Paris: Louis Charles Desnos, 1761.
Copper plate engraving with original hand color. Image measure 14.25" x 20.75".
This lovely 1761 map by Claude Buy de Mornas depicts the Nile Delta in northern Egypt. The map presents the science, arts and monuments of Egypt, and as such does not identify cities, towns or other locations. Includes illustrations of pyramids, pharaohs, and a labyrinth. The city of Memphis is labeled and mountains are rendered in profile. Along the left and right is French text and the whole is surrounded by a beautiful floral border.
The notable feature of this map is the mapping of the large Lake Moeris. Today a small lake named 'Birket Qarun' near modern day Hawara appears at the location of Lake Moeris. Nearby is the legendry 'Labyrinth'. The lost Labyrinth appears in many classical texts including those of Herodatus, Strabo, Diodorus and Pliny. Described to be megalithic complex designed by Imandes for the Pharaoh Amenemhet III, the Labyrinth is believed to have contained thousands of rooms filled with hieroglyphs and ancient Egyptian sculptures. Herodotus wrote about it in the fifth century B.C.:
" Furthermore, they resolved to leave a memorial of themselves in common, and in pursuance of this resolve they made a labyrinth, a little above Lake Moeris, and situated near what is called the City of the Crocodiles. I saw it myself and it is indeed a wonder past words; for if one were to collect together all of the buildings of the Greeks and their most striking works of architecture, they would all clearly be shown to have cost less labor and money than this labyrinth. Yet the temple at Ephesus and that in Samos are surely remarkable. The pyramids, too, were greater than words can tell, and each of them is the equivalent of many of the great works of the Greeks; but the labyrinth surpasses the pyramids also. It has 12 roofed courts, with doors facing one another, 6 to the north and 6 to the south and in a continuous line. There are double sets of chambers in it, some underground and some above, and their number is 3,000; there are 1,500 of each. We ourselves saw the aboveground chambers, for we went through them so we can talk of them, but the underground chambers we can speak of only from hearsay. For the officials of the Egyptians entirely refused to show us these, saying that there were, in them, the coffins of the kings who had built the labyrinth at the beginning and also those of the holy crocodiles. So we speak from hearsay of these underground places; but what we saw aboveground was certainly greater than all human works. The passages through the rooms and the winding goings-in and out through the courts, in their extreme complication, caused us countless marvelings as we went through, from the court into the rooms, and from the rooms into the pillared corridors, and then from these corridors into other rooms again, and from the rooms into other courts afterwards. The roof of the whole is stone, as the walls are, and the walls are full of engraved figures, and each court is set round with pillars of white stone, very exactly fitted. At the corner where the labyrinth ends there is, nearby, a pyramid 240 feet high and engraved with great animals. The road to this is made underground.
Such was the labyrinth; but an even greater marvel is what is called Lake Moeris, beside which the labyrinth was built. The circuit of this lake is a distance of about 420 miles, which is equal to the whole seaboard of Egypt. The length of the lake is north and south, and its depth at the deepest is 50 fathoms [300 feet]. That it is handmade and dug, it itself is the best evidence. For in about the middle of the lake stand 2 pyramids that top the water, each one by 50 fathoms [300 feet], and each built as much again underwater; and on top of each there is a huge stone figure of a man sitting on a throne. So these pyramids are 100 fathoms [600 feet] high, and these 100 fathoms are the equivalent of a 600-foot furlong, the fathom measuring 6 feet, or four cubits (the cubit being six spans). The water in the lake is not fed with natural springs, for the country here is terribly waterless, but it enters the lake from the Nile by a channel; and for 6 months it flows into the lake, and then, another 6, it flows again into the Nile. During the 6 months that it flows out, it brings into the royal treasury each day a silver talent for the fish from it; and when the water flows in, it brings 20 minas a day."
Despite many archelogical surveys being conducted at site, no evidence of the Labyrinth has been confirmed till today. The French text along the sides also includes a brief description of the Labyrinth.
The map appears in the 1761 edition of "Atlas Methodique et Elementaire de Geographie et d'Histoire", published by Louis Charles Desnos. The map is in good condition with minor wear along the original centerfold and minor spotting. Some edge wear. Stain in lower margin, not affecting printed image. Original plate mark is visible.
Louis Charles Desnos (1725 - 1805) was a cartographer and globe maker from Paris, France. He was the Royal Globe Maker for the Kind of Denmark, Christian VII, and published a large number of maps during his time.