Braun's Civitates Orbis Terrarum, Volume 1

Braun’s six volume set of city maps was modeled on Abraham Ortelius’ Theatrum orbis terrarum, which was first published just five years before this work. Contemporaries, Braun and Ortelius exchanged messages regarding their work on map publishing and both employed Frans Hogenberg and Joris Hoefnagel to assist with the creation of maps and city views. Originally published in Latin as was standard practice for scholarly publications of the time, a previous owner of these volumes added handwritten annotations of the French names for many of the represented cities. It seems that much as modern readers struggle with understanding Latin, especially place names that are no longer in use, one previous owner preferred to look up the places documented in the atlas using his native French. This set of atlases, received from the collection of alumnus Duncan Payne, is hand-colored. Originally printed with black ink, skilled colorists added details like blue water, green fields, and buildings in shades of red, blue, and brown.

While Braun’s primary focus was on European cities, there are a few notable exceptions. Displayed here are depictions of Tenochtitlán, the current site of Mexico City, and Cusco in Peru, which were both controlled by Spain at the end of the sixteenth century. A map of Tenochtitlán first appeared in Hernán Cortés’ letters to Emperor Charles V, published in 1524. A copy of this publication is also on display for comparison. Dating only fifty years after Cortés’ conquest, this map represents a contemporary understanding of the distant American continents. Living his entire life in Cologne, Braun and the artisans he worked with likely depended on a combination of primary and secondary sources to illustrate this version of the featured cities. Beyond geographic design, these two cityscapes also demonstrate Braun’s inclusion of local residents engaged in urban life. The activities in which these figures are engaged, as well as the clothing they wear, can tell us about how Braun and his contemporaries viewed each area. Some cities feature quaint pastoral views, while others show wealthier urban residents in elaborate renaissance attire. Like the city views, these individuals have been hand-colored to give their clothing more depth and detail.

While the majority of cities depicted in Braun’s works are European, it is important to examine what other areas of the world were and were not selected for inclusion. Major cities outside Europe include Constantinople and Jerusalem in Asia and Cairo in Egypt. Braun also included coastal cities like Mombasa, Tangier, Aden, and Kolkata, which were common ports of trade at the time. While later maps and atlases would represent the Americas, South Asia, and East Asia, Braun’s atlases are confined to significant cities and locales.

Bequest of Duncan Payne, class of 1963.

Georg Braun (1540 or 1541-1622).
Civitates Orbis Terrarum [Volume I]
Cologne: Braun & Haugenberg, 1575.

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A version of this text has been digitized and is available through Lehigh's Digital Collections Repository.