Le Neptune françois, the most beautiful nautical atlas published in Amsterdam in the seventeenth century, with the most eminent and reliable information, is a ‘contrefaçon’, a reproduction. Through its publication Pieter Mortier (1661-1711) wanted to compete with De Nieuwe Groote Lichtende Zeefakkel, the impressive pilot-guide that had established a monopoly for Johannes van Keulen (1654-1715) in the field of maritime cartography since 1681.
Le Neptune françois, ou atlas nouveau des cartes marines. Levées et gravépar ordre exprés du roy. Pour l'usage de ses armées de mer. A Paris, chez Hubert Jaillot [= Amsterdam, P. Mortier], 1693. 2º. - 394 A 58, frontispiece.
In the 1680s Jean Colbert (1619-1683) commissioned a group of mathematicians and astronomers of the Académie Royale des Sciences to map the coasts of the European continent from Norway to Gibraltar, together with hydrographers of the French Navy. This resulted in a magnificently engraved atlas of 29 leaves, which was printed in 1693 by the Imprimerie Royale in Paris. Publication was the responsibility of the royal geographer Alexis-Hubert Jaillot (1632-1712). In that very year Pieter Mortier's reproduction was published: engraved and printed in exactly the same way. Mortier was the son of a French political refugee, and had in 1690 been granted the privilege of distributing the maps and atlases of French publishers in Holland, a privilege he did, indeed, take full advantage of. As it was impossible for him to acquire the original copperplates, he had the charts newly engraved and subsequently put on the market under the original imprint. This was also the case with Le Neptune françois, of which he published no fewer than three different editions: in addition to the French edition there also appeared an English and a Dutch one. In that same year, 1693, Mortier published a second part, Cartes marines à l'usage des armées du roy de la Grande Bretagne. This part, usually bound together with Le Neptune françois, contains nine large-size charts which, contrary to the first part, are not of French but of English origin. They were designed and engraved by Romeyn de Hooghe, then in the service of William III, the king-stadholder. These charts are among the highlights of Dutch seventeenth-century cartography.