Tuesday, December 03, 2019


Only Three Errors

Graham Robb, The Discovery of France: A Historical Geography from the Revolution to the First World War (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2007), p. 282:
Since geographical information was scarce, most writers took their facts from earlier books, which had been plagiarized from even earlier works. In this way, monuments that had long since ceased to exist were described as though the writer had actually seen them. Many writers clearly never expected anyone to follow their directions and painted detailed pictures of imaginary provincial towns. François Marlin travelled with Robert de Hesseln's compact Dictionnaire universel de la France (1771) because it was 'useful to have the whole country in six volumes in the pockets of one's carriage'. Unfortunately, Hesseln's local informers sometimes let him down, as Marlin discovered when he reached the capital of the Lozère département in 1790. 'M. Robert went to the trouble of placing Mende on a mountain, giving it a triangular shape and a large population. There are only three errors in this statement.'

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