18th-century cartographic color printing, by Gautier D’Agoty

[Jacques-Fabien] Gautier [D’Agoty] / Gautier fils (engraver), CARTE ABR[E]GEE du CANADA levee sur les lieux par M.*** resident a Quebec année 1754. Paris: [Gautier], 1755.
Line engraving and mezzotint on laid paper, printed in four colors, 7 ¾”h x 10”w at neat line plus margins. Two small spots in image, reds and yellows rather faded, some marginal soiling and chipping.

A rare and fascinating thematic map of northeastern North America by a French artist, printer, anatomist and crackpot geologist, remarkable also as an early example of color printing.

A former pupil of Jacob Christoph Le Blon, and a pioneer in color-printing, Jacques Fabien Gautier D’Agoty (1717-1785) improved on the methods of his teacher by developing a technique involving four successive copperplates (instead of three) to print color engravings. After Le Blon’s death in 1741, D’Agoty leveraged his innovation by winning a 30-year monopoly on color printing in France. An enterprising autodidact, D’Agoty sought to demonstrate the value of his method by publishing luxurious illustrated anatomical works including Myologie complète (1746), Anatomie de la tête (1748), and the periodical Observations sur l’histoire naturelle, sur la physique et sur la peinture (1752-1757).

Among other interests Gautier dabbled in geology, publishing his novel theories in parts 14-16 of the Observations sur l’histoire naturelle.There he argued that the sun’s rays occasionally cause “impulses” affecting the central fire of the terrestrial globe, provoking earthquakes and other geological phenomena.  To confirm this, he gives examples of earthquakes at Lisbon, Setubal, Lima, Smyrna, and elsewhere.  The text is illustrated by four diagrams and maps, all printed in colors by means of Gautier’s distinctive technique.  These include a diagram illustrating his theory of solar influence as well as maps of southwestern Europe, northwestern Africa, and the map of northeastern North America offered here. On each map, the letter “R” is used indicate cities destroyed by earthquakes, “A” for those swallowed by the sea, and “T” when the tremor was experienced but failed to cause grievous damage.

Gautier’s map of northeastern North America depicts the continent from Newfoundland west to James Bay and Lake Superior and from Labrador south to North Carolina, though with little pretense at geographic accuracy. “Ts” indicating tremors are found on the eastern shore of James Bay, the shores of Lakes Huron and Superior, the southwest coast of Nova Scotia, and the head of Chesapeake Bay. The English colonies are named and their boundaries vaguely delineated, some cities and towns are located, and numerous native American peoples identified. The map is also of interest as a geopolitical document, as it uses printed color to present an aggressively Francophilic take on British (red) and French (yellow) imperial holdings in North America, with the Great Britain’s American colonies confined east of the Appalachians and along the shore of James Bay. Also of note is the recently-erected Fort Duquesne at the Forks of the Ohio, which sparked the French and Indian War.

The map is rare. Neither RareBookHub nor Antique Map Price Recordlist any examples having appeared separately on the antiquarian market.  However, it was reissued by Gautier in 1756 in a pamphlet bearing the title CARTES EN COULEUR des lieux sujets aux tremblements de terredans toutes les parties du monde, essentially a reprinting of material from parts 14-16 of Observations sur l’histoire naturelle. I sold an example of the pamphlet in 2015, complete with all maps and diagrams, and know of another on the market at present (July 2018).

In all a rare map of northeastern North America, unusual as an early example of color printing, for its crackpot theoretical underpinnings, and as a little-known specimen of persuasive cartography from the French and Indian War era.

Kershaw II:361 and McCorkle 755.26 (The example illustrated by McCorkle varies slightly in including the page number “128” in the binder’s note below the cartouche, whereas ours reads “382.”) Excellent background on Gautier’s views on color and printing innovations is found in Sarah Lowengard’s web site The Creation of Color in Eighteenth-Century Europe.