Civitates Orbis Terrarum - 1590

Civitates Orbis Terrarum - 1590 – Müller & Schindler – Several Owners

Cologne (Germany) — 1590

A final look at the cities of Europe made just before the destruction of the Thirty Years’ War: the 1590 edition of Braun and Hogenberg’s famous collection of cityscapes from around the world

  1. Georg Braun (1541–1622) enlisted the help of Frans Hogenberg (1535–90) for this ambitious project

  2. The colored engravings are as artfully designed as they are accurate in their representation of each city

  3. They not only depict buildings but are full of details concerning the citizens’ dress and everyday lives

Civitates Orbis Terrarum - 1590

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Civitates Orbis Terrarum - 1590

The Civitates Orbis Terrarum is famous for the hundreds of gorgeous cityscapes from around the world contained in its six volumes, which are particularly precious because they present the medieval cities of Europe before the destruction of the Thirty Years’ War. Cologne theologian, geographer, and printer Georg Braun and Flemish engraver Frans Hogenberg collaborated in creating the ambitious project, which has only gained popularity over the centuries.
The masterfully designed and charmingly colored engravings not only depict buildings and their surrounding landscapes, but coats of arms, genre scenes from the everyday life of farmers and fishermen, local customs and costumes, boats, wagons, and more. Instructive and amusing texts written by Braun accompany the images and describe each town’s geographical location, historical development, and economic conditions. It was designed as a way of introducing the world to educated humanists. The volume printed in 1590 is presented here.

Civitates Orbis Terrarum – 1590

This collection of cityscapes across the entire world including Europe, Asian, Africa, and even the New World is considered to be the oldest work of its kind. This enormous six-volume work, also known under the title (in German) Beschreibung und Contrafactur der vornembster Stät der Welt, was edited and created over a period of nearly fifty years between 1572 and 1618. It not only stimulates the mind, but also offers the eye endless enjoyment through the lovely design and artist shaping of the maps. The edition from 1590 contains 79 colored cityscapes on 59 double-folio plates that include Rome, Ostia, Jerusalem, Bergen, Soest, and Stockholm.
The masterful etchings resembling standalone panel paintings were artfully colored along with the staffage and genre scenes that accompany them. The historical importance of this work is also crucial because it provides a systematic mapping of the structures of many medieval cities that were, shortly after the publication of this book, destroyed or severely damaged during the Thirty Years’ War (1618–48) and subsequently renovated in the Baroque style.

A Team Effort

The theologian, canon, and dean from Cologne, Georg Braun (1541–1622) undertook only a few journeys himself as the author and publisher of the Civitatis Orbis Terrarum. Instead, he was able to obtain many examples through his numerous contacts, which could then be executed by the copperplate engraver and etcher Franz Hogenberg (1535–1590). Frans created the plates for vols. I–IV while his son Abraham and Simon van den Neuwel were responsible for vols. V and VI. Each of these city views are complete with descriptions of the geography, history, and economy of each of the respective locations, which were authored by Braun. Furthermore, there is information concerning local coats of arms as well as elevation markers.

Slices of Life

The cityscapes also contain small genre scenes showing the lives of the inhabitants of these cities engaged in the activities of their daily lives, which gives the reader information about what each local population generally did for a living. Farmers work the fields outside the city and fishermen angle in the rivers that they are situated on. Other details include carriages, ships, and contemporary folk costumes, which enliven the exquisite pictures and convey a realistic impression of everyday life at the end of the Middle Ages**. The modern beholder thus receives an inside look into local customs and learns contemporary fashions.


Alternative Titles
Georg Braun and Franz Hogenberg: Beschreibung und Contrafactur der Vornembster Stät der Welt 1574-1618
Beschreibung und Contrafactur der vornembster Stät der Welt
Size / Format
1 volume - ca. 270 pages / 41.0 × 28.0 cm
79 colored city illustrations on 59 double-folio plates
City views and maps
Artist / School

Available facsimile editions:
Civitates Orbis Terrarum - 1590 – Müller & Schindler – Several Owners
Müller & Schindler – Simbach am Inn, 2020
Limited Edition: Not limited
Detail Picture

Civitates Orbis Terrarum – 1590

Castel Sant'Angelo and Surroundings

Located on the north bank of the Tiber, just to the east of the Vatican in an area now referred to as Parco Adriano, the Castel Sant'Angelo was once the tallest building in Rome. Originally constructed as a mausoleum for the Emperor Hadrian between AD 134 and 139, the structure was converted into a papal fortress at the beginning of the 14th century and was later used as a prison and place of execution. It is flanked by two of Hadrian’s other building projects, the Hippodromus Haderiani and the Aelian Bridge, which connects the Castel Sant’Angelo to the center of Rome.

Civitates Orbis Terrarum - 1590 – Müller & Schindler – Several Owners
Single Page

Civitates Orbis Terrarum – 1590


Reminiscent of an image from Google Earth, the holy city of Jerusalem is depicted in great detail with a bright color palette not as it was in the 16th century but how it appeared during Christ’s lifetime when it was prosperous. The various locations of the Stations of the Cross and other stories of martyrdom are also depicted and the inscription at the top says that these places are reverently preserved by Christians and still venerated today.

This double-page engraving of the city was already a rarity at the end of the 16th century and the original plate has not survived to the present. It has been theorized that Braun and Hogenberg had the original in their possession because it was already used by them for the 1574 edition. Gerhard de Jode later republished the engraving in two sheets, which according to records existed as early as 1587.

Civitates Orbis Terrarum - 1590 – Müller & Schindler – Several Owners
Facsimile Editions

#1 Beschreibung und Contrafactur der Vornehmbster Stät der Welt - 1590

Müller & Schindler – Simbach am Inn, 2020

Publisher: Müller & Schindler – Simbach am Inn, 2020
Limited Edition: Not limited
Binding: Brown leather with rich gold decoration
Commentary: 1 volume by Max Schefold
Language: German
1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size) Reproduction of the entire original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
Price Category: € (under 1,000€)
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