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Extravagant map of the world from 1550!

© The British Library Board

This extravagant map of the world was presented to King Henri II of France, who reigned between 1547 and 1559,  by French Admiral Claude d’Annebault. 

Named Marshal in 1538, then later rising to become Admiral, Claude d’Annebault, was a powerful French solider at the time.  Once a close adviser to King François I, the admiral lost his influence in court after the kings son Henri II inherited the throne.  To win back his favor and his political standing, Claude d’Annebault decided to present the new king with this extravagant map of the world.

Pierre Desceliers, a well -known French Renaissance cartographer and prominent member of the Cartography School in Dieppe, was enlisted to develop the map. Thought of as the father of French hydrography, Desceliers was considered one of the best cartographers of his time. Helped by a team of artists, Desceliers illustrated and annotated the map in his style flanking the sides with geographical and sometimes purely imaginary details.

“It is one of the most beautiful maps that remain from the Renaissance period,” explains Chet Van Duzer, a cartography historian.

Measuring 1.5 metres by 2 metres, the map was drawn on several pieces of parchment.  According to Chet Van Duzer’s research, many of the depictions on the map come from two different works: the 1522 edition of Claude Ptolémée’s La Géographie and a collection of historical accounts which recount the voyages of Christopher Columbus, Marco Polo, and other explorers from the time.

Claude d’Annebault’s present couldn’t have been any more extravagant for the time however we do not know if it had the desired effect. Whatever happened, the French Admiral would have only had a short-lived return to political prominence before his death in 1552.

map of the world

Click on the map to make it bigger

Sources : British LibraryNational Geographic

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