“Ad Antiquam Indiae Geographiam Tabula” By Jean Baptiste Bourguignon d’Anville

antiquam_india_tabulaJean Baptiste Bourguignon d’Anville

J.B.B. d’Anville was born in Paris in 1697 to a tailor.  He attended the College des Quatre-Nations, a prestigious but free school in Paris where he learned the basics of mapmaking. D’Anville began his mapmaking career in 1718 when the famed geographical author Louis Du Four de Longuerue commissioned maps from him, and  was named the geography tutor to King Louis XV only a year later at the age of twenty-two.  Within a few years, d’Anville started receiving a yearly pension from the king’s cousin, the duc d’Orleans.

Though d’Anville rarely visited the places he mapped, he was famous throughout Europe for his precision and accuracy. In his time, d’Anville was one of the individuals leading the movement for using newfound technologies and scientific methodologies for cartography. D’Anville would sooner leave a blank space on a map than fill it with unsubstantiated details. This scrupulousness separated him from his contemporaries, and his maps were copied extensively within Europe, and were even used by Thomas Jefferson in planning the Lewis and Clark expedition.

A Personal Project

Prior to 1750, d’Anville often worked on commission, enjoying the patronage of wealthy aristocrats and working under time constraints.  Map-making was not a secure or highly profitable profession.  The cost of producing maps was often so high, because of expensive supplies such as bronze settings, that few maps ever recouped the cost of their production. It was only after 1750, when d’Anville had established himself and enjoyed a more secure living, that he could focus on personal projects, which often centered around his obsession and love of antiquity. These were probably not sold in great quantities, and d’Anville would have financed their publication himself at a loss.

Continuity Rather than Change

This map of India, like other d’Anville maps on ancient subjects, bears no dates. D’Anville sought continuity rather than historical change, as it would lend credibility to his maps of both modern and ancient regions.  He wrote detailed descriptions of his processes and sources for creating these ancient maps, and published them along with the map.


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