Beauplan, Guillaume Le Vasseur de

Image - A fragment of Beauplan's map of Ukraine (1650). Image - Beauplan's map of the Kyiv voivodeship. Image - Beauplans map of the Podilia and Kyiv voivodeships (1647).  Image - Beauplan's map of the Podilia voivodeship.

Beauplan, Guillaume Le Vasseur de, b ca 1600 in Normandy, d 6 December 1673. French army engineer, architect, and cartographer. From 1630 to 1648 he was a captain in the artillery of the Polish army and was ordered to Ukraine. In 1637–8 he took part in Stanisław Koniecpolski's campaign against Pavlo Pavliuk and Yakiv Ostrianyn; in 1639 he rebuilt the fortress Kodak, which had been destroyed by the Cossacks. He also built many castles and fortresses (including those at Bar, Brody, and Kremenchuk). Beauplan, one of the most famous 17th-century cartographers, drew the first descriptive map of Ukraine in 1639; in 1654 in Danzig he published a specialized (scale of 1:452,000) and a ‘general’ (scale of 1:1,800,000) map of Ukraine, both engraved by the famous Dutch engraver Willem Hondius (de Hondt). Following their publication in Rouen, France, in 1660, these maps were duplicated many times in various European countries (they were reproduced, moreover, by Veniiamyn Kordt in Materialy po istorii russkoi kartografii [Materials for the History of Russian Cartography, 1–2, 1899–1910]). In 1662 Beauplan anonymously published a map of the lower Dnipro River in Amsterdam. His book Description of Ukraine was widely known in Europe (Description des contrés du Royaume de Pologne, 1651; 2nd, enlarged edn, titled Description d'Ukranie, 1660; 3rd edn 1661; 4th edn, 1861). It includes geographical and economic information about Ukraine, describes the Ukrainian peasantry and other social classes, and gives a detailed description of the Dnipro Rapids. The Description, which was the first to describe Ukraine, was received with great interest in Europe (English translation, 1704; German, 1780; Polish, 1822; Russian, 1832; a partial translation also appeared in Ukrainian).

A proper Ukrainian edition of Beauplan's 1660 Description with extensive notes was edited by Valerii Smolii and published in Kyiv in 1990. A. Pernal and D. Essar prepared an English edition of Beauplan's Description (published by the Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute in 1993) which includes a bibliography of editions, extracts, and translations of the work and is accompanied by a separate map case.

‘Opisanie Ukrainy,’ in Memuary, otnosiashchesia k istorii Iuzhnoi Rusi, ed V. Antonovich (Kyiv 1896)
Liaskoronskii, V. Gilbom Levasser-de-Boplan i ego istoriko-geograficheskie trudy otnositel’no Iuzhnoi Rossii (Kyiv 1901)
Borschak, E. L'Ukraine dans la littérature de l'Europe occidentale (Paris 1935)
Wójcik, Z. (ed). Eryka Lassoty i Wilhelma Beauplana opisy Ukrainy (Warsaw 1972)
Vavrychyn, M. (ed) Boplan i Ukraïna: Zbirnyk naukovykh prats’ (Lviv 1998)

Elie Borschak

[This article was updated in 2009.]

Image - Beauplan's map of Ukraine engraved by Willem Hondius (1648).

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