Du Val, Pierre
Born Abbeville, Somme, France, 1618
Died Paris, France, 1683
Pierre Du Val was one of the dominant figures in French cartography during the second half of the seventeenth century. The popular circulation of the instructional portion of his oeuvreintroduced many to the basic elements of using maps and globes.
Du Val’s natal town seemingly offered fruitful soil for the cultivation of map makers. He shared his given name with his father, but more significant was the connection to the craft through his mother Marie Sanson, sister of the great Geographe Ordinaire du Roi, Nicolas Sanson (the man long credited with the development of the sinusoidal projection, adopted by many celestial cartographers, such as John Flamsteed in his Atlas Coelestis). Du Val received his early cartographic instruction from his uncle. Cartographic dynasties were as much a feature of the scientific life of the Sun King’s France as were astronomical ones, as witnessed by the Cassini and Maraldi clans. Du Val was in the capital by 1650, where he is listed as a geographer attached to the King’s household and where like his uncle he became a Geographe Ordinaire du Roy. His shop was located at the sign of l’Ancien Bois, Quai de l’Horloge on the Ile de la Cité, not far from the traditional book production area of Paris gravitating around the rue Saint Jacques. There, he and his cartographic colleagues and rivals were near to the scientific instrument makers on the Quai des Lunettes and to the astronomers associated with the Paris Observatory. It was a useful arrangement for those making the tools for astronomy, those who turned them to the heavens, and those who mapped the results. (The respective skills were not exclusive to each group.) When Du Val died, his wife and family took over the running of his shop.
The vast majority of Du Val’s map production was terrestrial rather than celestial, but to produce the former some knowledge of practical astronomy was deemed essential. Du Val’s maps featuring celestial content usually place it in a subordinate decorative role to the terrestrial material, as in some of his General Maps of the Earth (planispheres), which include charts of the northern and southern skies, diagrams of cosmological systems, or illustrations of the doctrine of the spheres. His comments on the desirable features of effective maps, the processes involved in making them, and the faults in the practices he saw around him offer valuable insights into cartographic production. They are as informative for the manufacture of terrestrial as for celestial charts.
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