Rare 18th-century paper instrument with an unusual world map on a “flat earth” projection.
A rare and unusual instrument, featuring a volvelle with a distinctive “flat earth” projection. One of only three examples located.
The instrument consists of a large engraved diagram mounted on a heavy pasteboard backing, as issued. The central feature of the diagram is a map of the world projected on a single hemisphere, 11 ¾” in diameter. Surrounding the map are several concentric circles, including a circle of climates, names of the inhabitants of the various terrestrial latitudes, climatic zones, and notes on the movement of the sun. The world map and its concentric borders have been cut out, mounted on a pasteboard disk, and attached to the backing board by a central copper pin, thus allowing it to rotate 360°. The volvelle is surrounded by an outer engraved circle, numbered for a 24-hour clock, indicating the time for all parts of the world at noon in Paris. By revolving the volvelle the user could adjust the calculation for any time in Paris.
At the foot of the map is a diagram of the zodiac of the ecliptic for the year, designed, inter alia, to show the time of sunset and the seasons the year.
The instrument is not dated, but Duplessis advertised it in the weekly L’Avantcoureur on May 21, 1770:
This new Globe not only contains the benefits of ordinary terrestrial globes, but it replaces[?] the old & new world, united in one point of view. This instrument also has various uses, indicated by a little treatise, to which is added an abbreviated picture of the population of the world, a curious and interesting piece for history…
The advert goes on to mention that the Globe Plat could be had in a variety of formats, from a simple uncolored sheet (2 livres) to a deluxe version in a gilt frame (15 livres).
The “little treatise” referred to in the advert was a small volume titled “Traité du globe-plat, ou mappe-monde d’une projection nouvelle...” The pamphlet would no doubt shed further light on the Globe Plat, but copies are held only at the Bibliotheque nationale de France and the Landesbibliothek Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, it has not been digitized, and does not appear to be available for sale anywhere in the world.
We locate two other holdings worldwide (Bibliotheque Nationale de France and the National Library of Australia). The former was acquired only in 2004 (from Le Bail-Weissert), the latter in 2006.
Almost nothing is known of A. Duplessis, who apparently designed, published and sold instruments at his premises by the Pont Notre Dame (He may also have been an engraver.) We can also attribute to him with 100 percent confidence the Calendrier Perpetuel, an instrument of similar style and construction published in 1764 or -65. In 1767 he published a small pamphlet, also titled Calendrier Perpetuel, the last page of which describes him as a seller of geographic materials, including:
“all kinds of geographic maps, both general and particular, methodical & elementary atlases of geography & history; the analytic table of France, a complete collection of maps by the best authors, plans of Paris of all sizes, as well as Versailles, Nancy, Wesel, fortified cities, maritime charts and boundaries of the Kingdom, &c. He also sells the map of France, raised by order of the King, under the direction of Mssr. Cassini…”
The Bibliotheque Nationale de France holds a Plan de Nancy published in 1766 by an A. Duplessis. The BNF catalog also has a biographical entry for an A. Duplessis, “auteur, éditeur, distributeur,” resident in 1792 at the rue de la Calandre, quartier du Paris. This Duplessis, possibly one and the same as ours, drew, engraved and published a number of allegorical and patriotic images during the French Revolutionary era.