André Thévet

Andre Thevet (1516/17-1592) was educated in the Franciscan monastery of Angoulême and then attended university in both Poitiers and Paris. He served as a chaplain to Catherine de Medici and as Royal Cosmographer to three French Kings. He was also keeper of the Royal Cabinet of Curiosities at Fontainebleau, and he himself acquired a fascinating array of maps and curiosities. He is perhaps best known for his seminal work, La Cosmographie Universelle, which was published in Paris in 1575, and printed in two folio volumes with over two-hundred wood-engravings and thirty-five maps.

As the title suggests, La Cosmographie Universelle is a work of cosmography. Cosmography was understood by Thevet as a description of the World and the Heavens. Many Renaissance Humanists criticised the hyperbolic fantasy of Thevet’s work, and its lack of direction as a publication. Thevet’s knowledge came from his travels – and unlike the writings of his critics – his work was born from experience. In this respect he deliberately distanced himself against the academic geographers and writers of the period, and instead associated with the great explorers and chart makers of the time.  This was also the cause of consternation amongst his humanist peers who believed that Thevet had renounced the collected wisdom of the ages, and most importantly, God. He was known to have only narrowly escaped a charge of heresy for his work on the Cosmographia.

Thevet travelled widely in Europe, the Near East and North Africa – even briefly visiting Brazil. Tales of these travels however, were heavily embellished and his engravings reflect this. Here we have a collection of engravings from his La Cosmographie Universelle, depicting exotic creatures and beasts from the distant corners of the globe.

Please click on an image to see it in high-resolution, with details of the work itself. For enquiries and purchases, see here.