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Enoch Pratt Free Library Digital Collections

About this collection

A collection of maps dating from 1629-1759 by some of Europe's most renown mapmakers of the age.

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Two European maps

Collection Location: Special Collections Department, Enoch Pratt Free Library / State Library Resource Center

Collection Overview: After a long period of Europe lagging behind China and Japan in usage of cartography, the Renaissance brought considerable advancement. The discoveries of the New World, easier travel, and military conquests, in tandem with technological and scientific developments, made the need for more precise maps indispensable. New techniques, such as usage of latitudes and longitudes, were introduced, as well as new measurement instruments and land surveying. The 17th century established a few centers of map publishing in Europe. Among the best and most desired were maps published by Dutch cartographers: the dynasties of Blaeu, Jansson, Hondius, de Witt and Visscher, as well as some others, such as Germany’s Peter Schenk and Johann Homann.

Before the technological improvements of the 19th century, such as lithographic and chemical methods in printing, the reproduction of maps in the 16th and 17th centuries was based on woodblock prints, engraving and etching. Although maps became more common, they were still quite expensive and only the rich could afford to buy them; however, publishers usually printed several versions of maps and atlases with varying degrees of coloring. Naturally, those with the most coloring and decoration were the most expensive. The owners could and did color some of the maps, though not necessarily at the time of publication. It is difficult without the help of an expert to distinguish when coloring was applied to a particular map.

The maps in this collection are superb examples of 17th and 18th century mapmaking in Europe. Most of them used to be parts of atlases, but probably for commercial reasons were separated and sold individually to collectors. Housed in Enoch Pratt Free Library’s Special Collections Department, they can now enjoyed by viewers in a digital format.

Related Material:

Websites

Fitzgerald, Joseph H. “Map printing methods” at http://www.broward.org/library/bienes/lii14009.htm

“Important Dutch map makers: chronologically displayed” at http://www.swaen.com/mapmaker.html

“Dictionary of mapmakers” at http://www.maphist.com/artman/publish/dictionary_of_mapmakers.shtml

Books

Buisseret, David. The Mapmaker's Quest: Depicting New Worlds in Renaissance Europe. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003.

Skelton, R. A. Decorative Printed Maps of the 15th to 18th Centuries. London, New York: Staples Press, 1952.

Lister, Raymond. How to Identify Old Maps and Globes, with a List of Cartographers, Engravers, Publishers, and Printers Concerned with Printed Maps and Globes from c. 1500 to c. 1850. Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, 1965.

 

Collection overview prepared by Andrzej Durlik, Digitization Librarian, Enoch Pratt Free Library / State Library Resource Center.

 
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