Riding the wave


The dynasty of the Roux

Official charts produced by State cartographic agencies coexisted with the extensive production of commercial chart-makers, who were competing for the privilege of working in a sector which offered considerable earnings, power and prestige.

They therefore continued to print charts even after the foundation of the Dépôt des cartes ... often passing them off as official documents, so that the Government had to adopt legal measures against plagiarism on October 5, 1773, made more restrictive on August 18, 1775, and even more so on June 10, 1786, with particular reference to the circulation of nautical charts.

An emblematic case is that of Joseph Roux, who descended from a family of hydrographers and led a printing firm in Marseille with his son Joseph Junior. An unknown C. Roux is the author of coastal views included in the Italian edition of the third volume of De Nieuwe Groote Lichtende Zee-Fakkel, entitled La nuova grande illuminante face del mare published by J. Van Keulen at Amsterdam in 1695.

Joseph Roux junior, with his sons Antoine and Frederic, later applied himself to painting marine landscape.

In 1764, Roux had released an album titled Recueil des Principaux Plans des Ports et Rades de la Mer Méditerranée ..., only 242 x 174 mm in size, inclusive of 121 harbour plans, with neither explanatory text nor captions. The charts are engraved rather coarsely, contain little nautical information and have different scales and orientation, due to the small size of the charts. They provide no geographical coordinates, have a central rose of eight or sixteen winds, and present typical features of the previous century, such as profiles of conspicuous buildings or villages, drawn in perspective within the coastline.

This small atlas met with wide favour, probably because of its easy handling, and was reprinted at the end of the century: the Correr Museum in Venice has a reprint of 1799, published by Yves Gravier, Libraire derriere la Loge de Banchi, who published later editions. It 's interesting the connection between Roux, Marseille, and French Gravier, operating in Genoa.

The album was re-issued in 1804, expanded to 163 tables, entitled Recueil ... de la Mer Méditerranée dont 40 ont été derniérement publiés par Jean Joseph Allezard ancien Capitaine de Marine et plusieurs des autres corrigés, chez Yves Gravier Libraire sous la Loge de Banchi, and was again re-edited in 1848 as Nouveau Recueil ... de la Mer Méditerranée nouvellement publiés par les meilleur Auteurs, Genes 1848, Chez Yves Gravier, Libraire derrière de la Loge de Banchi.This issue has 179 chartlets plus a sheet of merchant flags of thirteen European countries, and a chart of Odessa with many soundings, approximately 29x20.5 cm, anonymous, undated and written in Italian, placed at the end of the book.

This edition includes charts written in English, by Ayrouard and by G. A. Rizzi-Zannoni (some are signed, some may be attributed to either, by comparison), and a map of the Marmara Sea by J.N. Bellin.

His chart of the Mediterranean, in twelve sheets, is famous for having been used on board the " Victory " by H. Nelson in 1805, entitled Carte de la Mer Méditerranée en douze feuilles. Dediée a M.gr le Duc de Choiseul ... Ministre de la Guerre et de la Marine par son très humble serviteur Joseph Roux hydrographe du Roy, sur le port à St. Jean, Marseille, 1764. A copy is kept both at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich , and at the Naval Museum of Genoa (No. cat. 1953), which also owns a Raccolta di Carte Nautiche (No. cat. 2044) by Roux and Bellin, also present at the Correr Museum in Venice.

The dedication that appears on the chart was almost a case of vaunted credit, in the light of the rules laid down in 1773-75, and on November 6, 1786, the Minister of the Navy requisitioned a "Carte de l'Océan occidental du Sr. Joseph Roux se disan ingénieur à Marseille, qu'il s'est permis de faire imprimer et qui est remplie d'erreurs."

No better were his son, during the Directoire, who passed as documents of the Dépôt his own charts, printed at Genoa, and his nephew Antoine who, fifty years later, reproduced official charts of the Gulf of Lion, of Greece and of the Black Sea.

(News drawn from the overview of French cartography by Olivier Chapuis, A la mer comme au ciel: Beautemps-Beaupré & la naissance de l'hydrographie moderne (1700-1850), p. 1060, and 130 figures and tables, Paris , 1999)
Zakynthos, in a view, probably watercolored on request.
The same table b / w appears in the Recueil ... de la Mer Méditerranée. (Private Collection)
The chart was published in Coste del Mediterraneo nella cartografia europea: 1500-1900 , Priuli & Verlucca Publishers, 2004, 179 p., 318 ill.

Paola Presciuttini, 2002