Anville, Jean-Baptiste Bourguignon D’

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Anville, Jean-Baptiste Bourguignon D’

(b. Paris, France, 11 July 1697; d. Paris, 28 January 1782)


D’Anville was the son of Hubert Bourguingnon and Charlotte Vaugon. About 1730 he married Charlotte Testard, who bore him two daughters. He was secretary to the duke of Orléans (regent during the minority of Louis XV) and was named royal geographer as early as 1717. Having been elected to the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres in 1754, he succeeded Buache as chief royal geographer in 1773 and as assistant geographer to the Académie Royale des Sciences.

D’Anville contributed greatly to the renaissance of geography and cartography in France in the eighteenth century. He was the author of 211 maps or plans, and from his first publications he demonstrated great intellectual honesty by leaving unknown territories (the interior of Africa, America, and Asia) blank, contrary to the practice of many cartographers, who used ornaments—the less their knowledge of a territory, the greater the ornamentation.

Furthermore, his maps were solidly based on triangulation nets. As a result, the maps of China, drawn at the request of the Jesuits for Father du Halde’s history, after reports of their missionaries, were the first to give an accurate indication of the Pacific Coastline (the Yellow Sea and its gulfs and headlands and the Molucca Islands). D’Anville also drew maps of France for Longuerue’s Description de la France (1719), and maps of Africa and Santo Domingo.

He made studies of ancient measurements in several memoirs and in his Traité des mesures itinéraires anciennes et modernes (1769). Comparing them with modern figures, he established remarkably accurate maps for Rollin’s Histoire ancienne, Rollin and Crevier’s Histoire romaine, and the Histoire des empereurs romains. His maps were greatly appreciated by geographers and navigators, and their exactness was confirmed for Italy by the geodesic operations carried out under the pontificate of Benedict XIV, and for Egypt during Napoleon’s campaign in 1799. D’Anville was less successful in his studies of the figure of the earth, and his two memoirs on that subject (1735, 1736) contain some erroneous conclusions. In 1780 d’Anville gave the king his remarkable collection of 10,000 maps, which were both engraved and in manuscript. This collection is now in the Bibliothèque Nationale. In spite of delicate health d’Anville lived until his eighty-fifth year, having devoted his life almost wholly to his work and having published, besides his maps, numerous articles on geography and cartography.


I. Original Works. The complete bibliography is in L.-C.-J. de Manne, Notice des ouvrages de M. d’ Anville (see below). The works most important to understanding his achievements in cartography are Mèmoire instructif pour dresser sur lieux des cartes particulières et topographiques d’un canton de pays … (Paris, 1743); Gèographie ancienne abrègée (Paris, 1769); Traité des mesures itinéraires anciennes et modernes (Paris, 1769); and Considérations géeérales sur l’étude et les connaissances que demande la composition des ouvrages de géographie (Paris, 1777), Manne prepared an ed. of the Oeuvres de d’Anville in 6 Vols., Only 2 of which appeared, with an atlas (Paris, 1834).

II. Secondary Literature. Works on d’Anville are Condorcet, “Éloge de d’Anville,” in Oeuvres de Condorcet, II (Paris, 1847), 528 ff.; M. Dancier, “Éloge de d’Anville,” in Oeuvres de d’Anville, I, i-xvii; C. Du Bus, “La collection d’Anville à la Bibliothéque Nationale,” in Bulletin de géographie historique, 41 (1926–1929), 93 ff.; F. Hoefer, in Nouvelle biographie générale, II (1852), cols. 368–370; L.-C.-J. de Manne, Notice des ouvrages de M. d’Anville (Paris, 1802); Michaud, in Biographie universelle, II, 97–98; N. Nielsen, Géomètres francais du dix-huitièeme siècle (Paris, 1935), pp. 24–25; Poggendorff, I, 51; and M. Prévost, in Dictionnaire de biographie française, III, cols. 84–86.

Juliette Taton