By: Victor Levasseur
Date: 1843-1850 (circa)
Dimensions: 13 x 17.25 inches (33 x 43.8 cm)
This visually stunning decorative map of Asia by French cartographer Victor Levasseur covers the entire continent of Asia as well as adjacent parts of Europe and Africa. The Chinese Empire is depicted including Tibet and Mongolia. In Southeast Asia the Kingdoms of Annam, Chochine, Tonkin, Siam, and Burma are noted. Singapore is identified. Afghanistan is divided into the Kingdom of Kaboul, the Kingdom of Heral, and the Confederation of Belouchistan. Several islands in the Russian Arctic, including Nova Zemlia and the New Siberia Islands are mapped vaguely. Curiously, Levasseur identifies one of the Japanese Kuril Islands as the land of 'Compagnie,' a semi-mythical island sought by many early explorers of this region including Behring and Cook.
This map’s most striking feature is the elaborate border work which surrounds it. Five vignettes spread evenly across the top and five along the bottom of the map depict scenes of life in a wide variety of Asian cultures. To the left of the map proper is an enthroned woman, perhaps depicting Hesione, the wife of Prometheus, who is commonly associated with Asia. She is holding a scepter in her right hand, a main de justice, a symbol of royal French power referring to French claims in Indochina. In the upper right quadrant of the map Levasseur has depicted Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Their innocent expressions and happy mien and that of the benevolent God looking down on them inform us that this was before the transgression. As with most Levasseur depictions of God, his halo is pyramidal, possibly a Masonic reference. Levassuer's choice to add Adam and Eve to this map is a reference to medieval beliefs that Eden lay beyond the seas somewhere in Asia. Various exotic animals including a bear, a buffalo, a rhino, a tiger, an enormous vulture, and a crocodile are depicted along the bottom of the map.
Victor Levasseur (1800 - 1870), was an important French engineer, cartographer, and engraver of the mid-19th century. He held a number of important posts relating to cartography in France. He is most famous for his Atlas National Illustré des 86 Départements et des Possessions de La France, a large decorative atlas of France, including his Planisphere and five important continental maps. Levasseur's maps are distinctive for their wide decorative margins containing elaborate depictions of the scenery, peoples, and trade goods of the areas he mapped. Levasseur maps are also known to offer a wealth of statistical data. Until recently, very few Levasseur Atlases had migrated out of France, where they were mostly used in public libraries and town halls. His work represents some of the last great decorative atlas publications of the 19th century.
Condition: This map is in A condition with hand coloring outlining various regions of the map.
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