Victor Levasseur : le cartographe esthète du XIXe siècle

Victor Levasseur: the esthete cartographer of the 19th century

In the panorama of the 19th century in France, a thriving period for geographical sciences, the work of Victor Levasseur clearly stands out. His maps and atlases, true masterpieces of art as well as precision, won over a wide audience, at a time when geography was beginning to enter bourgeois living rooms. These documents, combining aesthetics and pedagogy, sit elegantly alongside the work of his contemporaries such as Migeon, Dufour, Vuillemin... Beyond their informative value, Levasseur's works are witnesses to the democratization of geographical knowledge, bringing to knowledge of the world a dimension as didactic as it is pleasing to the eye.

Victor Levasseur: a life in the service of Geography

Victor Levasseur, who was born on December 8, 1800 in the town of Caen and died on February 4, 1870 in Paris, had a life marked by the rise of modern cartography. His career as a geographical engineer, crowned by close collaboration with the Génie du Cadastre and the City of Paris, reflects his expertise in the art of measuring and precisely tracing territories. His paternity is not the least, since he is the father of Pierre-Emile Levasseur, an eminent figure in history and economics. The legacy of Victor Levasseur is palpable in his illustrated maps, veritable pictorial journeys through France and the world of his time, depicting with richness and meticulousness the complexity of the era.

Victor Levasseur's major work: the Illustrated National Atlas

It was between 1842 and 1872 that the Illustrated National Atlas was designed, a period of industrial revolutions and social upheavals. Fruit of the collaboration of three Parisian publishers, this work marks its time with the finesse and beauty of its maps of French departments. Ornamented by the talented engraver Guillaume Laguillermie, they echo regional specificities, celebrating the diversity and riches of France. They are enriched with demographic and economic statistics, biographies of illustrious figures and descriptions of local productions and departmental curiosities.

Levasseur map of Charente

Levasseur map of Charente

The Illustrated Universal Atlas by Victor Levasseur

As a direct complement to its national counterpart, the Illustrated Universal Atlas presents an ambitious journey across the continents. It is composed of six engravings resulting from meticulous work aimed at representing the diversity of the known world at the time. This atlas is a window open onto a planet in full discovery, where each map is an invitation to explore territories that were then distant and mysterious. Levasseur, through this work, expresses his desire for the dissemination of universal geographical knowledge.


Victor Levasseur's maps, today, are not limited to the status of relics of a bygone past. They embody coveted art objects, appreciated for their visual grace and their ability to capture the essence of a France in full change. These works decorate the interiors of enlightened amateurs with distinction, creating bridges between eras, and reaffirming France's place in the world history of geography. The figure of Victor Levasseur, through his indelible contribution, remains forever inscribed at the heart of cartographic heritage.

Back to blog