Atlas historique, … Châtelain

by Henri Abraham Châtelain, Zacharias Châtelain

The most expansive encyclopedia of its age… with key world map


Date of publication: 1721

Dimensions: 43,5 x 27 cm


Original hard covers

Condition: excellent, A+

Language: French

Publishers: Les Frères Châtelain, puis l’Honoré & Châtelain, Amsterdam

Provenance: Ludovicus Mériaux. This is acknowledged in handwriting on each of the title pages of the seven volumes (“ex libris Ludovicus Meriaux”)

Note: considering the sheer volume and weight of this seven volume atlas, our normal transport prices do not apply. To be discussed.

Item number:
Atlases & Globes
Recent Additions
Unless otherwise specifically stated on this map page, we charge the following expedition costs in euro (unfortunatelly, gone up with Covid, but still too low in reality!): 
– Benelux: 40 euro
– Rest of Europe: 60 euro
– Rest of the World: 100 euro

This item is sold

Henri Abraham Châtelain (1684 – 1743)

H.A. Châtelain was a Huguenot pastor of Parisian origins. He lived consecutively in Paris, St. Martins, London (c. 1710), the Hague (c. 1721) and Amsterdam (c. 1728).

Châtelain was a skilled artist and knew combining a wealth of historical and geographical information with delicate engraving and an uncomplicated composition. Groundbreaking for its time, this work included studies of geography, history, ethnology, heraldry, and cosmography. His maps with his elegant engraving are a superb example from the golden age of French mapmaking.  The publishing firm of Châtelain, Châtelain Frères and Châtelain & Fils is recorded in Amsterdam, from around 1700-1770, with Zacharias living “op den Dam” in 1730.

Or was it Zacharias Châtelain?

A recent article in the Imcos Journal by Jan W. van Waning entitled “Chatelain’s Atlas Historique New evidence of its authorship” (Spring 2010, No. 120, pp. 7-15) contends that the compiler of the seven-volume work, in which this map was published, was Zacharie Chatelain rather than the usually cited Henry Abraham.

Atlas historique: genesis

First published in Amsterdam from 1705 to 1720, the various volumes (I to VII) were updated from 1720 onward at various times up to 1739 when the fourth edition of vol.I appeared. The first four volumes seem to have undergone four printings with the later printings being the most desirable as they contain the maximum number of corrections and additions. The remaining three final volumes were first issued between 1719-1720 and revised in 1732.

The full title of the atlas is Atlas historique ou Nouvelle introduction à l’histoire, à la chronologie & à la Geographie ancienne & moderne; Representée dans de nouvelles cartes, où l’on remarque l’établissement des Etats & Empires du monde, leur durée, leur chûte, & leurs differens gouvernements.

Atlas historique: contents

The Atlas historique was one of the most expansive Dutch encyclopedias of the age. Although the main focus of the text was geography, the work also included a wealth of historical, political, and genealogical information. The text was compiled by Nicholas Gueudeville and Garillon with a supplement by H.P. de Limiers and the maps were engraved by Châtelain, primarily after maps by De L’Isle.

The maps were accompanied by information pertaining to cosmography, geography, history, chronology, genealogy, topography, heraldry, and costumes of the world.

The maps in the Atlas historique were mainly based on those of the French cartographer, Guillaume De L’Isle, but were presented by the Châtelains in an encyclopedic form. The accompanying text is in French and often is printed in two columns on the page with maps and other illustrations interspersed. Each map and table is numbered consecutively within its volume and all maps bear the privileges of the States of Holland and West-Friesland.

An ambitious and beautifully-presented work, the Atlas historique was intended for the general public, fascinated in the early eighteenth century by the recently conquered colonies and the new discoveries. Distant countries, such as the Americas, Africa, the Middle East, Mongolia, China, Japan, Indonesia, etc., take an important place in this work. In addition to the maps, many of which are based on Guillaume De L’Isle, the plates are after the best travel accounts of the period, such as those of Dapper, Chardin, de Bruyn, Le Hay and other. Other sections deal with the history of the European countries, and covers a wide range of subjects including genealogy, history, cosmography, topography, heraldry and chronology, costume of the world, all illustrated with numerous engraved maps, plates of local inhabitants and heraldic charts of the lineages of the ruling families of the time. The maps, prints and tables required to make up a complete set are listed in detail in each volume.

Atlas historique : overview of the volumes

The atlas contains some 285 engraved maps, views, plans, tables, heraldic and genealogical charts, including 5 allegorical engraved frontispieces, most double-page and many folding, 7 titles printed.

Volume I: la Grèce, l’Histoire Romaine, Rome Moderne, Naples, la France, l’Espagne & les Provinces Unies;

Volume II: l’Allemagne, la Prusse, la Hongrie & la Boheme;

Volume III: la Grande Bretagne, l’Irlande, la Suisse, la Savoye, la Lorraine & la République de Venise;

Volume IV: le Dannemarck, la Suède, la Pologne, la Moscovie & la Turquie;

Volume V: l’Asie;

Volume VI: l’Afrique et l’Amérique. This volume contains a fine dark copy (bound in two large sheets, joined) of the Carte très curieuse de la Mer du Sud, depicting the history of discovery in the western hemisphere from the time of Columbus to the French explorations in North America in the late seventeenth century. It is considered to be one of the largest and most interesting world maps ever published in an atlas. Dimensions of the map: 81 x 140 cm. The map is in mint condition: there are no cracks in the many folds! Map reference: Schwartz – Ehrenberg.p. 142. Tooley America p. 80; Mc Laughlin 190. See below pictures 1 to 9 on this world map;

Volume VII: le supplément (with essays by H.P. de Limiers).

Atlas historique: the world re-discovered… over the seas

Map pictures 1 to 10 deal with the key map of these volumes.

Based on its extraordinary intricacy and detail, Tooley mentioned: “one of the most decorative maps of North America of the 18th century”. Its elaborate illustrations provide a panorama of the Discovery Period, colorfully depicting the mores, rituals and practices of indigenous peoples thought to be exotic by Europeans at the time. Also illustrated are historic episodes, New World flora and fauna, and portraits of the great discoverers. Two of the more prominent illustrations depict an uncommonly industrious and human-like beaver colony and the sun drying of cod fish in Newfoundland. Both of these commodities were mainstays of the early economy of North America. The map was engraved by Bernard Picart.

The map with its lush imagery may also be viewed as the mapmaker’s attempt to stimulate interest in pan-Pacific trade. The map’s presentation of an undersized Pacific Ocean, with voyage tracks showing direct and easy crossings, certainly makes the ocean appear less than forbidding. The map also includes many of the lands of the eastern Pacific Rim, making clear that vast territories would be accessible via Pacific voyages. And the hyper-rich imagery also suggests the potential rewards of such an effort. The map was also one of the most elaborate examples of pictorial geography that was popular at the time. In the first half of the 18th century, there were many works published with richly illustrated maps in order to convey history and geography together. Although California is still shown as an island on the map, it is done so with some uncertainty. (California began to be depicted as an island in the 1620’s, but by the time this map appeared, the myth was beginning to wane.) In 1597, Wytfliet recorded California as a peninsula. A notation thus states that “moderns” believe it to be part of the mainland, so that…. the island is engraved with a fainter hence less definitive line.

It is quite important that this world map misses certain well know areas: the East of Africa and most of the Asian continent. This may be explained that the map primarily focuses on the sea routes and thereby the newly discovered areas. Neither do we get any information of both the North and the South Pole.

Atlas historique: slide show of details of maps, views and genealogical trees

We made a small selection of some of the 285 outstanding illustrations, but we focused on the world map (1 to 9):

1 World map (volume VI): “Carte curieuse de la mer du sud contenant des remarques nouvelles et tres utiles non seulement sur les port et les iles de cette mer”

2 Detail: the Niagara Falls, with the joke (bottom) “manage et industrie des castors”  (with the labor of beavers)

3 Detail: the Caribbean space

4 Detail: Mexico city

5 Detail: triple view of of Havana, Bay of Rio de Janeiro (Guanabara Bay) and Vera Cruz

6 Detail: Panama

7 Detail: Coastline of Spain, Portugal and France, with Azores and an inset of cod fishing

8 Detail: View of Table mountain and of Cape of Good Hope

9 Detail: Text on the Pacific Ocean

FURTHER in this atlas:

10 Map of North America

11 Map of East Canada

12 Map of the XVII Provinces (with table of cities and towns)

13 Map of Russia

14 Genealogy of European sovereigns as linked to France

15 Table of nobility and their coat of arms

16 Table of the ecclesiastical history and of the religious orders

17 Genealogy of sovereigns of Northern Europe

18 Genealogy of sovereigns of Lorraine

19 Genealogy of sovereigns of Austria

20 Genealogy of sovereigns of England

21 View of Bethlehem and Nazareth

22 View of the Holy Sepulchre church (Jerusalem)

23 View of the Great Mosque (Mecca)

24 Frontispiece

25 Open book

Atlas historique: the date of this ensemble

The entire series is clearly produced as one entity.

Volumes V to VII were first published in respectively 1719, 1719 and 1720. Volume I was re-edited in 1721.

Volumes I and IV were produced in respectively 1705 and 1714, with new editions in respectively 1721 and 1732.

Volumes II and III were both produced in 1708, with new editions in 1738.

In conclusion: all volumes were first editions (though maybe not printed in the year of their first publications.  We have no information whether Volume I is a first (1705) or second (1721) edition.