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Olaus Magnus' 16th-Century Map of Scandinavia

The Carta Marina

After its Publication

Olaus Magnus p. 8

Olaus Magnus, p. 8

A map continues to have a history even after it is published. In the case of this map, it was lost for a time.

The map soon became very rare; more copies of the two keys were available than copies of the map itself. Before long these keys were the only record of the existence and content of the great wall map. The map was printed in reduced and simplified form in several of the editions and translations of the Historia of Olaus Magnus, but these were small imitations of the original wall map.

In the middle of the sixteenth century the Carta Marina had been used by the German geographer Sebastian Munster for his portrayal of Scandinavia in his large Cosmographia; Beschreibung aller Lender (Cosmography; A Description of All Lands) published for the first time in 1544. He also used the large wall map in preparing his edition of Ptolemy’s Geographia published the next year. Abraham Ortelius (Flemish), a famous sixteenth-century cartographer who is often credited with producing the first real "atlas" of the world, wrote that he had used the wall map in creating his map of Scandinavia for his atlas (Theatrum orbis terrarum) published in 1570. From the late sixteenth century onward, however, no copy of the big wall map was known.

Antonio Lafreri published a much smaller version of the map in Rome in 1572. This map was made with four engraved copperplates. It is also rare, with probably less than twenty copies surviving. A close look at some features of the 1572 map reveals the different "look" of the copperplate engraving and also shows that Lafreri copied the map fairly closely. Still, many of the images from the original map are missing. The original map and accompanying keys to it must have been extremely rare when Lafreri was making his copy of the map. He does not mention either the original map or the key.

By the late sixteenth century, it appeared that no copy of Olaus Magnus' large wall map had survived. For over three centuries the large Carta Marina simply disappeared from view. Then, in 1886, a copy of the original woodcut map of 1539 was discovered in the Hof- und Staatsbibliothek (now the Bayerisches Staatsbibliothek), a library in Münich, Germany. So, the map became available once more after three centuries. For many years this was the only known copy. In 1962, a second copy was discovered. It was purchased by the Uppsala Universitetsbibliotek in Uppsala. To date these are the only two extant* copies of the original Carta Marina.

* still existing