Large folio (650 x 500 mm.), in full contemporary mottled calf, large gilt embossed title to the upper cover ‘Depot General de la Marine Service des Vaisseaux de la Republique Francaise’, with gilt ruled bands to the spine, alternating anchor and floral gilt decoration to the compartments, gilt title, some light spine repair. With typographic title page, typographic ‘Table Des Cartes’ listing 32 charts, all but two double-page, map 14 with small area of margin loss, overall, in excellent condition.
There had been a long tradition of private publishing houses in Europe issuing sea atlases. The French Admiralty were the first to publish a government work. Jacques Nicolas Bellin (1703-72) held official status as Royal Hydrographer and Ingéniuer Géographe de la Marine et du Dépôt des Cartes et Plans. He was responsible for compiling atlases of sailing charts for military and official use as well as for commercial publication. The Depot was founded in 1720 and the following year Bellin began working for them.
One of his greatest achievements was the revision of, and additional plates for the Neptune Francois to be reissued under the title Hydrographie Francoise. A similar work was published on the British Isles utilising official charts overseen by Bellin. With access to the latest navigational reports, he produced a great many maps and charts of excellent quality. This example included maps dating from 1757-1804, these include ‘those compiled by J.-N. Bellin to the charts of England’s south coast harbours, prepared for Napoleon. There are two general charts of the North Atlantic following by detailed charts covering the whole of the British Isles (particularly places of strategic importance such as the Isle of Wight, Portsmouth, Torbay and Plymouth)’ (Wardington). This example is identical in content to the example in the Wardington collection. Provenance: Dominic Winter 17 September 2014 lot 63; private English collection. Phillips Atlases 8000; Sotheby’s London 18 October 2005 lot 133; not in the British Library (Shirley) or the National Maritime Museum.