Detailed map of the Ottoman Empire, published by De Vaugondy in Paris.
The map extends to the Black Sea, Georgia, the Caspian, Uzbekistan, The Indian Ocean, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the Red Sea.
The Ottoman Empire was a vast and powerful state that at its height stretched from Eastern Europe to North Africa and included much of the Middle East. In the middle of the 18th century, the empire was facing a number of challenges, both internal and external.
One of the major internal challenges facing the Ottoman Empire at this time was a decline in central authority. The Ottoman sultans had traditionally exercised a great deal of power, but by the mid-18th century, they had become increasingly weakened and isolated. The empire was also facing a crisis of succession, with a number of rival factions vying for control. This political instability had a number of negative consequences, including a decline in the military and economic power of the empire.
Externally, the Ottoman Empire was also facing a number of challenges. The empire was at war with a number of European powers, including Russia and Austria, and was also under threat from the expanding Russian Empire. In addition, the Ottoman Empire was facing a number of rebellions and uprisings within its own borders, as various ethnic and religious groups sought greater autonomy or independence.
Asia Minor is showcased as a major geographical area, the nerve center of the Ottoman Empire or the Grand Seigneur. This region's representation is unmistakable, signaling its central role in the political and cultural life of the empire.
Below Asia Minor lies the Arabian Peninsula, a land of stark contrasts – from fertile coastlines to arid desert interiors. The peninsula's importance in the map underscores its geostrategic significance, given its location between Africa, Asia, and Europe. The Persian Empire, which covers modern Iran and parts of neighboring countries, is meticulously delineated. It highlights the historical presence of this significant regional power.To the east, the map stretches to include Afghanistan and Usbekistan, areas that played critical roles in the Silk Road and other historical trade routes.
Egypt, a cradle of civilization, is depicted as a thin strip of habitation along the Nile. The inclusion of Cyprus further emphasizes the importance of the Mediterranean world in this geographical context. A captivating aspect of the map is the Red Sea's representation, a critical waterway that had been a vital link between the East and the West.
The map's decorative aspect features an allegorical title cartouche, presenting a robed leader sitting on a cushion, possibly an Ottoman sultan, a Persian shah, or an Arab sheikh. The smoking object in front of him could be an incense burner, a common feature in Middle Eastern and Asian cultures, symbolizing hospitality and respect. The figure sits under a canopy topped by a golden crescent, an emblem often associated with Islamic cultures.
Didier Robert de Vaugondy (ca. 1723-1786) was the son of prominent geographer Gilles Robert de Vaugondy and Didier carried on his father’s impressive work. Together, they published their best-known work, the Atlas Universel (1757). The atlas took fifteen years to create and was released in a folio and ¾ folio edition; both are rare and highly sought-after today. Together and individually, father and son were known for their exactitude and depth of research.
Like his father, Didier served as geographer to King Louis XV. He was especially recognized for his skills in globe making; for example, a pair of his globes made for the Marquise de Pompadour are today in the collection of the Municipal Museum of Chartres. Didier was also the geographer to the Duke of Lorraine. In 1773, he was appointed royal censor in charge of monitoring the information published in geography texts, navigational tracts, and travel accounts.
The Robert De Vaugondy Family
Gilles Robert de Vaugondy (1688-1766) and Didier Robert de Vaugondy (1723-1786) were influential figures in the realm of 18th-century French cartography. Originating from Paris, their contributions to mapmaking were significant during an era of expansive geographical exploration.
Gilles Robert de Vaugondy entered the world of cartography not through family tradition but through personal interest and the budding opportunities of his time. Born in 1688, he worked during a time when Paris was becoming a central hub for cartographic activities. Gilles often incorporated the latest findings from explorers into his maps, making them sought-after for their contemporary relevance. His connections weren't limited to his immediate circle; he frequently interacted with other key mapmakers, staying updated on the latest techniques and findings.
His son, Didier, was born in 1723 and had the advantage of growing up surrounded by maps and globes. While his father was renowned for maps, Didier made a name for himself in the field of globemaking. His globes were some of the most precise and detailed in France, gaining recognition even among the royalty. In addition to his work in cartography and globemaking, Didier had a keen interest in education, especially after the expulsion of the Jesuits from France. He stepped in to produce geographical educational materials, fulfilling a newfound need.
In terms of predecessors, the Vaugondys followed in the footsteps of notable French cartographers like Nicolas Sanson and Guillaume Delisle. The latter was particularly influential during the early 18th century, setting high standards in scientific cartography. As for competitors, the Vaugondys were contemporaries with Jean-Baptiste Bourguignon d'Anville, a cartographer who, like them, was rigorous in his methodologies and had a significant influence on mapmaking during the same period.
The maps and globes produced by the Vaugondys remain an enduring testament to the peak of French cartography during the Enlightenment. Their works, characterized by precision and the inclusion of contemporary findings, helped to shape our understanding of the world during a transformative period in European history.