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Antique Print of Alexandria, Egypt Description de la Ville d’ALexandrie et des Antiquities Remarquables qu’on y voit. by Henri Chatelain

1719 Description de la Ville d’ALexandrie et des Antiquities Remarquables qu’on y voit.

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By: Henri Abraham Chatelain

Date: 1719 (Published) Amsterdam

Dimensions: 14.75 x 19.25 inches 

This decorative map of Alexandria is from Chatelain's monumental Atlas Historique. Published in seven volumes, it was one of the most famous and prolific works of the early 18th century.

Chatelain was interested in historical monuments and often depicted them in his maps. This fascinating view of Alexandria depicts a number of important monuments, some of which are extant, in situ, today. Given the Romans’ and then later Western Europeans’ determination to enhance their cities’ skylines with ancient Egyptian monuments, it is remarkable that any of these sites are recognizable, let alone intact.   

The large panoramic view of the city includes Pompey’s Pillar. Built in ancient Corinthian style, it rises from the ruins of the ancient Greek Serapeum which was Alexandria’s ancient Greek necropolis. The pillar is a rarity in antiquity as it is a solid shaft of red granite rather than a constructed shaft of stacked drums. Its name is misleading as it was erected to honour Roman emperor Diocletian in the 4th century CE. The misnomer is thought to be due to misreading of the remains of the dedicatory inscription on the base of the pillar.

This view also depicts a number of individuals, some obviously native to Egypt, and others in European clothing. A large number of tents have been pitched just behind the Pillar, perhaps a camp of European explorers, who would have preceded Napoleon by approximately a century in order to have been depicted by Chatelain in 1719.

In an inset below the panoramic view of the city Chatelain depicts what he labels as the Palace of Cleopatra. It is unclear precisely what ruins he has named as her palace in this map. It is known that Alexandria was shaken by earthquake in the 5th century CE and that the island on which the palace stood fell victim to it, taking the palace to the bottom of the harbor.  As those in Chatelain’s map are located in water, they may represent a portion of the famed palace, which was discovered under water by French archaeologists in the first decade of the 21st century. Another inset depicts what Chatelain called ‘The Obelisk of Alexander’, and a third shows the labyrinthian construction of the interiors of some of the great towers of the city.

The map is accompanied by interesting, informative descriptive text, a hallmark of Chatelain’s work. This is map is a study of the remains of antiquity in Alexandria as they appeared in the early 18th century. 

Condition: This map is in A condition. It is evenly toned with a slight darkening of the lower edge at the centerfold. Extremely faint, minimal foxing.

Inventory #12176                                                                   

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