FER, Nicolas de (1646-1720). Introduction a la Fortification. Paris: chez l'autheur, [1690] - 1705.

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FER, Nicolas de (1646-1720). Introduction a la Fortification. Paris: chez l'autheur, [1690] - 1705.

Oblong 4to., (11 x 18 2/8 inches). Engraved table of contents listing plates 21-189 on front paste-down, folding table of distances on rear paste-down (without engraved title-page frontispiece), 189 engraved plates of explanations, maps, fortifications and town plans the majority in France, the Low Countries, Germany, Italy and Spain, by de Fer, H. van Loon, C. Inselin, Gournay, Louisel and others, about 10 with later hand-colour, 2 folding (early and last leaves frayed and a bit thumbed). Contemporary mottled calf (the spine reinforced with green glazed paper probably in the early 19th-century, very worn).

Provenance: plates consecutively numbered in the top margin at an early date.

The beautiful and detailed plates include all fortified towns in France, the Low Countries, Germany, Italy and Spain and around the Mediterranean, but also including Constantinople, Tripoly, Algiers, Malta, and unlisted plates of Quebec and the St. Lawrence River (creased), and Batavia.  

Nicolas de Fer's "Forces de l' Europe" was first published in eight parts between 1690 and 1695. It's original title was "Introduction a la Fortification", and was also chosen for the first part only. This copy is a later re-issue with some plates dated 1705. In 1695, de Fer published the engraved list of 189 plates which is bound here at the beginning along with the table of distances between European towns, bound here at the end.

Nicolas de Fer was one of the great map-producers of the 17th century. He became the protégé of Le Grand Dauphin, Louis de France, son of the great Louis XIV in 1689, and when the Duke of Anjou (grandson of Louis XIV) acceded to the throne of Spain, de Fer was proclaimed 'Geographer of the King Spain and of the Dauphin', or again 'Geographer of the Royal children'.

De Fer, like the other map-editors encouraged Royal propaganda in his publications, with such headings as "This map that I distribute to the people displays the theatre of your victories." His shop's sign was in fact 'the Royal Globe' an emblem he was very proud of for the image of his armillary sphere can be found in the majority of his publications.  While he enjoyed this official support, Nicolas de Fer produced Atlases as numerous as their content was important. His principal quality was to have drawn all his maps according to the new observations and calculations of the Académie des Sciences, and he even solicited for his purposes the Mathematician and Astronomer Ph. De la Hire, himself a member of the Académie des Sciences and Professor at the Collège de France.  

His father Antoine de Fer had been a modest merchant of engravings and prints and had begun to specialise in map-printing and illuminating from 1646. His productions were third rate, however, and he often reused copper plates produced by other editors. His son, Nicolas, succeeded him with far more success and talent. As a young boy of twelve years old Nicolas was made the apprentice of the engraver Louis Spirinx and inherited his father's modest business in 1687. From then began his illustrious carrier. Three years later he was officially nominated Geographer of the Dauphin, heir to the throne of France. No work signed by him as an engraver has been kept however, for he soon specialised exclusively in map-making. Nicolas de Fer never claimed himself to be a topographer however, but merely a 'vulgariser' of geographical science.  Pastoureau Fer IXB, pages 209-212.