Nowadays, to go for a walk or to search for a region, we use GPS, internet media or possibly our maids old cards roads. But what about in the days of Kings Louis XIII, Louis XIV or even Louis XV?
The first maps of the Renaissance
In the 13th century, there were a few drawn maps, but only for sailors in order to find their bearings in relation to the profile of the coast, in particular that of the Mediterranean, which is well supplied with ports. Only later did we tackle the Aquitaine coastline, as there were no ports between Bordeaux and Saint Jean de Luz. However, all the maps drawn were quite wrong: the Pyrenees being oriented North / South, for example! In 1525, a professor at the Royal College published a work in which France was "stocky, resembling a diamond stretched from east to west." Catherine de Medici then asks to draw up a general and particular description of the country, but due to wars, only Berry, Bourbonnais and the Lyon region will be described. Another reason: the unit of measurement and in particular the meridians were different.
In 1550, a first guide was created, but without any maps “the guide of the Grands Chemins de France”.
The wishes of Louis XIII and Louis XIV
Louis XIII believes that knowing geography was very useful for the good government of his country. He then appointed the editor Sanson to the post of Geographer of the King. This refers to the Dutch Frisius essays, but the measurements were too different and inaccurate.
Under Louis XIV, we use the local cartography preserved in the archives of the lords: grazing areas, agricultural plots, calvaries and bridges. But to build Versailles, it was necessary to calculate, for example, the transport and the journeys, by road or by waterway, to bring the marbles coming mostly from Spain. Hence the importance of having a slightly more detailed map!
In the south of France, PP Riquet also had a map of the region drawn up when he created the Royal Canal des Deux Mers to boost Languedoc: only soils and roads are mentioned, but not distances and altitudes. It is only when Louis XIV wants to supply the water basins of the domain of Versailles by diverting the Loire, that we have to think about the altitudes. Geodetic surveys are launched with eyeglasses.
In the process, a topographic study is carried out where the relief of each region is registered, which is a great novelty.
The grid of France
Several prominent members of the Academy of Sciences (surveyors, geographers, astronomers) are embarking on the creation of a map of the Earth and the kingdom, but they need a landmark and a single unit of measurement.
The landmark is established in the Vaugirard plain and next to the Luxembourg castle. On 06/21/1667, we started the location: a metal meridian was placed in the center of the floor of the 1st floor of Luxembourg. Therefore, this point will make it possible to calculate the longitudes and latitudes, becoming the single measurements.
Abbé Picard thus succeeded in 1678 in publishing a map of the kingdom, serving as a topographical model, which was offered to Louis XIV in 1687 under the name of the Table de Couplet, but France was a little distorted ...
The “grid of France” will take place from 1683 to 1718. We start in Dunkirk in the direction of Collioure, we identify the high points such as mills and bell towers, in order to establish triangles, using chains of surveyors measuring 8 meters long! The glasses are improved and fitted with graduated quarter circles and a plumb line.
Working at night, a fire is lit in the axis of each telescope, making it possible to calculate the positioning on the ground thanks to Jupiter's satellites, to obtain a meridian arc according to the curvature of the terrestrial globe.
The great improvements under Louis XV
The young monarch is in good school with his tutors: Cassini and astronomy, Delisle and geography. Fascinated by astronomy, Louis XV transformed the Château de la Muette into a personal observatory. Also interested in geography and ground-tracking techniques, in 1722 he had a geography gallery built in the attic of the Palace of Versailles.
Delisle's successor, Bourguignon d´Anville urges his pupil to establish a description of France: geometric plan detailing local resources and detailed topography. In order for the maritime expeditions of 1733 to go smoothly, it was necessary to recalculate the degree of the meridian arc. We then notice errors and the length of the meridian from Dunkirk to Collioure is updated. This work will last eleven years.
In 1744, a new map of France was published, at a scale of 1 / 86400th with an accuracy of 464.34m ... and surprisingly France was larger than expected. During this time, the king had a map drawn of his five royal residences, with mention of paths, roads, agricultural plots, the hydrographic network, the planting of gardens, a bit like future state maps- major.
The usefulness of maps
The War of the Austrian Succession pushes the king to obtain the map of the regions invested and the drawings of the battlefields. As these statements are quickly carried out, he asks "that the card of my kingdom be raised in the same way". The quote is 90,000 pounds over ten years, providing fifteen boards per year. The budget is accepted and the work is progressing quickly. In three years, we can see the borders from Dunkirk to Metz, the coast from Dunkirk to Cherbourg and the generality of Paris.
But the Seven Years' War will cut the budget. A list of eight individuals is set up under the leadership of Ms. de Pompadour to meet the needs of this work and provide their capital. The king gave them his consent and gave them full ownership of the plans, maps and drawings: he was fortunate to see the first drawings in 1756.
Europeans also began to compose maps: England and Ireland in 1763 would employ a constant scale, allowing exactness of proportions and distances, as well as a multitude of very precise details. These maps have another use: in 1773, they will make it possible to establish an epidemiological map. They will also be useful to Marie Antoinette when she locates and plans the relays, details the route for the flight to Varennes.