The labyrinth of Versailles


I ought to have mentioned this last week since a plan of the lost labyrinth of Versailles appears in the William Henry Matthews book. The labyrinth was completed for Louis XIV in 1677, and is unusual for being a series of paths without a central focus, and also a very ornamental affair containing thirty-nine fountains with accompanying statuary which depicted the animals from Aesop’s fables. The latter were a suggestion of Charles Perrault from whose Labyrinte de Versailles (1677) these illustrations are taken. The etchings are by Sébastian Le Clerc whose map shows the route that visitors would have taken in order to visit each fountain in turn. The book may be browsed here or downloaded here.

The labyrinth was removed in 1778 but Wikipedia has a page with more information including some colour prints of the fountains, and also an English list of the fables depicted.




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Mazes and labyrinths


This book, Mazes and Labyrinths: A General Account of their History and Developments (1922) by William Henry Matthews, would have been very useful a couple of years ago when I was working on the cover design for Mike Shevdon’s The Road to Bedlam and required a labyrinth diagram. The one I used, a plan of Julian’s Bower in Alkborough, Lincolnshire, can be found below. I’ve had a lifelong interest in mazes and labyrinths so this book is fascinating beyond any temporary work requirements. Matthews’ study of the form features many diagrams going back to the legendary Cretan labyrinth and the constructions of the Ancient Egyptians. Closer to home there are depictions of the designs which flourished during the great era of landscape gardening in the 18th century, and photographs of some of Britain’s remaining turf mazes. The book may be browsed here or downloaded here.





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