Category Archives: Maps

an invaluable resource of primary material for research

The Fagel Map Collection

Contained within the Fagel Library is its map collection, one of the finest in the world, and unsurpassable in terms of quality and standard of preservation. It is the only extant contemporary collection of this size that was assembled as the material was published as opposed to retrospectively. As an example of an early modern working library, the collection is unique.

The Collection comprises:

  • 600 volumes of contemporary accounts of travels, books on geography and other geographical material
  • 142 bound atlases comprising approximately 8,200 double folio maps
  • The ‘Fagel Atlas’: 2880 single map sheets contained in 25 portfolio boxes, and a further 3,500 cartographic items, mainly smaller in size and contained in 500 travel and historical volumes.

The Fagel Atlas is arranged into 25 portfolios, by geographical region, and a catalogue of these maps was published as the “Catalogue of the Fagel Collection of maps, plans, etc” as an appendix to T.K. Abbott’s Catalogue of the manuscripts in the Library of Trinity College, Dublin (1900). Catalogue descriptions are based on the bibliographical information recorded on the printed maps, but many items are undated and the author unrecorded.

The bound material ranges in date from 1490 to 1798 with the greater volume of material published in the eighteenth century. There are maps of all parts of the world, but with a particular emphasis on Europe and areas outside Europe where the Dutch had trading or colonial interests. This content includes examples of all kinds of cartographic material, from celestial charts to detailed plans of buildings and fortifications, with volumes on geographical theory and methodology.

From the collection:

  • The complete coloured set of Blaeu’s Atlas Major
  • The complete set of atlases published by Jacob van Meurs
  • Atlases, many coloured, by de Witt, Jannson, D’Anville, J.B. Homann, Sanson, Jaillots, van der Aa, Cantelli and Coronelli.
  • A large collection of first hand accounts of voyages of exploration, including those of Hudson, Tasman, Cook and Bligh.
  • Several hundred battle plans showing all major conflicts in Europe from 1650 to 1800, approximately 30 of which are in manuscript.
  • Detailed city maps including Ogilby’s 1676, 20-sheet map of London, and Buillet’s 1676, 12-sheet map of Paris.
  • The celestial atlases of Cellari and Dopplemaiero.
  • Sea atlases by Colom, van Keulen and the Neptune Français.

The atlases, and their contents, have never been fully catalogued. The cataloguing of the atlases is particularly important as many were assembled on a custom basis – atlases of the same name do not necessarily contain the same maps but reflect the individual requirements and budgets of each customer. For instance, the World Sea Atlas by Jacob Colom, 1668, contains 18 charts in the standard version, 56 in the Fagel edition.

The special nature of this collection, in terms of both its scope and condition, make it an invaluable resource of primary material for research across a number of disciplines. A project to digitise the cartographic material has been completed resulting in an image bank of in excess of 10,000 maps, and considerable progress has been made towards developing an initial catalogue of this material.


Highlights of the collection:

The first map available to Europeans showing overland trade routes in central Asia
Coloured and contrasting maps of the moon
Coloured and contrasting maps of the moon
A plan of the imperial city of Kyoto
A plan of the imperial city of Kyoto

A plan of the imperial city of Kyoto

This plan of the imperial city of Kyoto shows the Emperor’s palace in the centre of a coloured town plan. A German national, Kaempfer (1661-1716) took up a post as a doctor at the Dutch trading post at Nagasaki in 1690. 17th century Japan was almost completely closed to the outside world save for the small Dutch colony comprising about two dozen merchants and their families on the outskirts of Nagasaki, a space they shared with two thousand Chinese merchants and artisans, the only foreigners permitted to live in Japan, and only in Nagasaki at Japan’s westernmost extremity.

Kaempfer learned the language and travelled widely with a Japanese chaperone, collecting material on Japanese culture, society and geography for a book that was not published during his lifetime. After his death the manuscripts were acquired by Sir Hans Sloane, the wealthy London merchant and philanthropist after whom Sloane Square is named, who had them translated into English and published as The History of Japan in 1727. The Dutch translation of this volume is in the Fagel Library.

There are six coloured Kaempfer maps relating to Japan in the Fagel Atlas that are similar to the maps published in History of Japan but are slightly larger and appear to have been a special, oversize edition of the maps engraved as an undertaking separate to the publication of the general volume. Kaempfer’s history was ultimately translated into Japanese, completing the journey of a work that had been originally intended to inform Europeans about Japan.

Ichonographica Urbis Miaco
Ichnographica Urbis Miaco – Englebert Kaempfer, 1692, 42x27cm

Coloured and contrasting maps of the moon

This map features two coloured and contrasting maps of the moon, one by Johannes Hevelius, the other by Giovanni Battista Riccioli, both originally published in the mid-17th century. Although the topography of the moon obviously does not change much, this work charts how the nomenclature of the moon’s features was subject to vigorous debate. Hevelius’ system, favoured in Protestant countries, assigned the names of terrestrial countries and features to lunar ones. Riccioli’s system was favoured in Catholic countries at first, not becoming the standard until the middle of the 18th century, and invoked the names of famous astronomers used alongside more evocative names. Parts of the moon that appeared darker were called “seas”, such as the Sea of Tranquility, lighter parts were termed “land”, for example the Land of Fertility or the Land of Health.

Doppelmaiero (1677-1750) was a prolific writer on astronomy, mathematics and instrumentation whose most enduring work, his Atlas Coelestis, included this lunar map along with star charts, the planetary systems of Tychus, Copernicus and Riccioli and Halley’s cometary theory. Although the atlas was not published until 1742, most of the charts contained within it were produced between 1709 and 1720. The charts were collected by the Fagels as they were produced, as evidenced by the fact that they were never bound, and complement the magnificently illustrated celestial atlas by Cellari found elsewhere in the collection.

Tabula Selenographica in qua Lunarium Macularum exacta Descriptio secundum Nomenclaturam – by Gabriell Doppelmaiero and engraved by JB Homann, Nuremberg, 1718, 58×46cm

The first map available to Europeans showing overland trade routes in central Asia

The six-sheet map of Asia, printed by Nicolas Witsen in Amsterdam in 1687, was the first map available to Europeans showing overland trade routes in central Asia, including the overland Silk Road from Beijing (Peking) in China to Astrakhan on the shores of the Caspian Sea.

This six-sheet map was the result of Witsen’s extensive travels in Asia in the 1660s while in the employment of Peter the Great. Although he had his map engraved and printed, it was not intended to be sold. Witsen had only a small number printed that he gave to his friends and associates, and the map is consequently very rare.

The map caused a sensation when it first appeared as it allowed European eyes to see another “New World”. Witsen was careful to show the territories of each ruler, representations of different styles of building and the established caravan routes. Along the routes he named were the great caravanserai of the East-West Silk Road and he indicated pictorially the relative size of each settlement and marked territory in which it was to be found.

The eastern side of the map shows the Great Wall of China in considerable detail, and Witsen is careful to indicate the gates in the Great Wall that were open to travellers to continue on to Peking, and the roads which terminated at gates, closed to foreign travellers although they could conduct trade at the gates.

The western side of the map shows the Silk Road converging on Astrakhan, the great Caspian Sea port that also provided access to the Volga river system, the Black Sea and Constantinople to the west, European Russia via the river Volga to the north, and a route from India via the southern Caspian ports for the transshipment of Persian goods, among others.

Our European understanding of the Silk Road is often based on Marco Polo, and we see it as an east-west highway from Venice to Peking. The Witsen map shows clearly that the Silk Road was one of many important trade routes linking the peoples of Central Asia into a complex and interrelated society.

Nieuwe Lantkaarte van het Noorder en Ooster deel van Asia en Europe strekkende van Nova Zemla tot China Aldus getekent, beschreven, in kaart gebragt en uytgegeven sedert een Nauwkeurig ondersoek van meer als twintig Jaaren – By Nicolas Witsen, Amsterdam, 1687, 210 x 180 cm over six sheets.