Scarce early plan of Paris, from De Belleforest's French edition of Sebastian Munster's Cosmographia.
In 1544, the scholar and geographer Sebastian Munster published his Cosmographia, one of the most important an influential works of its type in the16th century In 1575, the Paris publisher Francois de Belleforest issued a French edition of the work which included this spectacular woodcut view of Paris.
Rather than reproducing Munster's view, Belleforest compiled and engraved this much larger scale, more detailed and embellished version, based on his own knowledge of the city, its layout and monuments.
The view gives an excellent understanding of Paris as it appeared in the late 16th century, and it identifies and lists more than a hundred notable sites, including churches, streets, plazas, bridges, notable buildings, and city gates. Among these are the Bastille, then a prison; the Louvre, then a recently inaugurated palace of relatively humble dimensions; the Sorbonne; Nôtre-Dame; Montmartre; St. Sulpice; and many more. The urban developments of Henri IV, such as the building of the Pont-Neuf and the creation of open public spaces like the Place des Vosges and the Place Dauphine, were still several decades away (not to mention the extensive changes to the urban fabric that were to take place under Baron Hausmann in the 19th century, with the imposition of a sweeping system of broad boulevards). Belle-Forest's view is one of the best records of Paris as it was in the Renaissance, before the successive campaigns of urban development would profoundly transform the city into the form it assumes today.
One of best obtainable 16th Century plans of Paris.