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Braun & Hogenberg: Cairus qvae olim Babylon. Aegypti Maxima Urbs

Map: AFR3969
Cartographer: Braun & Hogenberg
Title: Cairus qvae olim Babylon. Aegypti Maxima Urbs
Date: 1572
Published: Cologne
Width: 12 inches / 31 cm
Height: 19 inches / 49 cm
Map ref: AFR3969
Stunning bird's-eye view of Cairo from the first atlas dedicated to city views, Georg Braun & Frans Hogenberg's Civitates Orbis Terrarum.

Between 1572 and 1618, Georg Braun (1541-1622) and Frans Hogenberg (1535-1590) produced six volumes of the Civitates Orbis Terrarum, comprising over five hundred city views and plans. Though city plans had been included in earlier atlases, no previous work had been devoted solely to the depiction of the known cities of the world. Nor was the Civitates entirely Eurocentric: it also included famous plans of Mexico City, Cuzco, Goa, Calicut, and many other African and Asian cities. Each volume was originally published with Latin text. Volumes 1 and 2 were the most popular and were reissued several times to meet growing demand. Editions were also published with German and French text rather than Latin. Many of the maps feature costumed figures in the foreground of the scene, making this an important record of contemporary dress and behaviour as well as geography.

The atlas was published in Cologne by Georg Braun with assistance from the engraver Frans Hogenberg and the artist Georg Hoefnagel. It was issued at a time when Europe was in the midst of religious and political turmoil during the Protestant Reformation and the subsequent Counter-Reformation. This, in part, explains the haphazard organisation of the work, as maps of cities in troubled regions might not have been available to Braun & Hogenberg during the publication of one volume, but might have become available later and were therefore shoehorned into a later edition. It also speaks to the skill and political will required to amass such an enormous collection of city maps, as well as to the strength of the scientific networks across Europe at the time that mayors, clergymen, and nobles, sometimes representing very small towns or villages, could send a map to Cologne and have it included in the next volume of the Civitates.

Hogenberg, who engraved many of the plates, was also the engraver for Abraham Ortelius's Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, the first modern world atlas. Georg Hoefnagel (1542-1600) is seldom credited with the part he played in the project, but he was, in fact, its biggest contributor, supplying 63 drawings, gleaned from travels in Germany, France and England in the 1560s. His landscape style is a distinguishing feature of his work. Hoefnagel himself is often depicted in the foreground of the views, sometimes accompanied by his travelling companion, Abraham Ortelius.

After 1618, control of the work passed to Abraham Hogenberg, who supervised further editions. Jan Jansson acquired the plates and reissued the volumes in Amsterdam in 1657 often without the costumed figures in the foreground as these would make the maps, some of which were now over 80 years old, look quite dated. The copperplates later went through the hands of two other Amsterdam-based publishers, Frederick de Wit and Pieter van der Aa, a testament to their continuing commercial popularity.

German text on verso (image available on request). Rich original colour. [AFR3969]