The Library of Congress possesses more than one million items of European cartographic material, including maps, atlases, globes, microforms, and aerial and remote sensing maps, as well as reference books and pamphlets. The collection encompasses all countries and regions of Europe at various scales on various media, ranging from hand-written navigational charts from the fourteenth century to photographs taken from orbiting satellites in the twentieth.
Starting with the fifteenth century, the collection faithfully reflects important trends in the history of European cartography. At that time the first of a string of events and innovations occurred that would spur European interest in geography and mapmaking. In 1453, the Ottoman Turks captured Constantinople, capital of the millennium-old Byzantine Empire, and the resulting flood of Greek refugee-scholars into Italy was accompanied by an influx of ancient manuscripts, including the Geographike hyphogosis (Guide to Geography) of Claudius Ptolemaeus (Ptolemy). Two years later Johann Gutenberg introduced movable-type printing into Europe, while later in the century the introduction of engraved copper plates for printing maps allowed more detail to be published than previously attainable with woodcuts. Concurrent with these technological innovations were the beginnings of European exploration of the non-European world and the general Renaissance interest in science and learning. One result of these events was the birth and rapid development of map publishing in Europe, beginning in Italy in the 1470s.
Battista Agnese. Portolan Atlas (Venice, 1544). Hand
-drawn and painted on vellum, the ten double-page maps of this atlas were
prepared for the abbot of St. Vaast at Arras. Map no. 8 shows Europe in
the sixteenth century. (Geography
and Map Division)
It is fitting that Ptolemy's Geographike was the first cartographic work to be published. Written in Alexandria, Egypt, in the second century after Christ, it appeared in at least thirty- one published editions in various parts of Europe between 1475 and 1600. The Library of Congress possesses many of these editions, including the first, published in Venice in 1475, which contains no maps. It also holds the subsequent Rome 1478 edition, which contains maps of the world as then known, in black and white, and the Ulm 1482 edition, the first edition to be published outside of Italy and to possess maps in color. Later editions display cartographic innovations and incorporate new maps. For example, the 1513 edition, published in Strasbourg, represents the earliest example of map printing in three colors, and the 1545 Münster edition contains the first map of Bohemia drawn by a Czech. The Library of Congress also possesses many facsimile editions of the Geographike published in the twentieth century.
As map-making techniques moved northward from Italy, so did the production of maps and atlases. The Library's collection contains examples of the work of all the great Dutch publishing houses from the sixteenth through eighteenth centuries, including a collection of various editions of Abraham Ortelius's Theatrum orbis terrarum, first published in Antwerp in 1570. Unlike previous editors of published map collections, Ortelius standardized the format of the maps he published, and he also used the work of only one cartographer for a given country. His first edition contains the oldest map of Hungary, compiled by a certain Lázár, a secretary to the prince primate of the Roman Catholic Church in Hungary. A 1573 edition contains the first independent map of Moravia by Fabricius, and a 1579 edition includes maps of Slovakia by Lazius and Sambucus. Another notable cartographer from this time whose works are well represented in the Library is the great Flemish geographer Gerardus Mercator. The Library possesses the first edition of his Atlas sive cosmographicae meditationes de fabrica mundi et fabricata figura (Duisburg, 1595), the first uniform collection of maps to bear the title Atlas.
Jodocus Hondius. Nova Europae Descriptio.
Copper engraving, 37 by 50 cm. From Gerardi Mercatoris, Atlas Sive
Cosmographicae Meditationes de Fabrica Mundi et Fabricati Figura (Amsterdam,
1619) [between pages 33 and 34]. This map of Europe first appeared
as one of thirty-seven new maps in Jodocus Hondius's original issuance
of Mercator's landmark work published in Amsterdam in 1606. This illustration
is Library of Congress 1619 edition of Mercator's atlas. A publisher and
printer, as well as an engraver, a stamp- cutter, and a map- and globe-maker,
Hondius, and later his heirs, continued and enhanced the tradition of
the great Dutch cartographers. (Geography
and Map Division)
Other notable items dating from the sixteenth century include materials from the Sir Francis Drake Collection, among them Nicola van Sype's engraved map of the Elizabethan explorer's route around the globe and a letter exchanged between the master cartographers Mercator and Ortelius. The Melville Eastham Collection, also worthy of note, consists of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century atlases and printed maps, including those issued by the important cartographers and atlas publishers of that period. Approximately half of the maps depict regions in England, France, and Germany.
The Library's collection of seventeenth-century European cartography includes a number of fine collections of atlases printed in Rome, Bologna, and Venice. Noteworthy are the globes crafted by Vincenzo Coronelli, along with other rare late seventeenth-century Venetian globes. Coronelli's Libro de' globi, published in Venice in the 1690s, catalogs all the globes he produced. From the same period in Northern Europe, the Library of Congress owns many of the globes, sea charts, wall maps, and atlases created by the Dutch publishers Willem Jansz Blaeu and his sons Cornelius and Joan. The Blaeu Atlas maior with text in Latin (11 volumes), Dutch (9 volumes), German (9 volumes), French (12 volumes), and Spanish (10 volumes), all bound in contemporary vellum or velvet, are to be found at the Library. Of special importance to one of post-Soviet Eastern Europe's newly independent countries is the first individually published map to use the term "Ukraina" in its title: Delineatio generalis Camporum Desertorum vulgo Ukraina: cum adjacentibus provinciis . . . (Gedanum: Beauplan, 1648). A superb example of the engraving art of Willem Hondius of Gdahsk, the plate was sold to the Polish crown in 1652.
Guillaume le Vasseur de Beauplan. Delineatio Generalis Camporum
Desertorum volgo Ukraina cum Adjacentibus Provinciis (Gdansk [Danzig]:
Willem Hondius, 1648). Commissioned by the Polish crown, this is the
first scientifically measured map of Ukraine and adjacent lands and is
unusual in its perspective, showing south at the top of the map. (Geography
and Map Division)
Several of the Library's priceless maps of the New World drawn by European explorers are described in the European Americana section below, as are three important British collections related to the American Revolution.
The Library's holdings of eighteenth-century maps reflect the preeminence of France in the development of scientific cartography during that era. The transition from speculative cartography to maps based on precise surveying and the corresponding decline in artistic embellishment can be observed in the collection of maps by Alexis Hubert Jaillot, Guillaume De Lisle, and the two Robert de Vaugondys. Especially numerous in the collections are multisheet French topographical maps from the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, such as the 180-sheet Cassini survey of France (1789), represented in the collection by a hand-colored, uncreased copy. The late eighteenth century is also represented in part of the Hauslab-Liechtenstein Collection, acquired in 1975, which features 3,600 maps of Central Europe, Russia, and the Middle East by the Austrian military cartographer Franz Ritter von Hauslab.
Frederik de Wit. Theatrum iconographicum
omnium urbium (Amsterdam, 1700). This late seventeeth-century
aerial perspective view of Maastricht is in an atlas collection of plans
of cities in the Netherlands. (Geography
and Maps Division)
Students of cartography will find the Library's nineteenth- century holdings as impressive as those of earlier periods. An extensive collection of Portuguese colonial maps makes the Library of Congress one of the largest centers for research on those far- flung domains. Outstanding examples include Armando Cortesão's six-volume Portugaliae monumenta cartographica and many maps published by the Agencia Geral do Ultramar, such as the Carta da Colônia da Guiné Portuguesa (1889), the Carta da Africa meridional portuguesa (1886), and the Carta de Angola, contendo indiçcaes de produçao salubridade (1885).
Another collection of great value and interest is a series published by the Military-Geographic Institute in Vienna for the whole Austro-Hungarian Empire, at scales of 1:75,000 (1875-) and later 1:25,000 (1900-). These maps reveal villages, physical features, and other details not visible on maps with larger scales. At the same time, they provide the Hungarian and German place-names for towns and cities that are now located in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Ukraine, Croatia, Serbia, and Romania and, hence, are especially valuable for historians and genealogists.
Size and comprehensiveness alone would distinguish the Library's collection of twentieth-century cartography relating to Europe, but its rare items deserve special mention. The 278,000- item Woodrow Wilson Papers include many maps--often modified by hand--brought to the peace conferences following the First World War, including a pen-and-ink watercolor map of the proposed boundaries of Poland with the annotation in the lower margin: "Washington, October 8, 1918." Also dating from World War I is the John L. Hines Collection, which contains printed maps bearing annotations on troop placement and battery positions relating to Hines's activities on the French and Belgian fronts.
Not to be overlooked is the Library's comprehensive collection
of topographic, geological, and topical maps from Russia and the
former Soviet Union. Most of these maps were issued by the Soviet
cartographic agency, although a substantial number of
prerevolutionary maps of Russia were acquired with the purchase of
the Yudin collection in 1906.