First state of Halma’s pirated edition of Sanson’s map of Japan

By SANSON D’ABBEVILLE, Nicolas (I) and HALMA, Francois, 1683 

Les Isles dv Iapon.

Asia Japan
  • Author: SANSON D’ABBEVILLE, Nicolas (I) and HALMA, Francois
  • Publication place: [Utrecht
  • Publisher: Francois Halma
  • Publication date: 1683].
  • Physical description: Engraved map.
  • Dimensions: 219 by 301mm. (8.5 by 11.75 inches).
  • Inventory reference: 15832


First state of the plate, from Halma’s pirated edition of Sanson’s L’Asie en plvsiers cartes nouvelles, et exactes;…’, as part of L’Europe; L’Asie; L’Amerique… en Pluiers Cartes’. A direct copy of Sanson’s map of 1652, the only differences being the lack of a privilege and a date in the cartouche, the addition of the signature of the engraver, Antoine de Winter in the lower left corner.

Francois Halma (1653–1722) set up his printing business in Utrecht in 1674, where he issued a number of pirated maps and atlases. In this instance, since Sanson was dead, Halma may have felt that there no harm and much profit to be gained from re-printing his work. The engraver, Antoine de Winter (c1652-1700) achieved some notoriety for plagiarizing Petter Gedda’s charts of the Baltic Sea, selling them on to Loots and Doncker, for inclusion in their atlases, who were subsequently sued, and ordered to surrender the plates and pay a fine of 300 florins.

Sanson originally credited Caardin [sic], Varenius” and others’ for his map. Generally, the geography follows that of Moreira/​Blancus, only a small portion of the eastern coast of Korea is shown, without stating whether it is an island or not, and there is only a hint of Hokkaido in the far northeast corner with the place name Matzumay. Varenius, or Bernhard Varen (fl1622-1650) was a German physician, geographer and natural historian. He settled in Amsterdam, and was a friend of the Blaeu family. He published Descriptio regni Japonia…’ in 1649, and came to be known as the father of physical geography’ (Hubbard).

Sanson (1600–1667) was a French mapmaker. He supposedly began to make maps to supplement his study of history, and a map of Ancient Gaul made early in his career brought him to the attention of Cardinal Richelieu. This foothold in the French court allowed him to rise to the position of Geographe du Roi, teaching both Louis XIII and Louis XIV. Louis XIII even made him a counsellor of state.

Sanson produced an atlas, Cartes Generales de Toutes les Parties du Monde’, which contained important maps of the post roads and waterways of France. He also produced two major maps of North America: Amerique Septentrionale’ (1650) was the first map to show the Great Lakes in a recognisable form, aided by Sanson’s access to The Jesuit Relations, a collection of accounts by French missionaries to the area. The map was also drawn on a sinusoidal projection, which Sanson was the first to use. In 1656, he made Le Canada ou Nouvelle France’, which showed the Great Lakes in greater detail, and included accurate representations of the Hudson Bay area, the Delaware and the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. After Sanson’s death the business was carried on by his two surviving sons and grandson, in partnership with Hubert Jaillot.

Sanson family members were revered among the foremost map makers in France for nearly a century. A leading exemplar of the French school of seventeenth-century cartography, Nicholas Sanson I is widely regarded as the founder of modern geography, and it is generally held that the so­ called Great Age” of French cartography originated with his publications. 


  1. Hubbard 51.1
    • Hubbard, J. and Mihama, Y. (2012). Japoniæ insulæ. Houten: HES & De Graaf Publishers BV.
  2. Pastoureau Sanson III F (L’Asie)
    • Pastoureau, Mireille. (1984). Les atlas français, XVIe-XVIIe siècles. Paris: Bibliothèque nationale, Départment des cartes et plans.
  3. VII F.