. The map of the Americas (dated 1764) is surrounded by sailing ships, some engaged in battle. While the interior of the map contains little cartographic information, the northwest part of North America is quite interesting. A large bay labeled Entrée de Martin d’Aguilar en 1603 indents the coastline, while above that, a river and lake system provide a complex Northwest Passage. Just above this fictitious passage is a notation that the existence of a Sea of the West is questionable. The map of North America covers the majority of the continent, excluding Alaska and southern Mexico. The western region is virtually unknown, but notations are made concerning the recent discoveries along the Northwest coast. The River of the West flows out of Lake Winnipeg, which is connected through a system of rivers and lakes to Hudson Bay, thereby forming the long-sought Northwest Passage. Another spurious river empties into San Francisco Bay and Quivira is located in present day Nevada, but there is no mention of a Sea of the West.

Contents include a decorative title page, foreword, list of maps, and 59 maps. Large folio. Rebacked in quarter leather with original spine label over marbled paper boards with raised bands on spine.


Condition: B+

The maps are very good with some light toning (mostly in the text panels) and occasional offsetting. The first map of France has some soiling and chips in the bottom blank margin. The spine has been rebacked with the original spine label and boards, which are moderately worn along the edges.

Estimate: $4,000 - $4,750

Sold for: $3,250

Closed on 9/11/2019