Unique paste-up map of the French Department of Morbihan

Jean-Claude Dezauche, MORBIHAN. [No place of publication, bearing the date 1800 in manuscript, but likely compiled later.]
Map sheet composed of an engraved map with additional manuscript additions, 19”h x 12 ¾”w at sheet edge, traces of early outline color. Some soiling, wear at edges.

A unique composition, being a pasted-up composite map of the département of Morbihan, France. The body of the map has been cut from Dezauche’s 1800 Carte itinéraire de la Bretagne, then squared off with a mix of printed and manuscript borders, with the map area outside the department infilled in manuscript.

The map, the key and and most of the lower border are one piece; the corner piece, the lower left-hand border and most of the upper border are cut from the printed map, as also the scale bar pasted at the foot. The rest, on the whiter paper, is manuscript in ink. The title outside the upper border appears to be stencilled manuscript.

Jean-Claude Dezauche (1745?-1824) was one of the most important French cartographic publishers at the end of the eighteenth century. He was employed and trained at the French Admiralty’s hydrographic office, the Dépôt des Cartes et Plans de la Marine, and then took over the publishing business of Philip Buache from his heirs, thereby also acquiring the printing plates of Guillaume Delisle.

The French Revolution swept away the old order in France. The leaders of the Revolution implemented numbers of “revolutionary” changes, some ideological such as the Revolutionary Calendar, and some entirely more practical, such as reorganising the existing provinces of metropolitan France into départements, in 1790, as part of a broader plan to reform and standardize the French legal system. Such radical change necessitated a new generation of maps of France, with Dezauche a participant in that process.

The purpose of this sheet is not clear. One explanation is that it is a publisher’s mocked-up sample for a projected separate map of Morbihan, perhaps part of a planned sequence of maps of the départements of Brittany, or perhaps even a more ambitious atlas of the départements of the whole of France. If so, this sheet seems to be a unique survivor of the scheme, with no published version known, either of this individual sheet or of companion pieces.

It is worth noting that the manuscript has a rather later feel to it, and the lighter-colored backing paper has a hard texture and ever-so-slightly glossy tone suggesting that it was constructed significantly later than the turn of the 19th century.