Works by William le Vasseur de Beauplan
Military plans and activities King of Władysław IV Waza (1595-1648), son of Zygmunt III Waza (1566-1632), contributed to the rapid development of cartography, particularly for military purposes. The King, appointed to the Russian throne in 1610, organised two campaigns to Moscow, in 1612 and 1617 in order to take over the rule. Both these efforts failed, but subsequent war with Moscow, in the years 1632 - 1634, ended with Polish victory. In the result of Polanów peace, Moscow gave up Livonia and most of the territories (districts of Smoleńisk, Czernichów and Siewierz) listed in the Dywilino armistice.
In Sztumska Wieś, in 1635, Poland and Sweden signed a peace treaty ending one of the many Polish-Swedish wars. The King's plans of a war with Turkey were rejected by Polish nobility and aristocracy. The King, who tried to attract to his court enlighted magnates, such as Jan Ossoliński, and also talented officers, wished to strengthen his position and deemed it important to collect and classic information on the territories, where he fought his wars. Outstanding engineers were employed to build fortresses, leading European experts were training Polish army and advising the King on the modem weapons for his soldiers, and most renowned cartographers were collecting data, preparing descriptions and kineraria and, finally, editing and publishing military maps. Władysław IV laid foundations for the Polish fleet; thanks to him a unique map of the mouth of the Vistula was made: Tabula Topographica demonstrans situm Sinis Pucensis a Porta Weisselmunde usque ad Peninsulam Hel. This is the only known Polish sea-map of that period.
One of the most active officers in the King's service was French military cartographer and engineer William le Vasseur de Beauplan (1600-1673), who joined Polish armed forces in 1630, during Zygmunt's In reign. He was the author of first Polish detailed maps. Two years after joining the Polish army, he became head of engineering works at Ukraine, Podole and Wołyń. He was involved not only in purely military activities; he established villages, made forts, built roads and communications routes, and took part in setting out the Polish-Moscow border after the Polanów armistice. In 1639, he lead a boat expedition along the Dnieper, collecting data for a three-chart map of the middle and lower course of that river; the map was later published in Blaeu atlases and their versions. During that expedition the Beauplan measured the latitude of the Dnieper's mouth, which proved to be one of the most important achievements in the history of European cartography. According to his precise measurement, with a minute error of only 15', the longitude was 4650'; in this way he corrected the Ptolemaic error of extending the Mediterranean and surrounding lands. Using de Beauplan's measurements, Wilhelm Delisle published at the beginning of the 18th century a map of Europe, which is very similar to contemporary presentations. While on duty, Beauplan took part in many skirmishes and armed encounters with Cossacks and Tartars, who were invading Eastern and south-eastern territories of the republic, in more or less organised groups or hordes.
The first stay of the French officer in the Ukraine resulted in publishing a hand-drawn small map of Southern Ukraine with the Azov Sea and Crimea, in Southern attitude, called Tabula Geographica Ukrainska. It was preserved until our times in the atlas of Frederic Getkant, the author of the above mentioned, rare sea chart. After 1639, the map was supplemented with the region of Podole voivodship, part of the Dnieper region, Pokucie and Wołyń. De Beauplan used as one of his sources the Polish military intelligence - he probably was even its co-founder. He was assisted in his work by Sebastian Aders, who was acting as an agent in the Balkans and the Crimea, under orders of the Commander-in-Chief of the Polish Army.
In 1645, Beauplan was authorised by king Wiadyslaw IV to print the so-called special map of Ukraine, without the Black Sea, Crimean Khanate, Moldova and the Wild Prairie, named Delineario specialis et accurata tutius Ukrainae cum suis palatinatibus ac disfrictibus provinciisque adiacentibus. The general map, in a smaller scale, but including the territories that were not present on the special map, was edited earlier and engraved by Beauplan's friend, Gdaflsk engraver Wilhelm Hondius (+1652). The source of this map must have been the Tabula Geographica Ukrainska. In 1650, Hondius completed the matrices for the special map, which were corrected after the author's final departure from Ukraine, after he was removed from his post by Mikolaj Potocki in 1647. Late Hondius' belongings were listed and sealed up under orders of King Jan Kazimierz. The letter, in which the king ordered sealing up the collection of maps, mentions also the existence of "Atlante Polonico, welchen... Beauplan zu designieren angefangen..." which was said to consists of 20 maps. The king himself was probably not acquainted with Hondius' heritage, but he knew that the engraver was publishing Beauplan's maps, probably also those of Poland. He also knew the character and quality of the Frenchman's works, and was positive that Hondius possessed materials that should be treated as classified.
In 1660, French publisher Jacques Cailloue published an extensive description of the Ukraine by Beauplan, supplied not only with the maps by Hondius, but also other drawings, used as illustrations of the text. 11 maps of the Ukraine and the map of the Kingdom of Poland, made by Hondius, discovered in 1952 in the City Library of Gdańk, were to be annexed to this general description of Ukraine. An analysis of the correspondence of Beauplan and Hondius suggests that the cartographer had to press king Jan Kazimierz to pay him royalties promised by King Władysław IV; it is, however, unknown whether he finally succeeded in receiving his remuneration, or not.
Nothing is known also about the publication of Beauplan's presentation of the whole territory of the Kingdom. Beauplan planned to create such atlas - in other words, the above mentioned Atlante Polonico. The atlas is mentioned by a son of Hondius' heir, y& ung Polman, who wished to publish it in Holland, with text by father Lipski of Warsaw. The atlas, however, is not identical with the grand map of the Republic by Beauplan, as the officer did not have enough time to prepare such map. Therefore, Hondius' map of the whole Kingdom, based on Beauplan's presentation still remains a mystery.
However, it is hard to believe that a 20-chart map would remain unnoticed by cartographers, booksellers or the Polish royal court. The Atlante Polonico therefore, probably encompasses the collection of 11 small maps discovered in 1952. Assuming that the collection is incomplete and some 8 - 9 maps are missing, it seems that Beauplan really planned to publish a 19 x 14 cm atlas of Poland with a well-developed descriptive part. Such assumption would clari~ the mention of 20 maps, made by king Jan Kazimierz in his letter ordering to seal up Hondius' property. It is equally difficult to explain why Hondius' heir tried to publish in Holland fragments of the collection stamped by the Polish king. Either he needed a special permit by the royal chancellery to do it, or the maps were stamped only for inventory reasons, which seems to be rather pointless.
The special map of Ukraine was prepared in Southern attitude, basing on measurements and research by the author himself Although Beauplan knew the map of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania by Mikołaj Krzysztof Radziwiłł and Tomasz Makowski, he aid not use it as his source when he worked on the territories covered by both maps; he often committed more serious mistakes than the Radziwiłł team, particularly than the Jesuits. The inconsistency in the precision of the contents of Beauplan's map is the proof that the Frenchman was its sole author. He is more precise about territories where he stayed longer, and more general about the territories where he spent only limited time and to where he paid few visits. Extremely difficult conditions of work, due to the character of the research itself at that time and to the political situation in Ukraine, give Beauplan's work special recognition in the history of Polish cartography. Beauplan's letter/memorial to minister Colbert proves that the French cartographer used for his work at the Eastern borderland of the Republic of Poland a state-of-the-art equipment, such a astrolabe, odometer, chronometer and compass.
The general map of Ukraine does not differ from the hand drawn Tabula Geographica Ukrainska, and is a reduction of the special map. As it covers the whole of the Ukraine, it was often re-worked and included in various cartographic publications.
The map of Poland from the collection, recently discovered in Gdańsk, quickly became very popular and quoted by renowned cartographers and geographers, as it introduced corrections crucial for the development of the cartographic presentation of Europe.