“Colonia Agrippina.” From Braun & Hogenberg’s Civitates Orbis Terrarum. Volume I, 1572. Engraving. Original hand color. 13 1/4 x 19. Latin text on verso. Very good condition.
Braun and Hogenberg’s Civitates Orbis Terrarum is one of the most important works from the early days of modern cartography and topographical illustration. Georg Braun, the editor, and Frans Hogenberg, the engraver, worked for over twenty years to produce their “towns of the world,” the first systematic depiction of views of cities throughout the world. This impressive production, issued in six volumes from 1572 to 1617, was a monumental piece of Renaissance learning and was designed to complement Ortelius’ Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, the first modern atlas. These two atlases, both firsts of their type, were in response to a new interest in the nature of the world by the Western European population. This nascent interest was spurred both by the existence of a growing middle class and the relatively new general availability of printed books.
This fine print is an excellent example of the content of one of the greatest of these volumes. It is an impressive bird’s eye view of Cologne, one of the great urban centers in Europe in the sixteenth century. The city streets are laid out within the enveloping walls, with many vessels tied to the quay along the Rhine River. Tilled fields surround the city. A cartouche with a classical motif reflects on the Roman history of Cologne, while three figures in contemporary native dress stand in the foreground at left.