An attractive antique map of Poland showing the cities, rivers, lakes, and forests of the region during the commonwealth with the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The various regions are demarcated and named, including Black Russia, Podolia, Volhynia, Greater and Lesser Poland, and several palatinates. Parts of adjacent countries are shown, including Russia, Turkey, Hungary, and Germany.
The map shows the Kingdom of Poland in the middle of its great decline. The establishment of the liberum veto in 1573 had strengthened democratic tendencies in the country, but it also introduced an easy way to manipulate the political system. External observers could bribe a single nobleman to stop the passage of any unfavorable legislation or the election of any hostile kings. While Prussian and Austrian statesmen also abused this veto, Russian meddling was particularly advanced, with Catherine the Great even managing to get a lover elected leader of the country.
The commonwealth would eventually commence disappearing in 1772. Three partitions between its neighboring countries would dismember both Poland and Lithuania, and an independent Poland would disappear from maps for nearly a century and a half.
As with other maps by Nolin, attention to detail is apparent in this example. It appears that Nolin has drawn some material from De Fer in making this map. This map is quite scarce.
Jean-Baptiste Nolin (ca. 1657-1708) was a French engraver who worked at the turn of the eighteenth century. Initially trained by Francois de Poilly, his artistic skills caught the eye of Vincenzo Coronelli when the latter was working in France. Coronelli encouraged the young Nolin to engrave his own maps, which he began to do.
Whereas Nolin was a skilled engraver, he was not an original geographer. He also had a flair for business, adopting monikers like the Geographer to the Duke of Orelans and Engerver to King XIV. He, like many of his contemporaries, borrowed liberally from existing maps. In Nolin’s case, he depended especially on the works of Coronelli and Jean-Nicholas de Tralage, the Sieur de Tillemon. This practice eventually caught Nolin in one of the largest geography scandals of the eighteenth century.
In 1700, Nolin published a large world map which was seen by Claude Delisle, father of the premier mapmaker of his age, Guillaume Delisle. Claude recognized Nolin’s map as being based in part on his son’s work. Guillaume had been working on a manuscript globe for Louis Boucherat, the chancellor of France, with exclusive information about the shape of California and the mouth of the Mississippi River. This information was printed on Nolin’s map. The court ruled in the Delisles’ favor after six years. Nolin had to stop producing that map, but he continued to make others.
Calling Nolin a plagiarist is unfair, as he was engaged in a practice that practically every geographer adopted at the time. Sources were few and copyright laws weak or nonexistent. Nolin’s maps are engraved with considerable skill and are aesthetically engaging.
Nolin’s son, also Jean-Baptiste (1686-1762), continued his father’s business.