Rare 18th-century work on earthquakes, with color-printed maps

[Jacques-Fabien] Gautier d'Agoty (1717-1785), CARTES EN COULEUR des lieux sujets aux tremblements de terre dans toutes les parties du monde, SELON LE SISTEME DE L'IMPULSION SOLAIRE ["Colored maps of places subject to earthquakes in all parts of the world, according to the system of solar impulse"], Paris: Chez l'Auteur, 1756.
Folio. 8pp of engraved text plus 4 illustrations (incl. 3 maps) engraved in mezzotint and printed in colors. String tied.

An extremely rare work of 18th-century speculative geology, featuring color-printed plates including thematic maps of Europe, Africa and northeastern North America. Note: images of all plates will be provided on request.

A former pupil of Jacob Christoph Le Blon, and a pioneer in color-printing, Jacques Fabien Gautier Dagoty improved on the methods of his teacher, developing a printing technique involving four successive copperplates (instead of three) to print color engravings. An enterprising autodidact, he sought to demonstrate the value of his method by publishing luxurious illustrated works as the Myologie complète (1746), the Anatomie de la tête (1748), and the periodical Observations sur l`histoire naturelle, sur la physique et sur la peinture (first series, 1752-1755; second series, 1756-1757).

The text presents a curious theory according to which the sun’s rays occasionally cause “impulses” affecting the central fire of the terrestrial globe, provoking earthquakes and other geological phenomena. To confirm this, the author gives examples of earthquakes at Lisbon, Setubal, Lima, Smyrna, and elsewhere. The text is illustrated by four plates, all printed in multiple 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 northeastern North America (“Carte Abr[e]gée du Canada levée sur les lieux par M. *** resident a Quebec annee 1754”). 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. The North America map is also of interest for its use of printed color to demarcate areas properly belonging to France and Great Britain, with the latter’s American colonies confined east of the Appalachians.

My source for this pamphlet tells me that the plates first appeared somewhere in the first series of Gautier’s Observations sur l`histoire naturelle. I have not yet been able to verify this for the Africa and Europe maps, but the North America map bears a small note below the title indicating that it was to be bound in to Part XIV of the Observations, which appeared in 1755. The text however appears to be original to this pamphlet.

The pamphlet is extremely rare, with OCLC recording only four institutional holdings (of which only one in America) and Rare Book Hub listing no examples having appeared on the market.

OCLC 137239716 (Academy of Natural Sciences and McGill); 191996311 (Natural History Museum, London); and 664498704 (Bibliotheque Nationale). Gregory Quenet, Les tremblements de terre aux XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles : la naissance d`un risque, 2005, p. 332. Not mentioned in Perrey, Bibliographie Séismique or Ward & Carozzi, Geology Emerging. Excellent background on Gautier is found in Sarah Lowengard, “The Creation of Color in Eighteenth-Century Europe” (at http://www.gutenberg-e.org/lowengard/C_Chap12.html).

Kershaw II:361 and McCorkle 755.26 list the “Carte Abr[e]gée du Canada.” The example illustrated by McCorkle varies ever so slightly from ours in including the page number “128” in the placement note below the cartouche.


Some minor foxing and dog-earing, but excellent for such a fragile production.