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A 19th-century French edition of The Catalan Atlas, one of the most famous sets of extant Medieval maps. The originals, produced in 1375, are in the Bibliothèque Nationale de France (National Library of France) in Paris, where they can be viewed online and were issued for sale as a CD-ROM. The original atlas originally consisted of six maps folded down the middle. This set also has six maps, printed in the same dimensions as the original, but they are each are dissected as issued in four sections and mounted on a stiff linen backing. These 6 maps fold in fourths and fit into a paperboard folder with a brown and red spatter pattern, which in turn fits into a matching slipcase.
The atlas showed the regions and peoples of the world along with sections devoted to cosmographical, navigational, astronomical, astrological and planetary information. Unlike many other nautical charts, The Catalan Atlas is meant to be read with the north at the bottom and the maps are oriented from left to right, from the Far East to the Atlantic. To make it easier to compare with contemporary maps we display them here with north on top. They were intended to be viewed in the round, so some of the figures are upside-down.
The Catalan Atlas is attributed (without certainty, according to the Bibliothèque Nationale) to Abraham Cresques, a Catalonian Jew of Majorca who was mapmaker to King Peter of Aragon. These maps were commissioned by Charles V of France, whose envoy requested a set of world maps from King Peter, as Catalan maps were held in high esteem. The atlas is considered historically important as a record of the "state of the art" of geographic knowledge of the late 14th century, including details drawn from Marco Polo's narratives which made it the most accurate depiction of Asia of its time. It also marks a departure from some mapmaking conventions of the Middle Ages. The mapmaker omitted some--though not all--unverifiable information and mythical beings that had been included in maps for centuries. In this respect, The Catalan Atlas marks a transition to the empirical approach of the Renaissance.
Charles Simonneau was a French map publisher and map seller in Paris, France, from at least 1803 to 1838. The label accompanying his reprint of The Catalan Atlas shows a location at 6 Rue de la Paix and advertises "Globes, Spheres, Atlases, Geographic and Historical, Old and Modern" and "Geographic Maps, Topographical and Celestial, French and Foreign." He is not to be confused with the French engraver Charles-Louis Simonneau (1645-1728). From 1839 until at least 1860, the firm's maps were sold under the imprint of "Longuet, successor of Simonneau"
"BN-OPALINE." 12 June 2005. Bibliothèque Nationale de France Cartes et Plans. (19 January 2006).
"Ciel & Terre: L'atlas Catalan." from "The Age of King Charles V." Bibliothèque Nationale de France. http://www.bnf.fr/enluminures/texte/atx2_07.htm (18 January 2006).
Davis, Henry. "Slide #235: The Catalan Atlas." Cartographic Images. 2010. http://cartographic-images.net/Cartographic_Images/235_Catalan_Atlas.html (14 July 2011).
Grojean, Georges Ed. Mapamundi, the Catalan atlas of the year 1375. Abaris Books, 1978.
Illustrating Maps of the Late Medieval Period: 1300 - 1500 A.D. 18 February 1998. http://www.henry-davis.com/MAPS/LMwebpages/235mono.html (18 January 2006).