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Hydrographie françoise. Recueil des cartes marines générales et particulières dressées au Dépôt des Cartes ...
Two volumes, Elephant folio. Contemporary red morocco, spine with raised bands divided into eight compartments richly decorated, title and volume numbering labels of green morocco, gilt fillets framing the boards with central coat-of-arms of Louis XV. Volume I. Frontispiece, title, table of maps contained in the 2 volumes, table of flags, 59 maps. Volume II. Title, table of maps, 56 maps. Some foxing. Map 76 uniformly browned.
Bellin’s most important work, in a magnificent contemporary binding in red Morocco with the royal arms.
Bellin’s Hydrographie française is an official publication of the French Ministry of the Navy, far preceding that issued by the British Navy. This beautiful atlas contains 115 large maps covering the coasts of the five continents. Like the frontispiece and titles, the maps were sold individually.
Contrary to the terrestrial atlases which are divided by continents, Bellin indicates in his Avertissement to have divided and classified his Hydrographie according to the oceans (arranged and divided in part of the fluid spaces of the terrestrial Globe): the Northern Ocean includes 15 maps, the Western Ocean 75 maps, the Southern Ocean 5 maps, the Eastern Ocean 13 maps and finally the Pacific Ocean 2 maps.
In 1681, Colbert, Minister of Finance of Louis XIV, inspired by the Casa de Contratacion in Seville, issued an order to collect the sea reports, charts and logbooks. From 1699 onwards, these were stored in the Couvent des Petits Pères in Paris. In 1720, the regent gave the management of this collection to the naval officer Charles Hercule Albert de Luynes; thus the Dépôt des cartes et plans de la Marine was born.
De Luynes was assisted in his task by a single clerk: Jacques-Nicolas Bellin (1703-1772), then aged 18. Bellin archived, copied, inventoried, kept registers and diversified the missions of the Depot: from a simple place of conservation, it also became a place of production, with Bellin entrusting navigators with charts that they were responsible for amending and updating. He created a «Dépôt de la Marine» stamp to protect the collections, and in 1737 the Dépôt published its first map, a map of the Mediterranean. In 1773, the Dépôt obtained a monopoly on the production of nautical charts, followed in 1775 by the exclusive privilege of engraving and printing charts in order to control their production.
Jacques-Nicolas Bellin was a true cabinet hydrographer. Appointed first engineer geographerof the Navy in 1741, he published several marine charts and atlases on his own account, including Le Petit Atlas maritime (with 594 maps and plans), and nearly a thousand articles in Diderot and d’Alembert’s Encyclopédie. The Dépôt de la Marineen graved about a hundred maps until his death in 1772.
References : Phillips, 588-590 ; OHR 2495, fer 27.
Jacques Nicolas Bellin (1703-1772) was a French cartographer, hydrographer and encyclopedist who served the Ministry of the Navy from 1721. He was then appointed engineer hydrographer in August 1741 and became a member of the Académie de Marine and the Royal Society of London. During his career he used a very particular system to build his cartography and became the most copied cartographer of the 18th century.
The fundamental principles that animated his mapping of North America were: to secure navigation on the St. Lawrence River and to claim for France the lands explored by the French in the Great Lakes region and along the Mississippi River.