The author discusses a phenomenon of putting the works of military cartography on medals cast in the 17th century. The analysis focused on a medal presented to Krzysztof Arciszewski (1592-1656) by the Dutch West India Company in 1637. The obverse of this medal features two cartographic images depicting the siege of the Arraial Velho do Bom Jesus fortress (1635) and the battle between Camarigibi and Porto Calvo (1636). They were patterned after two manuscript maps. The maps were made by Arciszewski and attached to a memorandum written and sent to the management of the West India Company on 13 June 1633. They were engraved and published in print only around 1644. The plan of the battle that took place on 18 January 1636 indicates that the engraver (author unknown) used not only the manuscript version but also the medal. The example of the medal minted in 1637 confirms the credibility of cartographic representations featured on numismatic items. It should, naturally, be borne in mind that such representations must have been simplified due to the very nature of the means. Nevertheless, should there be no proper manuscript pattern, such objects may be used successfully as valuable cartographic sources.
The author begins with presentation of a programme of creating the detailed cartographic picture of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in the 16th century, proposed by Stanisław Smolka from the Jagiellonian University at the first congress of Polish historians in Cracow in 1880. This initiative was partially realised in the atlas of Ruthenian lands of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in the turn of the 16th and 17th century created by Aleksander Jabłonowski and printed in 1904 in Vienna. When Poland regained its independence, it became possible to organize further works. As their results two maps were designed, prepared and issued in the interwar period: the general map of the sixteenth-century Grand Duchy of Lithuania created by Jan Jakubowski, published in 1927 and 1928, and the map of Cracow Voivodship of the Four-Year Sejm period (1788–1792) elaborated by Karol Buczek with cooperation of several other persons and published in 1930 in Cracow.
The main topic of this article is a series of maps with commentaries prepared collectively in the Institute of History of Polish Academy of Sciences, entitled Atlas historyczny Polski. Mapy szczegółowe szesnastego wieku (Historical Atlas of Poland. Detailed maps of the 16th century) which includes Polish lands of the Crown. From the planned eight volumes with maps of individual voivodships or their groups, six were published successively in the years 1966–2018 and the last two are prepared for publishing in 2020. The author presents subject of the series and particularly contents of the main maps at the scale of 1:250,000.
This most detailed geographical and historical analysis of a large part of old Poland depicts the area in the 16th century, but it can also facilitate the process of gaining deeper knowledge about the history of these lands in the earlier and later centuries.