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Vědecká knihovna Olomouc
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Cartographic Collection

The Cartographic Collection of the Research LibraryManuscript T-O world map from the second half of the 15. century in Olomouc is one of the top such collections in the ­Czech Republic. The collection, which, with the exception of free sheets, cannot be handled as a distinct compilation, includes the time period from the 15th century to the 20th century. Th is existing fragmentation is th­e result of the fact that the historical collection, including the map collection, largely came from the libraries of abolished Moravian and Silesian monasteries and Jesuit colleges and the map collection was therefore never a separate collection of its own.

True treasures of worldwide signifi cance include three specimen of coloured portolan (maritime maps) from members of a Catalan family of portolan mapmakers and cartographers, whose extensive clan was active particularly in the 16th and 17th centuries on the Balearic Islands, in Italy, Spain, and France. In addition to two independent maps drawn in 1624 by Joan Oliva in Livorno, Italy (call numbers M V 51.798 and M V 51.799), the Research Library also holds an extremely rare portolan atlas from the workshop of Jaume Olives from 1563 (M II 33). All three of the specimen mentioned were produced using an extremely expensive and refined technique of hand drawing on parchment. The painstaking artistic illustration is embellished with gold and silver leaf elements and rich figural and vexilological decoration. Only six atlases from Jaume Olivese, including the Olomouc copy, exist today. Portolan Atlas of Jaume Olives from 1563 (cut)

The 31×23.5 cm atlas is composed of seven sheets, the first of which features rosette ornamentation. The following six sheets are illustrated with maps that cover the geographical territories of the Mediterranean and Black Seas, as well as northern parts of the Atlantic. From the perspective of content, the most noteworthy part of the atlas is its penultimate map sheet depicting a large section of the North Atlantic. Th e space between the European, African, and outlined North American coasts is fi lled in with several groups of islands and individual countries. Besides the obligatory, though for that period relatively modern depictions of Madeira, the Cape Verde Islands, the Canary Islands, and the Azore Islands, the mysterious land surrounded by the ocean arouses interest. These are the fabled lands of Frisland, Estland, Illa de brasill, Illa verde, and Illa de maydi. For centuries medieval and Renaissance maps virtually teamed with mystical lands, the result perhaps of the foggy legends of seafarers and simple fishermen and the misconceptions or sheer invention of cartographers themselves, who literally shook with fear at the empty space on their maps. They solved these voids by drawing bizarre creatures, sea monsters, and fantastic lands.

Yet another valuable manuscript, one glued to the back of a medieval codex (M I 155), is the oldest map held by the library, originating in all likelihood from the second half of the 15th century. This T-O map, unique in the Czech lands and also partially coloured, depicts the world on the basis of the prevalent conceptions at the beginning of the 15th century.

A great part of the map collection is composed of the classic works of cartography giants from the 16th to 18th centuries. We find here, among others, representatives of the Dutch school which, by way of the „fathers of modern cartography,” Gerardus Mercator (1512–1594) and Abraham Ortelius (1527–1598), stood for one hundred years, beginning in the middle of the 16th century, at the forefront of European cartographic production. The Dutch families of Hondius, Jansson, and Blaeu made signifi cant contributions to this status. Others in the line of great Dutch cartographers and publishers represented in the Research Library include the Vischer dynasty, Pieter Schenk, Gerard Valck, and Frederick Witt.

Front page of the fi rst volume Novus Atlas, published in Amsterdam by Johann and Cornelius BlaeuThe founding role of Mercator is connected with his key work – the Atlas Sive Cosmographicae Meditationes. This marked the first ever use of the title „Atlas“ in connection with a cartographic work. Th is name is taken from the name of the Mauritanian (North Africa) king depicted on the front page (III 19.562, Amsterdam 1623; coloured edition III 19.560, Amsterdam 1628). Ortelius’s Theatrum Orbis Terrarum (Theatre of the World) occupies a similarly important place; this work is considered to be the fi rst modern atlas of geographical maps produced and published as a unified volume (III 19.561, Antwerp, 1609). It is also necessary to mention the largem atlas from the Baroque period – Joan Blaeu’s Atlas Maior. The original 11-volume Latin addition containing 596 maps of Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Americas was the largest and most komplete atlas of its time as well as one of the fi nest books of the 17th century in general. Unfortunately only three sheets have been preserved in the Research Library; these are devoted to “Germania,” Gallia and Helvetia,” and Asia.

The collection naturally also includes works from the German school, represented by creations by Johann Baptiste Homann (1664–1724), who earned the position of the most famous German cartographer, Georg Matthäeus Seutter, (1678–1757), and Tobias Conrad Lotter (1717–1777). Leading Austrian publishers from the end of the 18th century in the collection include Franz Anton Schrämbl (1751–1803) and Franz Johann Joseph von Reilly (1766–1820). Both challenged previous traditions, as the Austrian monarchy dominated foreign cartographic production up until the third quarter of the 18th century. Specifically worthy of mention is Reilly’s ambitious atlas of the world at his time Schauplatz der fünf Theile der Welt (III 43.744), which is composed of six volumes containing approximately 850 maps. Müller’s map of Moravia, second edition, 1790 (cut)

Czech contributions represented in the collection include the work of the „most productive cartographer of all time,” Johann Christoph Müller (1673–1721) in the form of his ground-breaking map of Moravia (649.799, Tabula Generalis Marchionatus Moraviae, Brno 1790 – second edition) and Bohemia (II 171.356, Mappa geographica regni Bohemiae, Augsburg 1720). Müller’s map of Bohemia is one of the most beautiful and valuable cartographic works from Czech history and stands out from other domestic and foreign maps due to its imposing dimensions (240×282 cm), content, and cartographic and creative treatment.

Additional treasures in the Cartographic Collection are the reedition of Claudio Ptolemy’s maps published in Venice in 1511(III 19.563), a large map 230×238 cm map of Vienna from 1770, or the so-called map of Schlaraff enland, Accurata Utopiae Tabula. Map of Schlaraff enland or Accurata Utopiae Tabula, second third of the 18. century (cut)This map, whose origins reach back to the second third of the 18th century, is an imaginary comic or even ironic depiction of human folly, debauchery, insobriety, and all known vices and pleasures – all set in a fabricated geographical construction of a utopian world of milk and honey: Schlaraffenland.

Unlike the European continent, Schlaraffenland is divided into approximately 17 countries on its mainland and additional island countries, the names of which are extremely comic today. We can find, for example, the Kingdom of Extravagance (Prodigalia Regnum), the Land of Mammon (Mammonia), the Republic of Lust (Respublica Venerea), the Kingdom of Rebellion (Superbia Regnum), the Kingdom of Dunces (Stultorum Regnum), the Land of Quarrel (Litigonia), and the Kingdom of Vitriol (Iuronia Regnum).

Comic appellations are applied throughout the entire legend of the map, including on islands, mountains, rivers (Der Wein and der Bier), and cities. For example, the main inland body of water is named the Sea of Concupiscence (Venerea Meer), while islands in the sea are humorously labelled with names like Smoking Land (Schmaucherland), the Land of Snuff (Schnupferland), the Islands of Necromancy (Insulae Negromanticae), and the Island of Parasites (Schmarotz Insula) in the Sea of Trollops (Luder Meer) and Drunks (Mare Ebrium).

Part of the Cartographic Collection (over 550 sheets) is available to the public in the digital map library (http://mapy.vkol.cz); portolan map manuscripts in the Manuscript Collection can be found in the VKOL digital library (http://dig.vkol.cz).

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Updated: 17.01.2013Bookmark and Share
Author: Rostislav Krušinský
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