Sign In

- Or use -
Forgot Password Create Account

The British Isles in Roman Times including Hadrian's Wall

Nice example of Nicolas Sanson's second map of the British Isles during Classical Antiquity, published in Paris at the auspices of the Roberts family.

The map illustrates the British Isles during the Romano-British Period, prior to the decline of Rome's control over the region.  It includes the ancient tribes of Britain and early roads in England.

Hadrian's wall is clearly shown.


The map is very rare on the market. OCLC lists four institutional examples, in the Beinecke and Newberry Libraries, the BNF, and the Spanish National Library. We are aware of only one further example in private hands. This is the first time we have handled the map.

The map is unlisted in Mary Pedley's Bel et Utile, a study of the Roberts publishing family. This plate appeared in only a single state, one of the six plates prepared by the Sanson family to include the title "Britanniae Insulae."

Gilles Robert de Vaugondy Biography

Gilles Robert de Vaugondy (1688-1766) was the head of a leading family of geographers in eighteenth century France. Gilles got his start when he jointly inherited the shop of Pierre-Moullart Sanson, grandson of the famous geographer Nicholas Sanson. The inheritance included the business, its stock of plates, and a roller press. In 1760 Gilles became geographer to King Louis XV. His son, Didier Robert de Vaugondy (ca. 1723-1786), was also a geographer and the two worked together. They were known for their exactitude and depth of research. In 1757, they produced the Atlas Universel, considered an authority for many years.

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.