AUZOLES, Jacques d’
La Saincte GéographieParis, Antoine Estienne, 1629
FIRST EDITION. Large folio, pp. (xii) 224 (xxii). Roman and italic letter. Printer’s device to t-p, woodcut historiated and floriated initials, typographical ornaments, decorated headpieces with deities, grotesques, animals and masques. 19 fascinating engravings depicting the shape of the Earth at the various stages of its creation, the sky, maps of the globe and of the Holy Land. Occasional age browning, little ink splashes to half-title, early marginal repairs to first 3 ll., little wormholes to lower blank margins throughout and to outer corner of a couple of central gatherings, some spotting, a few blank corners lightly waterstained. A very good, clean, well margined recased in old vellum, cleaned and re-employed, modern eps, yapp edges. All edges sprinkled red.
Rare, handsomely illustrated first edition of this fascinating work on sacred geography. Secretary to Henri de Bourbon, Duke of Montpensier, Jacques D’Auzoles (1571-1642) was born at Château de La Peyre and completed part of his studies in Paris. He abjured Protestantism in 1596 and converted to Catholicism.‘La Saincte Géographie’ is his most famous work, presented in the title as ‘the precise description of the Earth and the truthful demonstration of the Terrestrial Paradise’. In the note to the reader, the Catholic author explains that all scientific knowledge is contained in the Bible and that the secular geographers “teach us nothing that it is not contained in the Holy Books”. For this reason, this entire geographic atlas is based on the sacred scriptures and on the doctrine of the Church fathers.
The text is embellished with numerous engraved maps, which the author employs to describe the Earth in a diachronic way. At the beginning, the author follows the seven days of the Creation. The image of a black circle represents the original chaos, then, a bipartite disc, half black and half white, depicts the separation of the light from the shadows. Various maps of the sky are divided into concentric circles and show the position of the Sun, Moon and planets; two beautiful engravings depict the creation of the animals that live on the land and in the sea. A great portion of D’Auzoles’ exposition is then dedicated to the Flood, a traumatic event that changed the configuration of the Earth creating continents and islands. A curious map of the Earth before the Flood represents the land as a large rectangle that pushes the sea to its sides in the shape of two narrow vertical bands; throughout the land, the four rivers of Genesis flow following the contour of the future continents.
The most attractive engravings are those depicting the Garden of Eden. In this work, the terrestrial paradise is identified as the Holy Land: “By the seventeenth century the identification of paradise with the Holy Land was an expression of a deeply felt spirituality that permitted a radical bending of geography in the interest of theology. In his La Saincte Gèographie (1629), the aristocrat Jacques d’Auzoles […], argued that […] Eden, the land of Adam’s natural perfection and Fall, was the one and same land inhabited by Noah after the Flood, the land promised to Abraham and celebrated by the Prophets and, finally, the land of Christ.” (Scafi). Before the Flood, Eden is represented a perfectly organised lush garden, divided into equal squares and irrigated. After, Noah and its family can hardly recognise its landscape, which appears as the uneven reliefs Lebanon, Israel and Palestine. The four maps showing the geography of the Levant are among the finest and most detailed engravings of the book.
In the last chapter, the author employs a good number of diagrams to summarise the geography of the world, listing all the major continents, regions, provinces and cities. Several pages are concerned with America, or “Nouveau Monde”, firstly inhabited by the descendants of Shem, son of Noah, when the continent was still joined to Asia. It is divided into three main regions – “France Nouvelle”, “Espagne Nouvelle” and “Peru” (or South America). Canada is mentioned as part of the ‘New France’ and “the northern and eastern regions of it are still unknown”. Two pages are dedicated to China, “even larger than our Kingdom of France”; Japan and Korea are respectively indicated as the major island and peninsula in the East China Sea.USTC 6019317; Renouard, 219:7; BM STC French, 1601-1700, A1101. Not in Brunet, Graesse, Alden. A. Scafi, The invisible paradise in the land of Canaan, in: Maps of Paradise (Chicago 2014).