AN EXCEPTIONALLY RARE PAIR OF GLOBES BY THE LEADING PUBLISHER OF FRENCH GLOBES IN THE SECOND HALF OF THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY
Didier de Vaugondy became the leading publisher of French globes in the second half of the 18th century. He was the son of Gilles Robert de Vaugondy, (1688-1766), the author of the Atlas portatif Universel et Militaire, and the great-grandson of one of the greatest 17th century French cartographers, Nicolas Sanson, official geographer to the royal household. Didier and his brother Martin worked with their father in their workshop on the quai de l'Horloge near the Louvre, publishing maps and atlases as well as re-editions of their great-grandfather Sanson's publications. They were in close proximity to fellow mathematicians and makers of scientific instruments. Among them Nicolas Bion and his son Jean Pigeon, Pierre Moullart-Sanson, Nicolas Fortin, and Jean-Baptiste Fortin.
By the time he was twenty Didier de Vaugondy published a series of globes accompanied by a book Abrégé des différents systemes du monde de la sphère et usages des globes, suivants les hypothèses de Ptolémé et Copernic in 1745. This work demonstrated not only his affinity for and abilities in cartography, but also his innovation in the mounting and presentation of globes and armillary spheres. In 1750 Didier presented a terrestrial globe measuring 6 pouces (16 cm) to Louis XV in a competition for the position of Géographe ordinaire du roi, which he eventually obtained. Upon the invitation of Denis Diderot, Vaugondy wrote a seven page treatise in Diderot's first edition of the Encyclopédie on the manufacture of globes describing each stage of the process, from the choice of wood to the glue used to attach the strips onto the globe. He received a royal commission for a pair of globes 18 pouces (46 cm) in diameter for the use of the Navy. These were the largest globes produced since those by Vicenzo Coronelli between 1688 and 1693, measuring trois pieds et demi (114 cm) in diameter. These were thought to have been presented in November or December of 1751 along with a special edition of Usage des Globes. The pair was accepted by the Royal Academy of Sciences, chaired by the astronomers Cassini and Le Monnier.
From 1784 until his death in 1786, Didier worked along with Nicolas Gabriel le Clerc and Dom Claude Bergevin on the project for a globe of 8 pieds (260 cm) diameter, preserved at Versailles, but he did not live to see it completed. The present globes were part of a group initially offered by Vaugondy in 1751 as a subscription; he successfully reissued them in 1764 and in 1773.