Monthly Archives: November 2017

Flanders in 1570s – Rebellion against the Spanish Rule

flanders vintage map poster

Map of Flanders, 1573.

This map of Flanders is a reproduction of the original map of Flanders by Gerhard Mercator, one of the founders of modern cartography. It was later copied by his disciple, another famous Flemish cartographer by the name of Abraham Ortelius and was reprinted in several editions – this being one of them.

In the 16th century, Flanders covered the western part of what is today Belgian Flanders (the River Scheldt being the frontier on the East), the western part of what is today Belgian Wallonia, as well as small areas that are today the Netherlands (the southern part of the Zeeland province), and France (Lille region).

In the second half of the 16th century, the Low Countries were undergoing turbulent times. Protestantism was becoming increasingly popular in the region, which was frowned on by the Spanish Hapsburgs, who ruled the area at that time. In 1568, Seven Northern Provinces led by William Orange revolted against the Hapsburgs and the rebellion quickly spread throughout the region. The Low Countries were of strategic importance to the Spanish Crown – Antwerp, Bruges, and other coastal towns were crucial gateways for Spanish colonial goods to Europe. In 1581, the Seven Northern Provinces declared their independence, although the uprising in the Southern Provinces was repressed in 1585 when Antwerp fell after twelve months of siege.

Helena Soister’s book “Prophecies” is historical fiction set in 16th century Antwerp.

Buy restored reproduction of this map printed on a high quality handmade paper here.

Sicilian Baroque: Revival of the Island after a Devastating Earthquake

vintage map poster of sicily

Map of the Island of Sicily, 1701.

In 1693, Sicily and neighbouring Calabria and Malta experienced one of the most destructive earthquakes ever recorded in the history of Italy. The estimated magnitude was 7.6 degrees. Approximately 60,000 people died and 70 towns were destroyed. The eastern coast of the island was the most severely affected where the aftermath was catastrophic. At that time, Sicily was under the rule of the Spanish Crown; therefore, the Spanish administration initiated a major recovery and rebuilding programme after the quake. The extent of the construction boom in the years that followed was enormous. The latest European trends in urban planning and architecture were brought to the island. New cities were founded as in many cases it was preferred to start from scratch rather than repair the original ruins. A specific “Sicilian Baroque” style was developed, which represented the best practices achieved in baroque style across Europe at that time. Sicilian Baroque was used until the 1730s, by which time most of the destroyed infrastructure was rebuild.

John Julius Norwich’s “Sicily: An Island at the Crossroads of History” also focuses on this crucial times in the island’s history.

Buy restored reproduction of this map printed on a high quality handmade paper here.

Power Division of the Western Balkans in the Early 17th Century

croatia vintage map reproduction

Map of the Western Balkans, 1603.

At the beginning of 17th century, the Western Balkan region was divided between three powers: the Republic of Venice dominated the peninsula of Istria and the Northern part of Dalmatia; the Hapsburg Monarchy ruled a strip of coastline between Istria and Dalmatia and the adjoining inland area of what is today Croatia. The last big power in the region was the Ottoman Empire, which controlled the area of what is today Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Macedonia. The Republic of Radusa with its centre of Dubrovnik was also officially a vassal territory of the Turks. The borders of these territories are marked with a dotted line on the map.

Buy restored reproduction of this map printed on a high quality handmade paper here.

1780s: Canada Is Shaping Up

canada vintage map reproduction

Map of the Atlantic Canada, 1785.

The map covers the territory of what is today Atlantic Canada. In 1785, they were the British Colonies of Newfoundland, St. John’s Island (today called Prince Edward Island), Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick (which split from Nova Scotia in 1784).

This map was released just eighteen years after Captain James Cook surveyed and mapped the area between 1763 and 1767. This was his second trip to the region; he first arrived as a soldier of the British Crown in 1757–1758 where he participated in the Siege of Quebec during this military expedition.

In 1783, the Treaty of Paris was signed and the United States officially recognized as an independent country by the British and other signatories. The Treaty also laid out how the borders would be charted in the area and granted fishing rights to the American fishermen in Atlantic Canada. Quebec was also a British colony at that time. However, after the arrival of 10,000 loyalists from the newly founded USA in 1791, the province of Quebec was divided into Lower Canada: a predominantly French-speaking region downriver of St. Lawrence River covering the south-eastern part of modern-day Quebec and areas on the Labrador peninsula that are nowadays part of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, and Upper Canada, a predominantly English-speaking region upriver of St. Lawrence covering what is the southern part of the modern-day Province of Ontario.

Ann and Seamus”, a historical novel by Kevin Major set in Newfoundland about 40 years after this map was first printed narrates a story of Irish immigrants who were shipwrecked on the shore of the island when on their way to Quebec.

Buy restored reproduction of this map printed on a high quality handmade paper here.

Richard Wagner’s Bayern

bayern bavaria vintage map

Topograpahic Maps of Bayern / Bavaria – Southern and Northern Part, 1862 and 1863.

At the time this map was first printed, Bavaria was a kingdom established after the fall of the Holy Roman Empire and remained an independent monarchy until 1866. During its independence, Bavaria quickly became a centre of art and culture. One of the most important figures in Bavarian (and German) cultural life of that era was the composer Richard Wagner. He brought new ideas into the art of opera and is also known for writing both the music and the lyrics for all his work. Wagner adapted stories from German history into his work. The German mythology and the origins of the German nation were themes elaborated on in a series of four operas called the Ring of the Nibelung. Due to the themes he used, Wagner’s work became an instrument of Nazi propaganda in the 1930s. Large parts of Wagner’s work also outline Scandinavian mythology.

The life of this German composer is fully described in the biography: “Richard Wagner: A Life in Music” by Martin Goeck.

Buy restored reproduction of this map printed on a high quality handmade paper here.


The Eddystone Lighthouse Story

old nautical map atlantic

Portolan Map Covering the Atlantic Ocean by the English, French, Spanish and Portugese Coastline, 1698. This map  oriented to the East.

Because of the colonies in Africa, Asia and America, the intensity of transatlantic trade had increased considerably by the end of the 17th century. This made the coastline of England, France, Spain and Portugal very busy due to the maritime traffic. The development of seafaring brought the need for new tools in navigation and safety at sea. That is why many lighthouses were built in this area.

The first recorded instance of an offshore lighthouse was in 1698, which was built on Eddystone Rocks, located about 14 kilometres offshore from the major harbour of Plymouth. The rocks are also marked on this map. There is a moving story of Mr Henry Winstanley connected to this lighthouse. Winstanley was a man with many interests such as mechanics or mathematics. He became a merchant and purchased five ships for such entrepreneurial activities. After two of the ships were wrecked on Eddystone Rocks, Winstanley complained, claiming that ships should be protected from such dangerous rocks, but nothing was done as the reef was considered impossible to mark. As a result, he decided to build a lighthouse himself, which took him two years to finish. He had to face unexpected obstacles during the construction. As this was in the period when England was at war with France, he was taken captive by a French privateer while on the construction site and taken to France. The construction had been destroyed. However, the French King Louis XIV ordered his immediate release, stating: “France is at war with England, not with humanity”. Winstanley returned to the Eddystone reef and finished the construction in 1698. He remained as the lighthouse keeper for the next five years. During the time he ran the lighthouse, no ships were wrecked on Eddystone rock. He died in the lighthouse in 1703 during a particularly strong storm.

For the full story, read “Henry Winstanley and the Eddystone Lighthouse” by Adam Hart-Davis or “Fearless” by Elvira Woodruf.

Buy restored reproduction of this map printed on a high quality handmade paper here.