Wyld’s Plan of the Fortifications of Paris


Incredible map of Paris showing its fortifications a week before the final siege of the Franco-Prussian War.

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Issued by the second James Wyld of the London publishing dynasty in 1870, this map shows Paris and the surrounding region. Very few details about the French capital’s cosmopolitan center are provided, and instead the map focuses on a ring of forts, redoubts, ramparts and trenches surrounding the city; designed to curb the threat of invasion from the upstart German Empire. Although Britain wasn’t directly involved in the contest known as the Franco-Prussian War, Wyld’s English audience would have cared deeply about its results and the effects on power balances on the continent.

Despite the apparently impregnable defenses of the city, Otto von Bismarck would not be dissuaded, and on September 19th, 1870, his forces completed the encirclement of Paris. Earlier the same month, Bismarck, Wilhelm I, and General Moltke (names that ring a bell with those familiar with WWI), captured Napoleon III and the remnants of his army at Sedan, forcing the establishment of a Third French Republic to continue the fight.

Under a Government of National Defense, the Parisians attempted two breakouts and endured the ongoing siege until January of 1871, when the provisional government surrendered to the Prussians. Subsequent leaders, eager to get the Prussians to evacuate the captured city, agreed to severe reparations which prompted civil unrest and revolution in the streets through May of the same year. However, the most significant repercussions would involve the foundation of serious enmity between France and the new German Empire (now owners of Alsace & Lorraine), which cascaded into a primary cause of World War I less than fifty years later.

Map Details

Publication Date: 1870

Author: James Wyld

Sheet Width (in): 34.00

Sheet Height (in): 23.50

Condition: B+

Condition Description: The map is in very good shape, dissected and mounted on linen with original marbled paper covers. The lower right panel shows some offsetting and there are a few fold intersections exhibiting some wear, but otherwise fine.