Where would we be without navigation?

by | 1 Mar 2018

How cartographers made the world accessible in the course of time

Navigation can no longer be ignored in our society. GPS devices make moving from A to B easy, reliable, and above all taken for granted. Long before the digital age, atlases and hand-drawn maps on paper were gold. Scientists mapped the world based on their own experiences and input from sailors. Explorers, soldiers and globetrotters used these maps to stay on course.

Atlases have proven their value over the centuries and haven’t lost their magical appeal. They tell history and enrich the fantasy of young and old. This is why you will now have a unique opportunity to visit gems from the historical cartography collections of the three collaborating Maastricht institutions – Centre Céramique, Regionaal Historisch Centrum Limburg and Maastricht University Library – at the exhibition ‘De wereld in kaart gebracht’, during this year’s MABP (the Maastricht Antiquarian Book & Print fair) on Friday 9 to Sunday 11 March. You are warmly welcome at our stand 28.


What can you see in our showcases?

In the field of cartography, the three institutions have a lot in stock. Jonathan Stockhorst, master’s student of Art, Literature and Society at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences of Maastricht University, has inventoried the historical (world) atlases from our collections.

In our showcases at the MABP you will find special atlases and separate maps and prints that give you a good idea of how the makers saw the world through time. The exhibited books are only a small part of our beautiful cartography collections. We had to make a choice out of all the material.

A tip of the veil:

  • Mercator Atlas minor from 1630
    This minor is rare: it is the first Dutch edition with one of the earliest maps of Japan and Korea. The minor was larger than other small atlases at that time, so more detail was possible and multiple place names could be mentioned.
    Gerard Mercator developed a method of projection to display the spherical surface of the earth on a flat plane. This technique is named after him: the Mercator projection. This projection was mainly used in shipping, but due to the distortion of the image at high latitudes, it is less suitable to accurately represent the size of countries. The atlas is from the Centre Céramique collection.
  • ‘Traiectum ad Mosam’
    This beautiful hand-colored panorama from ca. 1581 is from the collection of the Regionaal Historisch Centrum Limburg. The map contains rich details and is the first complete city map of Maastricht. Moreover, the map shows the two-legality of Maastricht with the coats of arms of both parties. On the left you see the coat of arms of the Bishop of Liège, Gerard van Groesbeek and on the right the coat of arms of the Duke of Brabant, King Philip II of Spain. And last but not least the coat of arms of the city of Maastricht. The cityscape also beautifully shows the old and sometimes no longer existing city walls and ramparts of Maastricht. The map was printed in the famous workshop of Christoffel Plantijn in Antwerp and reprinted many times.
  • Atlas Portatif, universel et militaire
    There are many pocket atlases in the Special Collections of the University Library, including the Atlas Portatif Universel et Militaire (Paris, Durand & Pissot Fils 1748). Pocket atlases were popular before 1900. Large atlases were too expensive and inconvenient to go on the road. Pocket atlases fit in the inside pocket. Owning them raised your status: you were geographically erudite and gave the impression of being a cosmopolitan.


Strike up a conversation with our specialists

Let us tell you the story behind the displayed atlases and maps during the MABP.

Following the MABP from 13 March to 13 May ’18 on the fourth floor in Centre Céramique, you are welcome to visit a mini-exhibition of historical atlases on the development of America. The maps show the development from the middle of the sixteenth to the nineteenth century.

Would you like to visit our collections? We open the door for you. Leave your business card at our stand, or contact our curators:

Keep Limburg’s heritage alive

Is our cause close to your heart? Support preservation of our heritage with a donation or adoption of an atlas. Or do you want to contribute to the digitisation of these historical works, so that a larger audience can consult them? Our curators will gladly inform you about the options.


Further reading

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