Nicolas Sanson was born in Abbeville where as a young man he studied history, particularly of the ancient world, and it is said that he turned to cartography only as a means of illustrating his historical work. For this purpose he prepared a number of beautifully drawn maps, one of which, after his move to Paris, came to the attention of Louis XIII. In due course the King appointed him 'Geographe Ordinaire du Roi', one of his duties being to tutor the King in geography.
In the preparation of his major atlas, Cartes Generales de Toutes les Parties du Monde, Sanson employed a number of engravers, one of whom, M. Tavernier, engraved important maps showing the Post Roads and River and Waterway system of France (1632-34) and a map of the British Isles (1640).
In all, Sanson produced about 300 maps of which two of North America were particularly influential: Amerique Septentrionale (1650) and Le Canada ou Nouvelle France (1656), the first map to show all the Great Lakes.
After Sanson's death the business was carried on by his two surviving sons and grandson, in partnership with A. H. Jaillot.
It is generally accepted that the great age of French cartography originated with the work of Nicolas Sanson but credit must go also to A. H. Jaillot and Pierre Duval for re-engraving his maps, many still unprinted at his death, and re-publishing them in face of strong competition from the Dutch, who continued to dominate the market until the end of the century.
Click here to see maps published by the Sanson family.
Dictionary of map makers
An illustrated list of makers of maps, charts and globes from the earliest time of cartography to present.
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