The atlas was compiled by one Eugénie Giraud, aged 14 years old, while a student at the Elève des Religieuses de Sains-Charles à Chouzé-sur-Loire, a commune in the department of Indre-et Loire in central France. Her source is not known, but presumably she worked from one or more of the many European thematic atlases published in the mid-19th century. Such copying exercises, common in England and France as well as here in the United States, would have served multiple goals for young women, among the less significant of which was reinforcing geographic memory. More important were the development of penmanship and drawing skills, the patience and discipline required to execute such a sustained project, and perhaps a general sense of patriotism.
Part One begins with a map of France’s “Situation astronomique” drawn in pink pencil and black ink; followed by the “Montagnes de France” in purple and black ink; and then the “Carte des Versants” (Map of Watersheds) in blue and black ink. Next, there is a map showing France’s five major river basins; this is drawn and painted in yellow, blue, and black ink. Then there are five river maps, one for the Rhône, Rhin, Seine, Loire, and Garonne, drawn in various colors (pink, purple, blue, green, and brown). Each of these maps, as well as those in Part Two, is accompanied by one or more pages of explanatory text written in a clear hand.
Part Two comprises 11 thematic maps of the products of France, with much of interest to the economic and culinary historian. The first five maps depict the mineralogy of France, using tiny watercolor symbols to indicate where granite, slate, clay, marble, sandstone, alabaster, coal, graphite, iron, lead, and copper (amongst others) are to be found. These are followed by a map showing the locations of France’s mineral waters.
There then follow five maps of “France végétale”, focusing on the countrty’s agricultural products. The first map, for example shows where wheat, rye, corn, and buckwheat are grown. It is executed in yellow and black ink, with differently-colored miniature symbols for each crop in its specific region(s). The most interesting of these maps is the fourth, devoted to the vineyards of France, with a map drawn in green pencil and black ink and clusters of yellow and purple grapes painted in to represent six different grape-growing regions, including those for the “Vins de Bourgogne,” “Vins de Champagne,” “Vins du Bordelais,” “Vins de la Charente,” “Vins du Midi,” “Vins du Rhône,” and the “Vins du Centre.” Each region has different wines listed, including for Burgundy: Beaune, Nuits, Chambertin, Pommard, Clos Vougeot, Volnay, La Romanée, St. Georges, Joigny, Tonnerre, and Chablis; for Champagne: “Aï de Syllery” and “de la Côte d’Epernay;” for Bordeaux: Château Margaux, Château Lafitte, Château Latour, St. Emilion, and “le vin de blanc de Sauternes;” and for the Rhone: “Condrieux,” “l’Ermitage,” and “Château-neuf-du-Pape.”
A note about the lovely binding: the block-stamped black morocco has grape canes with intertwined floral and foliate elements on both boards. In the center of the upper board is the word “ALBUM” stamped with letters made from gilt-stamped logs.
In all, a spectacular project for a 14-year old, and one of the finest schoolgirl atlases I have encountered.