Atlas of the Great Elector (Mauritius Atlas)

Atlas of the Great Elector (Mauritius Atlas) Facsimile Edition

Amsterdam (Netherlands) — 1661

A book as big as a mattress: the atlas measuring 2.2 x 1.7 meters as a gigantic gift from Johann Moritz Prince of Nassau-Siegen to Elector Friedrich Wilhelm I of Brandenburg from the year 1664

  1. Elector Friedrich Wilhelm I of Brandenburg (1620–88) is known as “the Great Elector” for his achievements

  2. His atlas contains 53 maps including 35 double-pages made by the best map printers in Amsterdam

  3. The hand-colored copperplate engravings and etchings are adorned by Baroque decorative elements

Atlas of the Great Elector (Mauritius Atlas)

gr. 2"@Kart. B 396 Staatsbibliothek Berlin (Berlin, Germany)
  1. Description
  2. Facsimile Editions (1)
Description
Atlas of the Great Elector (Mauritius Atlas)

This giant atlas was created in 1664 as a costly gift from Prince John Maurice of Nassau-Siegen to Elector Friedrich Wilhelm I of Brandenburg, popularly known as “the Great Elector” because of his achievements as a political and military leader. It comprises 53 maps, 35 of them double-pages, created by twelve different Amsterdam map printers including Joan Blaeu and was later installed as a show piece in the Electoral Library at Cölln (Berlin). Most of the maps are hand colored copperplate engravings, the rest etchings, with ornate Baroque decorative elements ranging from between 4 to 25 individual sheets and feature detailed explanatory notes. This cartographic treasure is protected by a leather binding with three brass clasps as well as brass corners and a medallion with John Maurice’s coat of arms, while the recipient’s coat of arms adorns the frontispiece opposite the title page.
The original was one of the largest books ever made, weighing 125 kilograms and measuring 2.2 x 1.7 meters when opened. Despite being half the size of the original, the creation of the facsimile was one of the most expensive undertakings of its kind.

Atlas of the Great Elector (Mauritius Atlas)

This massive and gorgeous atlas housed in the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin exemplifies the quality of 17th century Dutch maps, which were popular wall-hangings. It was commissioned in 1661 by Prince John Maurice of Nassau (1604–79), after whom the codex is alternatively named – Mauritius Atlas. The cover is adorned with his coat of arms underlaid by the eight-pointed Maltese Cross with an elephant hanging from it, the former a reference to his status as Grand Master of the Order of Saint John (Bailiwick of Brandenburg) and the later to his membership in the Danish Order of the Elephant.
John Maurice was known for being a bibliophile in possession of an impressive private library that he made available to visiting scholars. His atlas begins with a title page, followed by a large-scale coat of arms of Elector Frederick William I and a table of contents. The sequence of the wall maps corresponds approximately to the order in modern atlases beginning with a world overview, followed by Europe, Germany, Prussia, the other European countries and the continents of Asia, Africa, and America. This work reflects the knowledge of their time and are often based on previous works.

History of the Massive Tome

The astounding codex was presented as a sumptuous gift to Duke Frederick William I of Brandenburg (1620–88) intended to be displayed as wall hangings in the library of his palace in Berlin. Six people are required to carry it and up to four are needed to turn the pages of this book that is the size of a bed when open. The atlas was exhibited in the newly built Royal Library beginning in 1782, was transferred to the neighboring Dutch Palace in 1884, and reached its final repository in the large new building of the Staatsbibliothek Unter den Linden in 1910.
Up until 2010, the Atlas of the Great Elector was the largest atlas in the world and was presented as such at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. It is even larger than the Rostock Great Atlas and the Klencke Atlas in London, as well as being one of the largest and heaviest books in existence. During the return trip, the original binding was damaged by a break in the oak boards and the sea air caused the paper maps to ripple. However, restoration work did not begin until 1931 when new wooden boards and leather were furnished with the original fittings and clasps. After the atlas successfully survived World War II and the Battle of Berlin without being damaged or looted, it underwent a second, more historically appropriate restoration at the German State Library in East Berlin.

The Great Elector

Frederick William is known as “the Great Elector” for his military achievements and for rebuilding and reforming the Prussian state after the devastation of the 30 Years’ War. The standing army numbering 45,000 he created was the foundation for what would become the famous Royal Prussian Army. His economic program focused on building infrastructure and included a policy of religious tolerance that attracted skilled French and Walloon Huguenots, as well as other foreign craftsmen, to emigrate bolstering the country's technical and industrial base. During his reign, which spanned 48 years, he transformed the Duchy of Prussia from a ravaged and depopulated state into one of the great powers of Europe, which would become a kingdom during the reign of his son and heir.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Mauritius-Atlas
Kurfürstenatlas
Size / Format
158 pages / 175.0 × 115.0 cm
Date
1661
Style
Illustrations
53 colored maps
Patron
Johann Moritz of Nassau-Siegen as a gift to Elector Friedrich Wilhelm I of Brandenburg
Artist / School
Previous Owners
Elector Frederick William I of Brandenburg

Available facsimile editions:
Atlas of the Great Elector (Mauritius Atlas) – Belser Verlag – gr. 2"@Kart. B 396 – Staatsbibliothek Berlin (Berlin, Germany) Facsimile Edition
Belser Verlag – Stuttgart, 1971
Limited Edition: 50 copies
Facsimile Editions

#1 Atlas des Großen Kurfürsten (Mauritius-Atlas) - Vorzusgausgabe

Belser Verlag – Stuttgart, 1971

Publisher: Belser Verlag – Stuttgart, 1971
Limited Edition: 50 copies
Commentary: 1 volume by Egon Klemp
Language: English, German
1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size) Format of facsimile: 79.0 x 50.0 cm; Leather binding with fittings, the coat of arms of Brandenburg-Prussia and three clasps in brass finish
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