Rare original color example of Jean Le Clerc's map of Retelois. This map first appeared in Le Clerc's very rare Theatre du Royaume de France.
The map focuses on the Ardennes region, stretching from Charleville-Mezieres and Sedan in the north to the edge of the Champagne region in the south. The map is attractively designed, with forests and mountains shown pictorially, red highlighting on major cities, and other fine detail. The map is dedicated to Francois de Gonzague, at the time Duke of Rethellois (area shown on the map) and a Lieutenant General for the King in Champagne.
Le Clerc's Theatre sought to complete the project started by Maurice Bougeaurou in his Le Theatre Francoys, considered to be the first national atlas of France. However, Bougeaurou's work was spatially incomplete, as he was unable to get data from large parts of the country. Le Clerc here worked with the surveyor Henri Picart to produce the present map. Since Le Clerc and Bougeaurou used earlier material whenever possible, this means that the present map is likely the earliest detailed work on the region shown.
Jean Le Clerc was an engraver, bookseller and publisher in Paris and Tours.
Le Clerc was baptized on August 16, 1560 in Paris, with the engraver François Desprez (1530–1587) and the painter Jérôme Bollery (1532–1592) as his godfathers. He came from a family of printers and publishers - Jean's younger brother David Le Clerc (1561–1613) and Jean's own son Jean Le Clerc V were both book printers and publishers.
He had proved himself by 1587, at which date he was living and working on Rue Chartière in Paris. For religous reasons, as a Huguenot he fled Paris in 1588 and spent a year elsewhere in France. From 1590 to 1594 he took refuge in Tours, where he worked with the publisher and cartographer Maurice Bouguereau (15??–1596), who created Le Theatre Francoys, the first atlas of France. Le Clerc later worked at several different addresses in Paris - on Rue Saint-Jean-de-Latran until 1610 and then on Rue Saint-Jacques until 1621/24.
Jean Le Clerc's publications included portraits, maps, contemporary news events and other engravings by Jacques Granthomme (1560–1613), Pierre Firens (1580–1636) and Léonard Gaultier (1561–1635). He collaborated with the Dutch printmaker Thomas de Leu (1560–1612) to produce a collection of 179 biblical scenes, allegories, calendar pages and other works, probably published in 1606. They both produced engravings for it themselves as well as using works by Justus Sadeler (1580–1620), Isaac Briot (1585–1670) and Nicolas Briot (1579–1646).
On December 20, 1619 Le Clerc was granted a six-year royal concession to "engrave maps of the provinces of France and portraits of patriarchs and princes of the Hebrew people, with a chronological history". In 1620 he published his Le Théâtre géographique du Royaume de France, including newer plates as well as reworked plates from Bouguereau's work. The new plates were produced by artists such as Jean Fayen (1530–1616), Jodocus Hondius (1563–1612), Salomon Rogiers (1592–1640) and Hugues Picart (1587–1664). It went through several editions and Jean Le Clerc V continued to reissue it after his father's death.