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Stock# 105348

Unique Compilation of Sanson's Five Kingdoms Atlas

The present atlas focuses on the "Five Kingdoms," being the British Isles, Spain (with Portugal), France, Italy, and the "Germany" (the Holy Roman Empire).  The atlas consists of 4 maps of each Kingdom, each colored to illustrate different geopolitical boundaries within the Kingdoms.

This is an interesting variant presentation of the first publication by Nicolas Sanson with Pierre Mariette, in 1644, shortly after the latter had acquired Melchior Tavernier's geographical stock. The maps, which show different configurations of Great Britain, France, Italy, Spain, and Germany, had been published separately by Tavernier.

The text, or treatise, called for on the title page and by Pastoureau (but not present here) was certainly ready for some time, as Didier Robert de Vaugondy writes: "Le Traicté des cinq royaumes [...] accompagné des itinéraires de Ptolémée et de tables, fut le fruit de la tranquillité dont [Sanson] jouissait dans sa province" (Essai sur l'histoire de la géographie, page 215).

Variant Edition

In Sanson VIII, Pastoureau describes the 1644 edition as the first. Somewhat confusingly, she calls for 25 maps in the collation but goes on to list 50 in the detailed enumeration. Three of the four institutional copies listed lack maps (BnF, Nantes Municipal Library, and Toulouse Municipal Library).

The book calls for 50 maps (a set of five modern maps and five ancient maps for each of the five kingdoms.) In the example described by Pastoureau there are pastedown titles used to differentiate the various configurations. In the present example, these pastedowns are not present and show no evidence of having been present. Thus, we have four examples of the same copperplate, with variations in the borders shown by the original hand-color.

There are some variations in the states of the copper-plates compared with what is called for by Pastoureau. In the set of British Isles map, the first in the sequence is from an earlier state than the three that follow (Imprint reading: "Par Melchior Tavernier Idrographe & graveur Ordre du Roy pour les Cartes geographiques & Autres Tailles douces demeurant en Liste du Palais sur le Quay que Regarde la Megisserie a la Sphere Royalle" versus "...Cartes geographuqes Et a present chez Pierre Mariette rue St. Jacques a l'Esperance".

The presence of this pre-Mariette state of the map might have indicated an early, perhaps unfinished, iteration of the atlas, however, later in the atlas there are later states of the maps of Germany than called for by Pastoureau (1645 versus 1642).


The atlas is very rare on the market.  We were unable to locate a complete example offered for sale at auction or RBH.  We note an example lacking 3 map which was offered for sale in 2017 in Switzerland. 

Condition Description
Folio. Contemporary limp vellum. [iv] pages, 20 double-page engraved maps, all of which in original outline hand-color. Contemporary manuscript annotations on the table of contents enumerate only the 20 maps present here (of 50 total), which is strictly speaking incomplete but was evidently intended this way by the publisher.
See Pastoureau Sanson VIII.
Nicolas Sanson Biography

Nicholas Sanson (1600-1667) is considered the father of French cartography in its golden age from the mid-seventeenth century to the mid-eighteenth. Over the course of his career he produced over 300 maps; they are known for their clean style and extensive research. Sanson was largely responsible for beginning the shift of cartographic production and excellence from Amsterdam to Paris in the later-seventeenth century.

Sanson was born in Abbeville in Picardy. He made his first map at age twenty, a wall map of ancient Gaul. Upon moving to Paris, he gained the attention of Cardinal Richelieu, who made an introduction of Sanson to King Louis XIII. This led to Sanson's tutoring of the king and the granting of the title ingenieur-geographe du roi

His success can be chalked up to his geographic and research skills, but also to his partnership with Pierre Mariette. Early in his career, Sanson worked primarily with the publisher Melchior Tavernier. Mariette purchased Tavernier’s business in 1644. Sanson worked with Mariette until 1657, when the latter died. Mariette’s son, also Pierre, helped to publish the Cartes générales de toutes les parties du monde (1658), Sanson' atlas and the first French world atlas.