A Multi-Purpose Map of France. Custom Colored in One of Six Ways to Represent Various Political Divisions.
A rare and under-appreciated map of France, hand-colored to show the jurisdictions of exchequers' offices at the height of Louis XIV's power.
While maps from this period are oftentimes ambiguous regarding what is delimited by the publisher's coloring scheme, Moullart-Sanson's map is forthright. In the cartouche, in the lower left, a list of different boundaries that the map can be used to show is listed. Of them, only a single is highlighted: "Les Chambres des Comptes." Other copies of the map have a different coloring scheme, which can be colored to show other political boundaries, including the Estates General, provincial governments, and military boundaries.
These colored boundaries are not straightforward. Only that of the Estates General follows the printed boundaries on the map. All of the others follow a different set of contours, amalgamating some of the Estates General and bifurcating others.
Mapping the political boundaries of France in the late 17th and early 18th centuries was important as this was a time of change regarding the customary sharing of power. While the historic decentralization of power had previously led to some power being vested in the hands of the Estates General and Parlements, the growth of monarchical power under Louis XIV led to the decline of these institutions. The military divisions and Chambres des Comptes (exchequer's offices) would have retained their importance.
The map is heavily influenced by the Louis XIV period in other ways. The title names the "conquests" of France referring to the ever-changing borders on the northeast of the country, which saw some expansion during the period of Louis XIV. Interestingly, these new territories have been incorporated into some of the political divisions (e.g., the Parlements), but not others (e.g., the Chambre des Comptes).
A Note on the Color Schemes
This map was acquired alongside three other examples of the map, each showing different color schemes:
In addition, there are two additional color schemes.
Between states of the map, the color schemes are known to change. This appears to reflect changing political boundaries and the growth of the French state. For example, this map can be compared with the 1704 edition of the Chambres des Comptes.
We have been able to identify the map as existing in four states:
- First state: Dated "Revue et mis au jour en 1695"
- Second state: Date updated to 1704.
- Third state: Date and address erased (this example). The date that appears to be erased is 1704 and the date address that appears to be erased is "aux Galleries du Louvre."
- Fourth state: A second address provided: "Chez l'auteur, cloistre de St. Nicolas du Louvre, 1705."
The BNF cataloging and digitization for this map is limited which hinders a full study of states. They may have an additional state that bears a 1697 date.
The only complete sets that we have been able to locate are at the BNF (which holds ten copies of the map) and at the Stanford Rumsey Map Collection (albeit in different states than offered here).
We have been able to locate a copy of the printed map with different coloring schemes at the Beinecke and at Princeton, but, importantly, neither of these appear to be complete sets. We have also located a reference to an example in the British Library Map Room. The map will exist in additional institutional holdings in composite atlases.