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Braun & Hogenberg: Byzantivm Nunc Constantinopolis

Map: TKY932
Cartographer: Braun & Hogenberg
Title: Byzantivm Nunc Constantinopolis
Date: c. 1575
Published: Cologne
Width: 19 inches / 49 cm
Height: 13 inches / 34 cm
Map ref: TKY932
One of the most recognisable and iconic antique maps of Constantinople, now Istanbul.

Georg Braun and Frans Hogenberg's "Civitates Orbis Terrarum” was the first printed atlas dedicated to maps of the cities of the world. It was an extraordinarily ambitious project, ultimately running to six volumes published between 1572 and 1617.

The source material for these iconic images was varied. Many were commissioned by Braun from an artist named Joris (George) Hoefnagel, who not only provided a collection of city images and plans himself, but also commissioned several from third parties. It must be remembered that at six volumes, the “Civitates” was the most extensive cartographic project of its day and one artist alone could never have provided the necessary information and material.

Other sources included the smaller travel encyclopaedias produced by Sebastian Munster, Antoine du Pinet, and Ludovico Guicciardini. Yet another source is the work of earlier artists found in the great libraries of the age, such as that of the Vatican. There were also more serendipitous sources, such as the cartography for the famous map of London, the earliest printed map of the city to survive to the modern day. Heinrich Sudermann, the powerful head of the Hanseatic League, had specially commissioned a fifteen foot wall map depicting London in the Tudor period to curry favour with Queen Mary I in the hope of extending the Hanse's trading privileges. Suderman was Braun’s main patron.

The source for the map of Istanbul has been traditionally attributed to Giovanni Andrea Vavassore, a Venetian engraver and publisher, who published his view of the city in 1520. Vavassore's view was based on a now-lost plan by another Venetian artist, Giovanni Bellini, drawn in 1480; Bellini had been to Constantinople in person. However, recently, Julian Stargardt, the secretary to the Royal Geographical Society’s branch in Hong Kong, has challenged this attribution, arguing that there are such substantial differences between the two depictions that Braun must have used a different, as-yet-unidentified source for his image of Constantinople.

Certainly one feature that is original to the Braun and Hogenberg view is the lavish and elaborate decoration in the lower margin of the map. The central figure on horseback accompanied by a military entourage has been identified as a portrait of Suleiman I (the Magnificent), grandfather of the emperor during Braun & Hogenberg's time. The lower-left and -right borders feature a series of portraits of the Ottoman Emperors, chronologically arranged from Osman I (here called Otoman), the founder of the Ottoman dynasty, on the far left to the contemporary emperor, Murad III (Amurath III on the map), who reigned from 1574 to 1595.

There are two states of this map: the version published in the first volume issued in 1572 which is distinguished by the blank medallion in the bottom-right corner. This particular example is the second state, published from 1575 onwards with a portrait of the Emperor Murad III now residing on the medallion on the far right. In addition, this example of the map has been beautifully embellished with superb hand colour contemporary to the time of publishing. Latin text on the verso (image available on request). [TKY932]