A Book of Cities: Mapping Urban Space in Braun and Hogenberg’s Civitates Orbis Terrarum (1572-1617)

Petruţa Năiduţ 1
  • 1 University of Bucharest, , Romania


The present article sets out to explore the tradition and the innovative forces involved in the production of the first city atlas, Civitates orbis terrarum, a six-volume collection of town images published by Georg Braun and Franz Hogenberg between 1572 and 1617. In doing so, it considers the consequences of the rediscovery of Ptolemy’s notions of geography and chorography and traces how time-honoured ideas and new practices of describing places meet in the depiction of early modern cities. The article discusses the potential of chorography as a genre capable of representing a city while trying to convey information about its character and addresses the role of printing in the dissemination of city views. The analysis extends from classic notions and modern practices of chorography to the humanist pursuit of a global vision that can be identified in the design of the Civitates, where the metaphor of the theatre appears to extend from the material of the atlas to the book itself. The research is mostly based on social and cultural histories of cartography and cosmography which can contribute to a better understanding of the complex significance of city images in Braun and Hogenberg’s project.

If the inline PDF is not rendering correctly, you can download the PDF file here.

  • Ballon, Hilary, and David Friedman. “Portraying the City in Early Modern Europe: Measurement, Representation, and Planning.” The History of Cartography. Vol. 3. Ed. David Woodward. Chicago, London: U of Chicago P, 2007. 680-704.

  • Blair, Ann. The Theater of Nature. Jean Bodin and Renaissance Science. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 1997.

  • Brotton, Jerry. “Terrestrial Globalism: Mapping the Globe in Early Modern Europe.” Mappings. Ed. Denis Cosgrove. London: Reaktion, 2002. 71-89.

  • Brotton, Jerry. The Renaissance Bazaar: From the Silk Road to Michaelangelo. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2003.

  • Bruin, George, Simon van den Noevel, and Franz Hogenberg. Théâtre des cités du monde. 1575.

  • Braun, Georg, and Franz Hogenberg. Civitates orbis terrarum (Cities of the World). Ed. Stephan Füssel and Johannes Altoff. Köln: Taschen, 2015.

  • Buisseret, David. Envisioning the City: Six Studies in Urban Cartography. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1998.

  • Buisseret, David. The Mapmaker’s Quest: Depicting New Worlds in Renaissance Europe. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2003.

  • Cartwright, Kent. “The Folger 1560 View of London.” Shakespeare Quarterly 29.1 (1978): 67-76.

  • Cosgrove, Dennis. Apollo’s Eye: A Cartographic Genealogy of the Earth in the Western Imagination. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 2003.

  • Füssel, Stephan. “Natura Sola Magistra – the Evolution of City Iconography in the Early Modern Era.” Civitates orbis terrarum (Cities of the World). Ed. Stephan Füssel and Johannes Altoff. Köln: Taschen, 2015. 9-61.

  • Gillies, John. Shakespeare and the Geography of Difference. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1994.

  • Jacob, Christian. The Sovereign Map: Theoretical Approaches in Cartography throughout History. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2006.

  • Krogt, Peter van der. “Mapping the Towns of Europe: The European Towns in Braun & Hogenberg’s Town Atlas, 1572-1617.” Belgeo 3-4 (2008): 1-37. Web. 19 Feb. 2020.

  • Maier, Jessica. “A ‘True Likeness’: The Renaissance City Portrait.” Renaissance Quarterly 65.3 (2012): 711–752. JSTOR. Web. 20 Apr. 2020.

  • McLean, Matthew. The Cosmographia of Sebastian Münster. Describing the World in the Reformation. Hampshire: Ashgate, 2007.

  • Nuti, Lucia. “Mapping Places: Chorography and Vision in the Renaissance.” Mappings. Ed. Denis Cosgrove. London: Reaktion, 2002. 90-109.

  • Nuti, Lucia. “The World Map as an Emblem: Abraham Ortelius and the Stoic Contemplation.” Imago Mundi 55 (2003): 38-55.

  • Ortelius, Abraham. The Theatre of the Whole World: Set Forth by that Excellent Geographer Abraham Ortelius. Trans. W. B. (William Bedwell?). London: Officina Plantiniana and Eliot’s Court Press, 1606.

  • Virga, Vincent, and the Library of Congress. Cartographia. Mapping Civilizations. New York: Little, 2007.


Journal + Issues