2 Original drawings of French army's artillery/ Virtual Fair 106


Description: Stunning original drawings for the manufacture of the French army's artillery and related equipment, from the American Revolutionary War era


[Toulon, Angoulème, Versailles, Rochefort, etc., ca. 1762-1784]. Loose in later half calf box, gold-tooled spine, green paste-paper sides, gold-tooled red morocco title-labels on spine and front board. Original construction drawings for heavy artillery made for the Ancien Régime: mortars, howitzers, canons, etc. on 98 leaves (55 magnificently hand coloured), ranging from sketches to finished and officially approved designs and detailed working drawings with scales, exact measurements, etc., in various sizes (a few assembled from 2 pieces), mostly about 67 x 50 cm; plus 2 copies of a large engraving, "Canon de 36" by Petit. Further with 8 manuscript documents related to the drawings.

Unique and remarkable collection of 98 original drawings, 2 copies of an engraving and several manuscript documents, all concerning the design and fabrication of artillery and other military equipment, mostly from the last two decades of the Ancien Régime. It includes howitzers, canons, mortars, their various carriages, machines, tools and equipment. Besides the artillery and carriages they show a crane, a detailed design for a chain, shovels and other hand tools, and three drawings show various kinds of knots used by the military. There is also both a preliminary and a finished coloured plan of the foundry at Toulon and a preliminary elevation of a foundry with two furnaces. Some 55 drawings are beautifully coloured with washes, with a brilliantly realistic shading. Most are fine, finished drawings, but there are also a few preliminary sketches. For a few drawings, both preliminary and finished versions are present. Many show designs officially signed for approval by military officials: detailed working drawings with scales and exact measurements, made for the foundries to follow when manufacturing the equipment.
Only a few items bear dates, ranging from 1762 to 1784, but most probably date from the second half of this period. The high ranking military authorities who signed drawings to approve them include: Jean Maritz (1711-90), "inspecteur général des fontes de l'artillerie de terre et de mer", who signed a design in Angoulème on 21 June 1762; Sébastien-François Bigot, vicomte de Morogues (1705-81), "inspecteur général d'artillerie" (1767) and "lieutenant générale des armées navales", who signed a design in Versailles on 21 June 1769; La maréchal Charles-Eugène-Gabriel de Castries (1727-1801), "ministre de la marine" (1780) and maréchal de France (1783), who signed 6 designs in 1784; Jean Baptiste Vaquette de Gribeauval (1715-89), lieutenant général et premier inspecteur de l'artillerie (1767); and M. De la Haye d'Anglemont (1784).
Although the paper of the largest drawings measures about 67 x 50 cm, they are actually half-sheets of extremely large paper. The paper is all laid and mostly Dutch. About 60 of the largest drawings are made on paper watermarked: D & C Blauw|IV = Blauw arms (bearing: xX) with "D & C B" (Heawood 3268, but his ca. 1769 date may be a bit too early). The Blauw firm called this size "Double Elephant". About sixteen other drawings are made on sheets or parts of sheets from smaller D & C Blauw paper stocks, as are three of the manuscripts, including one dated 1784. The paper stocks of two of the manuscripts include watermarks dates 1771 and 1775, and the paper stock of the engraving includes a watermark date 1781. The collection seems to have been completed around 1784, just after the French helped the fledgling United States defeat England in the American Revolutionary War (1775-1783), and some of the materials were certainly produced during that war. Nearly all of the materials date after the end of the Seven Years' War in 1763, so the hostilities with England may have been the impetus for their production.
Many of the finished drawings form numbered series. In some cases both a preliminary and a final drawing survive, in some case only one or the other. There appear to be only three gaps in the numbered series and in all three cases an unnumbered preliminary drawing appears to fill the gap.
A few drawings have frayed edges or other minor marginal defects, and there is an occasional minor stain, but all drawings are in very good or fine condition. An unmatched source for the exact details of artillery and other equipment used by France around the time of the American Revolutionary War.
  • Number: 1060225 (A1UF82DAXIZH)
  • Dealer: Speculum Orbis Nauticum