Early Map of Estonia and Latvia
Nice example Homann's map of the northern Baltic region, published in Nuremberg.
Homann's map is a representation of the regions of Livonia and Courland as they stood in the early 18th century. Understanding the historical context of these territories during this period provides a deeper insight into the complexities depicted within the map.
In the early part of the 18th century, Livonia and Courland underwent significant political and cultural transformations. Livonia, spanning parts of modern-day Estonia and Latvia, was a region marked by constant change, hosting major cities like Riga and Tartu and cradled by important rivers such as the Daugava and the Gauja. Courland, primarily corresponding to western Latvia, was also an influential area, with Jelgava as a prominent city, and the Lielupe River playing a significant role.
Livonia, during this period, was a battleground for powers such as Sweden, Poland, and Russia, leading to shifts in governance and cultural influence. Cities like Riga were vital centers of trade and culture, reflecting the multiplicity of external influences.
Courland, on the other hand, maintained its distinct identity. Although smaller and less populous, Courland's duchy was known for its maritime orientation and economic ambition. Jelgava, as a major urban hub, exemplified the region's drive and vitality.
Johann Baptist Homann (1663-1724) was a mapmaker who founded the famous Homann Heirs publishing company. He lived his entire life in Bavaria, particularly in Nuremberg. Initially, Johann trained to become a priest before converting to Protestantism and working as a notary.
In 1702, Johann founded a publishing house that specialized in engravings. The firm flourished, becoming the leading map publisher in Germany and an important entity in the European map market. In 1715, Johann was named Imperial Geographer to the Holy Roman Empire by Charles VI and made a member of the Prussian Academy of Sciences. Most importantly for his business, his reputation and contacts gained him imperial printing privileges which protected his publications and recommended him to customers. Johann is best known for this Grosser Atlas ueber die ganze Welt, or the Grand Atlas of the World, published in 1716.
After Johann died in 1724, the business passed to his son, Christoph (1703-1730). Upon Christoph’s early death, the company passed to subsequent heirs, with the name of the company changing to Homann Erben, or Homann Heirs. The firm continued in business until 1848.