A remarkable map of the solar eclipse of 1764

Calcule par Madame [Nicole-Reine] le Paute / Grave par Madame Lattre [and] Mad. [Elisabeth Clare] Tardieu / [Published by] Chez Lattre , PASSAGE DE L'OMBRE DE LA LUNE au travers de l'Europe dans l'Eclipse de Soleil Centrale et annulaire qui sobservera le 1er. Avril 1764… , Paris, [1762].
Engraved map printed in sepia and black, 18 ¾"h x 25 5/8"w plus margins

A scarce and unusual map of the solar eclipse of April 1, 1764, calculated and engraved by three women and printed in two colors.

This map features Europe and part of North Africa printed in sepia, with the path of the eclipse overprinted in black from a second plate (The impressions of the two separate plates may be seen clearly just outside the neat line.) The shaded zone at the center of the path indicates the area experiencing an annular eclipse (where the Moon appears smaller than the Sun, and a bright solar ring visible), while flanking lines indicate the extent of the partial eclipse (According to Peter Barber, “the track of centrality on the map was about 50 miles… too far west… and Paris actually experienced a full annular eclipse.”) Tiny Roman numerals indicate the timing of the eclipse’s progress across Europe, starting with 10am at Cape St. Vincent and concluding at 11:30am along the north coast of Lapland. A chart at far right shows schematically the appearance of the two forms of eclipse and indicates locations where each will be visible.

The two-color printing, rarely seen on 18th-century maps, combined with the finely-engraved cartouches by Madam Tardieu give this map a most decorative appearance.

Nicole-Reine le Paute (1723-1788) was a French instrument maker, astronomer and mathematician. She seems to have come to the attention of astronomer Jerome Lalande in 1753 after building an astronomical clock with her husband, royal clock maker Jean-Andre le Paute. Lalande fostered her career, the two collaborated for many years, and Lalande described her as “the most distinguished female astronomer France had produced” (Ogilvie, p. 122). Her numerous accomplishments include the prediction of the return of Halley’s Comet in 1759 and of the solar eclipse of April 1, 1764, and producing the ephemerides for the Connaissance des temps (an almanac published by the Academy of Scientists for the use of scientists and sailors) from 1760 to 1776. An asteroid and a lunar crater are named in her honor.

Bibliographers usually date the map to 1764, the year of the eclipse, with the suggestion that the diagram is retrospective rather than predictive. It in fact appeared in 1762, issued by le Paute along with a short pamphlet, “Explication de la carte, qui représente le passage de l’ombre de la lune au travers de l’Europe dans l’éclipse du soleil centrale et annulaire du premier April 1764 présentée au Roi le doye Août 1762.”

Madame Lattre was the wife of Parisian Jean Lattre, “engraver to the King” and map publisher. Tooley mentions her only in connection with the present map and the Figure de l`êclipse du soleil du 24 juin 1778, which the sources credit to le Paute’s husband Joseph. Tooley unfortunately does not mention Madame Tardieu, who engraved the ornate cartouches and presumably married into the Tardieu dynasty of engravers.

The map is very scarce on the market: Antique Map Price Record lists only an example offered for sale by Jonathan Potter in 2004, while Americana Exchange records only two having appeared at auction, both in the past decade.

Armitage, The Shadow of the Moon: British Solar Eclipse Mapping in the Eighteenth Century, p. 22. Peter Barber, The Map Book, p. 220 (illus. p. 221). Background on le Paute from Marilyn Bailey Ogilvie, Women in Science: Antiquity through the Nineteenth Century, p. 122-23.


Some minor spotting and soiling, largely confined to lower right and margins. Minor fraying at upper and lower edges.