In spite of its title, Michel Baridon's short book is not a history of the gardens of Versailles. It is actually about the cultural and intellectual world that lay behind the creation of the Versailles landscape, both the world of King Louis XIV (1638––1715) and his court and the world of the science and arts of France in the Age of Reason. The political issues that have preoccupied so many writers about Versailles, especially since the mid-twentieth century, are dealt with here in a general way, and briefly.1 The use of mythological subjects in the gardens to convey the message of royal absolutism is treated in a few sketchy pages (21––36). The chapter titles of Baridon's most substantial section——part two, "The Empire of Geometry"——make clear his approach to his subject: "Versailles and the Academies"; "The Astronomers in the Garden: Measuring...

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