1720 Homann Map of Poland-Lithuania, the Baltic States

Regni Poloniae magnique Ducatus Lithuaniae... - Main View

1720 Homann Map of Poland-Lithuania, the Baltic States


The shifting fortunes of empires in Eastern Europe.


Regni Poloniae magnique Ducatus Lithuaniae...
  1720 (undated)     18.75 x 21.55 in (47.625 x 54.737 cm)     1 : 3100000


Here is a fine example of Johann Baptist Homann's c. 1720 map of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, covering most of Eastern Europe. It was produced during a transition in the relative balance of power in the region, with Poland-Lithuania itself, Sweden, and the Ottoman Empire waning, and Russia, Prussia, and Austria on the rise.
A Closer Look
The lands of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth are displayed, along with portions of neighboring territories belonging to the Russian and Ottoman Empires, as well as lands under the rule or influence of the Habsburgs. Homann wisely amalgamated the dozens of small and micro territories of the German lands into 'Germaniae Pars.' Rivers, lakes, mountains, forests, settlements, and major fortifications (such as those at Lublin and Krakow) are indicated. An elaborate cartouche with a coat of arms appears at top-left. Scales are provided in German and Polish miles, while Tenerife is employed as the prime meridian, an early example of its use in a Homann map (his Grosser Atlas, published in 1716, had set off a small revolution in cartographic methods).
The fortunes of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth changed quickly in the 17th-18th century, from a cultural and territorial peak in the early-mid 17th century to a period of crisis and instability. Rebellions and wars, especially with the Ottomans and Russians, sapped the county's finances and attention. The situation improved somewhat under the leadership of King John III Sobieski in the late 17th century, crowned by his decisive defeat of the Ottomans outside Vienna in 1683, but problems resurfaced after his death. In the following decades, both Poland-Lithuania and Sweden would decline as powers in northern and eastern Europe, to the benefit of Russia and Prussia.
Publication History and Census
This map was produced by Johann Baptist Homann around the year 1720. Due to its multiple plates, states, and printings, there is wide variation in the date assigned in catalog listings and establishing an accurate census would be nearly impossible. The inclusion of the royal privilege under the title indicates a date between 1715 and 1730. The presence of St. Petersburg, just inside the border at top towards top-right, also suggests a date in the 1710s or 1720s (other, likely later, states of the map present St. Petersburg as a fortress, similar to the cities mentioned above).


Johann Baptist Homann (March 20, 1664 - July 1, 1724) was the most prominent and prolific map publisher of the 18th century. Homann was born in Oberkammlach, a small town near Kammlach, Bavaria, Germany. As a young man Homann studied in a Jesuit school and nursed ambitions of becoming a Dominican priest before converting to Protestantism in 1687. Following his conversion, Homann moved to Nuremberg and found employment as a notary. Around 1693, Homann briefly relocated to Vienna, where he lived and studied printing and copper plate engraving until 1695. Afterwards he returned to Nuremberg where, in 1702, he founded the commercial publishing firm that would bear his name. In the next five years Homann produced hundreds of maps and developed a distinctive style characterized by heavy detailed engraving, elaborate allegorical cartouche work, and vivid hand color. The Homann firm, due to the lower cost of printing in Germany, was able to undercut the dominant French and Dutch publishing houses while matching the diversity and quality of their output. By 1715 Homann's rising star caught the attention of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI, who appointed him Imperial Cartographer. In the same year he was also appointed a member of the Royal Academy of Sciences in Berlin. Homann's prestigious title came with a number of important advantages including access to the most up to date cartographic information as well as the 'Privilege'. The Privilege was a type of early copyright offered to very few by the Holy Roman Emperor. Though not as sophisticated as modern copyright legislation, the Privilege did offer a kind of limited protection for several years. Most all J. B. Homann maps printed between 1715 and 1730 bear the inscription 'Cum Priviligio' or some variation. Following Homann's death in 1724, the management of the firm passed to his son, Johann Christoph Homann (1703 - 1730). J. C. Homann, perhaps realizing that he would not long survive his father, stipulated in his will that the company would be inherited by his two head managers, Johann Georg Ebersberger (1695 - 1760) and Johann Michael Franz (1700 - 1761), and that it would publish only under the name 'Homann Heirs'. This designation, in various forms (Homannsche Heirs, Heritiers de Homann, Lat Homannianos Herod, Homannschen Erben, etc..) appears on maps from about 1731 onwards. The firm continued to publish maps in ever diminishing quantities until the death of its last owner, Christoph Franz Fembo (1781 - 1848). More by this mapmaker...


Good. Some wear along fold line. Foxing along top edge. Small areas of loss in top left and right corners. Old color.


Rumsey 12499.183. OCLC 495162405, 646118524, 931887724.