Scarce first edition of Adam Olearius's bird's eye of Moscow, one of the great 17th Century images of the city.
This fine cartographic view of Moscow shows the city as it appeared in the 1630s, during an interlude of growth and prosperity for Russia's capital. Centered on the Kremlin and the adjacent district of Kitya Gorod, every street is delineated and all major buildings, including the city's famous 'onion domed' edifices are carefully depicted. The city is protected by two sets of Medieval walls, which form the concentric patterns that would later define the city's development. A cartouche featuring the Imperial Russian double-headed eagle occupies the upper left, while a detailed index of key sights occupies the left side of the composition.
During the period, Moscow was enjoying relatively good fortune. It was quickly recovering from the famine of 1601-3, as its population rapidly grew, reaching 200,000 by 1650. The city was also enjoying the comparatively stable rule of Czar Michael I (reigned 1613-45), the first emperor of the Romanov Dynasty. Critically, the view shows Moscow before the devastaing fire of 1648, which destroyed much of the city, and before the even more catastrophic famine of 1654-5, which would kill almost 80% of the city's residents.
This fine view was made by Adam Olearius (1599-1671), a German diplomat, bibliophile, mathematician and writer. Olearius was a senior courtier to Frederick III, Duke of Holstein-Gottorp, and in his service, during the 1630s, he participated in a series of diplomatic missions to Russia and Persia, with the purpose of opening up trade links. Olearius proved to be a very keen observer of the geography and cultures of the lands he visited, and his lengthy writings are of considerable historical importance. He visited Moscow thrice, in 1634, 1636 and 1639, and the present view was drafted during one of these occasions.
The view is from the first edition of Olearius's book describing his travels in Russia and Persia, Beschreibung der muscowitischen und persischen Reise (Schleswig, 1647). This example does not include the letterpress lines of verse on the right side.