Orbis Vetus in ultraque continente justa mentem Sansonianam distinctas, nec non observationibus astronomicis reductus, accurante Robert de Vaugondy, Geography Regis ordinario, 1752.
ROBERT DE VAUGONDY
A beautiful and intriguing rare map of the world published in Atlas Universel, by Robert de Vaugondy, an important cartographer of the 18th Century. The map is drawn using what is known as a “stereographic projection” where the world depicted in two hemispheres. Vaugondy’s map is of interest as it uses Nicolas Sanson’s cartography, albeit with updated discoveries (i.e. California is now drawn as a peninsula rather than an island), but with Hellenic nomenclature in the Western Hemisphere. As such, the New World ,located in the Western Hemisphere, is called “Atlantis Insula”, a reference to the lost continent of Atlantis first described by Plato. Vaugondy further annotates his Atlantis Insula with mythical cities and places of Antiquity such as Machismo and Eusebes. These two cities, for example, are described by Theopompus as being the two great cities of the mythical continent of Hyperborea, a land beyond the North Wind.
Although the nomenclature is wildly imaginative, the cartography of the Pacific Northwest and Australian continent remains undrawn thus avoiding some of the more speculative contemporary cartography that marked many maps of the 18th Century. Nevertheless, it is interesting to compare Vaugondy’s Orbis Vetus with his later series of world maps, such as his Mappemode ou description du globe terrestre dressée sur les mémoires les plus nouveaux… published in 1783, that used speculative cartography to draw the Pacific Northwest coast of America when the region garnered much attention by explorers and cartographers alike in the hopes of finding the elusive northwest passage to the orient.
The map is also adorned with two beautiful and elegant rococo cartouches between the two hemisphere of the stereographic projection. The upper cartouche is depicted with Father Time and two putti whilst the lower cartouche offers information relevant to the map. Vaugondy's map is thus reminiscent of a time where cartographers attempted to make sense of the New World and its relevance to ancient lore and myth.