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Waverly's March 22 Auction Features Hamilton Letter & Louis C. Tiffany-signed Art Book

Falls Church, VA - Rare books, manuscripts, maps, autographs, prints, photographs and ephemera spanning... read more

Giant James Bond Poster May Bring $20,000 at Heritage Auctions

Dallas, TX - One of the rarest James Bond movie posters ever made -... read more

"The Big Picture" Opens April 28 at Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

Kansas City, MO-The Big Picture: A Transformative Gift from the Hall Family Foundation opens... read more

$2.6-Million Prints & Drawings Auction at Swann Galleries

New York—Swann Galleries’ auction of 19th & 20th Century Prints & Drawings on March... read more

The Eric Carle Museum Announces 2018 Honorees

Amherst, MA — The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art is pleased to... read more

"The Voice of Truth" and More Rarities in March 22 Auction at PBA Galleries

PBA Galleries will offer The Voice of Truth by Mormon founder Joseph Smith and... read more

The Eric Carle Museum Announces "The Art of Eric Carle: Seasons"

Amherst, MA -- In 1970, Eric Carle published The Tiny Seed, which chronicles... read more

Minnesota Center for Book Arts Announces Summer 2018 Artist-in-Residence

Minnesota Center for Book Arts (MCBA) is pleased to announce the next participant in... read more

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Fine Maps

French Models

This model of Embrun was built in 1701 at the beginning of the War of Spanish Succession. Some of Louis XIV’s models were re-painted a uniform military gray as part of a misguided early twentieth-century restoration effort. Credit: A. Lonchampt, Centre des Monuments Nationaux, ALC 80/545.
Model building as depicted by the famous seventeenth-century French military theoretician, Alain Manesson Mallet. Credit: Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, University of Toronto.
Side view of a typical model table showing the plank frame that was used to simulate large changes in the surface topography. A final layer of plaster covers the planks and was molded and colored to represent more subtle details in the landscape. Credit: Library and Archives Canada, C-14449.
The king and his advisors consult the model of Maestricht in the Grande Galerie of the Louvre in this 1753 print. The French captured the city from the Dutch in 1673 and again in 1748. Credit: Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal, Paris, B92/113.

Louis XIV kept his “princely toys” locked away in the Louvre; Louis XV continued to augment the collection and appointed a curator; and Louis XVI ordered it transferred to new quarters at the Hôtel des Invalides in Paris, where it remains to this day. When the Paris Universal Exhibition opened in 1867, the model gallery became available to the public. By 1927, when it was obvious that several models had been lost or damaged, the French government took the unprecedented move of protecting the collection by declaring it an historic monument.

Today, Louis XIV’s collection is unique both in terms of its extent and its attention to detail. The collection stands as a testament to the ingenuity of early French mapmakers and their tremendous efforts to render a true likeness of French military might for their king. Gazing on these once vital tools of conquest, it is easy to be transfixed by the marvelous aerial views they offer of mighty fortifications and humble homes. Just as the realism helped Louis XIV envision the wonders of his kingdom, we too can marvel at these royal treasures and, with a little imagination, walk the same streets where kings and commoners alike once strode.

Jeffrey Murray is a former senior archivist with Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa, Canada, and author of Terra Nostra: The Stories Behind Canada’s Maps, 1550-1950 (Montreal, McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2006).
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