The Social World of Early Modern Mapmakers

In delving further into the origins of the chorographic images, I grew acquainted with the private worlds of sixteenth and seventeenth century mapmakers: a world characterized by interconnectivity and cooperative dynamics. The chorographers all participated in an interwoven network that ultimately all connects to Georg Braun and Frans Hogenberg and their publication.

In conducting research on chorographic images related to Georg Braun and Frans Hogenberg’s Civitates Orbis Terrarum, I located an abundance of chorographic images from an array of databases. However, despite the diversity in databases and sources, the chorographic images frequently shared comparable viewpoints, stylistic choices, and legends. In delving further into the origins of the chorographic images, I grew acquainted with the private worlds of sixteenth and seventeenth century mapmakers: a world characterized by interconnectivity and cooperative dynamics. The chorographers all participated in an interwoven network that ultimately all connects to Georg Braun and Frans Hogenberg and their publication. For instance, chorographers François de Belleforest, Mattheus Merian, and Gerard Jollain share direct connections to Civitates Orbis Terrarum, while Sebastian Münster, Kasper Merian, Theodore de Bry, and François Jollain all share connections to the aforementioned chorographers. However, their cooperation and shared influences far outlive the mapmakers themselves, as their collective spirit remains apparent in their chorographic images.

While being a critical part of the social network, Sebastian Münster and his work predated that of any other mapmaker in the circle. Born in 1488, Sebastian Münster grew into a preeminent cosmographer and scholar of Germany (“Cosmographia”). He earned most praise for his atlas, Cosmographia, which presented his “global” research and understandings. Cosmographia received constant publication across Western Europe for nearly a century after its debut in 1544 (“Cosmographia”). His illustrations within the atlas proved to be a momentous influence on fellow period mapmakers, which can be proved by noting the similarities between Constantinopel… by Münster and Byzantium nunc Constantinopolis by Braun and Hogenberg. Both Constantinopel and Byzantium nunc Constantinopolis place the viewer high above the city with a southern orientation and earthward angle. Additionally, their shared coloration of grandiose buildings, such as the Hagia Sophia, in blue attracts greater attention to such buildings rather than lesser, neighboring buildings in red. Additionally, celebrated historian Raleigh Ashlin Skelton, argues Braun and Hogenberg, as well as prominent cartographer, Abraham Ortelius, all derived influence from Münster (“Braun and Hogenberg”). However, Cosmographia would not have received its recognition if not for collaboration with translators, such as François de Belleforest.  

Born in 1530, François de Belleforest, an author, poet, and translator of France, coexisted with Sebastian Münster for about twenty years and deserves momentous acknowledgement for his adoption of Cosmographia to the French public (“François de Belleforest”). As previously discussed, the reference book achieved publication for nearly a century and pervasive influence on Western Europe. During its period of publication, Münster accumulated nearly forty versions or editions because of its required adaptation to various audiences (“Cosmographia”). La Cosmographie Universelle de Tout le Monde, the version of the reference book publicized in France, represents the partnership shared by de Belleforest and Münster. De Belleforest translated Cosmographia from German into French and thus assisted in the diffusion of Cosmographia across Western Europe where it could then influence other mapmakers, such as Braun and Hogenberg.

Another publication that diffused across Western Europe belonged to Mattheus Merian, a Swiss engraver, born in 1593 (“Mattheus Merian I”). Mattheus Merian, his influencers, and his influence can be noted through his chorographic image of Lisbon, titled Olisippo Lisabona. Olisippo Lisabona mirrors the precise viewpoint presented in Braun and Hogenberg’s Lisboa whose publishment predates that of Merian’s chorographic image (“Lisbon (Lisboa)”). Yet, Olisippo Lisabona then served as the inspiration to mapmakers Gérard Jollain and François Jollain, who replicated the twenty-nine-point legend chosen by Merian. Merian began his cartographical studies under the mentorship of Theodor de Bry (“Mattheus Merian I”). Theodor de Bry maintained a publishing house in Frankfurt and employed Mattheus Merian at the beginning of the seventeenth century. Additionally, Mattheus Merian married the daughter of Theodor de Bry, Maria Magdalena de Bry. Consequently, as both his employee and son-in-law, Merian stood to inherit the publishing house and continue in the legacy of his father-in-law (“Theodor de Bry”). Much like any student though, Merian adopted practices instructed by de Bry, yet also pulled from other influences, such as Braun and Hogenberg, in developing his own style, as evident in the likeness of his Lisbon image to that of Braun and Hogenberg. The pattern of mentor and student continued with Mattheus Merian’s introduction of his son, Kasper Merian, to the trade and Kasper Merian upheld the craft and publishing house after his father’s death.

In addition to the de Bry and Merian familial and professional relationships, the Jollains of Paris also derived influence from Braun and Hogenberg in their inherited publishing house. Notably, Gérard Jollain, in knowledge of his unknowing French audience, appropriated Braun and Hogenberg’s depiction of Lisbon as his own depiction of New Amsterdam with misleading titles and labels (“Nowel Amsterdam en l’Amerique”). His son François Jollain continued publishing in the style of his father and his father’s influences well into the late seventeenth century (Gérard Jollain I). Unlike the more personal and direct relations shared by other mapmakers, the Jollains relate to the network exclusively through professional relations.

The relations shared by the mapmakers, whether personal or professional, continue to be relevant. While only a couple mapmakers in the grand scheme of cartography in Western Europe, the shared connections of these specific, sixteenth and seventeenth century chorographers significantly influenced the appearance of their publications.

Works Cited

Bryan, Mary Louise. “Braun and Hogenberg.” Paralos Gallery: Antique Maps, Prints and Books, Paralos Gallery, https://www.paralosgallery.com/stock_detail.php?stockid=2025.

Cosmographia (1544) by Sebastian Münster, Columbia University, http://www.columbia.edu/itc/mealac/pritchett/00generallinks/munster/munster.html.

“François de Belleforest.” Oxford Reference, Oxford University Press, https://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/oi/authority.20110803095457398.

“Gérard Jollain I.” The British Museum, The British Museum, https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/term/BIOG63320.

“Lisbon (Lisboa), by Georg Braun and Frans Hogenberg c. 1610.” Sanderus Antique Maps and Books, Sanderus Maps, https://sanderusmaps.com/our-catalogue/antique-maps/europe/spain-and-portugal/old-antique-map-bird-s-eye-view-plan-of-lisbon-lisboa-by-braun-and-hogenberg-16707.

“Matthäus Merian I.” The British Museum, The British Museum, https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/term/BIOG38184.

“Nowel Amsterdam en l’Amerique: 1672.” Norman B. Leventhal Map Center Collection, Norman B. Leventhal Map and Education Center, https://collections.leventhalmap.org/search/commonwealth:x633fb58s.

“Theodor de Bry.” The British Museum, The British Museum, https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/term/BIOG38184.