The "French Empire" in 1637
A rare and intriguing 1637 map of France by Melchior Tavernier, presenting an early depiction of the country with an unusual use of the term "Empire," which would not be officially adopted until the time of Napoleon.
Melchior Tavernier (1594-1665) was a renowned French cartographer, engraver, and publisher based in Paris. His early map of France provides an insight into the political and geographical landscape of the country during the 17th century. The use of the title "L'Empire Francois" is particularly noteworthy, as it predates the establishment of the French Empire under Napoleon Bonaparte by nearly two centuries. At the time of the map's creation, France was a kingdom, making Tavernier's choice of terminology a fascinating point of discussion.
The map's details include rivers, cities, and regional boundaries, with an emphasis on accuracy and comprehensiveness. A note from the creator to the reader acknowledges the inclusion of additional names of rivers and cities in Flemish and German, translated into French, as well as the intention to correct any errors in future editions. The map also features a legend explaining the symbols used to represent various ecclesiastical and political divisions, such as archbishoprics, chamber of counts, parliaments, and court of money.
This exceptional 1637 map by Melchior Tavernier offers a valuable glimpse into the geography, politics, and linguistic landscape of France during a significant period in its history. Its unusual title and attention to detail make it an important piece for collectors and enthusiasts of cartographic and French history.
It is apparent that the author's note to his readers has been reengraved at some point.
Melchior Tavernier was a member of a large family involved in the publishing trade in Paris in the early years of the seventeenth century. Early in his career, he apparently collaborated with Henricus Hondius, as at least one of his early maps references Tavernier as the seller of a map engraved in Amsterdam, by Hondius. He is probably best known for his publication of a map of the Post Roads of France, which was copied many times until the end of the century. He also issued an atlas under the same title as J. le Clerc's Theatre Geographique, using many of Le Clerc's maps, but incorporating others from different sources. He published composite atlases and also published works for other cartographers, including N. Sanson, N. Tassin, and P. Bertius. He is not to be confused with his nephew of the same name (1594-1665), who also engraved maps for Nicolas Sanson.