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Historic Maps

Historic Maps

The renewed Carta Hungarica exhibition shows the changes in depicting the old Hungary in form of several interesting and valuable maps.

The exhibition was made possible by the generous donation of  László Gróf, who was born in Sárvár, but now living in Oxford. The maps in the exhibition show Hungaryfrom the early16th to the middle of the 18th century. The importance of the collection and the exhibition is increased by the fact that it shows a broad picture of cartography of three centuries, the development of cartography and last but not least: its ties to art.
The room, where the exhibition is located, is in the earliest part of the castle. Following the results of wall research in 1960 showed that in the 13th century there was a three-storey residential tower here and Palatine Ferenc Nádasdy ordered the entire decoration of the rooms and the total reconstruction of the tower during the rebuilding of the castle.
It is worth seeing all the maps in the Carta Hungarica collection, but some maps worth special attention. Despite the fact that the Hungarian part of the course of the River Danube is evident today, in the early Modern Ages it was believed that it flowed in a north-west south-east direction. However, the Danube map of Luigi Ferdinando Marsigli from the end of the 17th century clarified this question once and for all and his results were gradually accepted.
The developments in printing meant that the use of maps, just like books, became more wide-spread from the 16th century.
The exhibition features maps printed from wood blocks and copper engravings. 

Historic Maps

In the middle of the 15th century scholars began to rediscover the geographical works of Claudius Ptolemy and publish his maps. Our exhibition features several such maps, They were produced from wood engravings when the mirror-image of the map was drawn onto the wood block, then the parts without any drawing were carved out. The remaining lines were inked, pressed onto a sheet of paper and thus the map was printed. Wood engravings were the most popular illustrations in books printed in the 16th century. The Ptolemy series of maps show parts ofPoland,Hungary andRussia, and were made using the latest knowledge and information. These were published under the title Tabula Nova (New Sheets). In the area of theKingdom ofHungary we can read the names Buda, Esztergom (Gran on the map),Győr (Raeb), but also that ofEger (Agria) and Kassa (Casonia).
One of the map of Ptolemy, however, on which the Mediterranean Sea at the coast of Corsicashows a dam is already a copper engraving. On copper engravings the artists cut the lines of the maps onto the copper sheet; this strenuous work could last for months and thus was very expensive. After engraving the entire plate was covered in ink and then removed – leaving the ink in the cut lines. When the wet sheet of paper was pressed onto it, it sucked the ink onto the paper’s surface. The maps of Johannes Zsámboky and Wolfgang Lazius, both working for the royal court inVienna, are copper engravings. Their value is increased by the fact that they are in original colour, and colouring required great skill and experience.
The exhibition contains several maps on which ourcountyofVasis marked as “Comte de Sárvár”, County of Sárvár, that is. This is still a mystery and this mistake gives joy and some pride to the inhabitants of our town.
The century and a half-long fight against the Turks can be seen on the three maps of Vincenzo Coronelli dating from 1691. Apart from the beautiful natural illustrations, the map shows the changes in the ownership of the castles, indicated by their exact layout plans, and listed chronologically. It is highly likely that everyone will find the location of their own birthplace or the nearby town. In the case of larger towns or cities, the map shows their name in several languages, i.e. Hungarian, German and Latin. This unique map also features the dates of the battles which you can see on the frescoes of the ceiling in the Knights’ Hall of the castle.
The postal map of Johann Baptist Homann was published after the postal decree of 1711, which regulated postal routes. Municipalities are linked by lines, crossed by vertical lines, which were used to find out delivery fees. The top right corner of the map shows the figure of a postman with a trumpet, which is in fact still the symbol of the postal service today. The distance dependant method of calculating prices now is not known inHungary today, as a local letter posted costs the same as the one to a distance of several hundreds of kilometres.
The map of Janvier, made in the second half of the 18th century, still shows the old line of the Danube and the Tisza rivers. This is despite the fact, that Marsigli, born in Bologna and playing an active role in liberating Hungary and Buda from the Turks, surveyed the entire lenghth of Danube and published his results in six books in 1726. The map of the Danube was again reprinted in 1741 and the book in our exhibition  shows the river’s course throughHungary. It is interesting that the book does not only shows the exact direction of main rivers but also the strenuous process of mining at Selmecbánya in an outstanding and beautiful engraving. 

Historic Maps

It is also worth seeing the small-scale map of Abraham Ortelius which was part of a pocket atlas published at Antwerp in 1593/95. At the time of its making, the Fifteen Years’ War was in progress - this was the first attempt to expel the Ottoman Turks since they captured Buda in 1541. However, the map shows no signs of military activity and it does not even indicate that a part of the country was still under Turkish rule.
Another beautiful item in our exhibition is the copper engraved map by Gerhard Mercator (1512-1594), providing perhaps the most cartographic information about Hungary. The map was engraved in  1585 by the Dutch master who in his own lifetime was the most famous cartographer. He might have used the map of Wolfgang Lazius, but he also corrected its mistakes. The fact that Rábahidvég in Vas county is indicated asS. Hedvig, goes back to Lazius who believed that a female saint’s name is in the name of the settlement, when in fact it means a crossing point on the Rába river. His work was published in 1595, which for the first time had the term Atlas in its name and works containing maps bound together in a volume are still called atlas to this today. The copy in the exhibition is from the 1607 edition with Latin text on its verso. The high quality of the engraved image of the map ofHungary withoutTransylvania is rich not only in topography and showing the names of places, but also the hydrography of the country and it even marks the names of the counties. The aesthetically beautiful sheet, however, does contain some mistakes. It not only follows the traditional line of the Danube, i.e. it still insists on the north-west and south-east direction of the river, but also puts the Tihany peninsula onto the southernshore ofLake Balaton. 


Picture gallery


Click on the selected picture to view it in full-size.

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