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A striking birdseye view of Copenhagen, from Merian's Neuwe Archontologica Cosmica, which was published in 1638. The view shows town, buildings, churches, harbor, bridges, ships, fortifications, and much more. A key names six of the major landmarks of the city, including the castle, Church of St. Peter's (the oldest building in central Copenhagen), and Axelhues Island (an obsolete name for the small islet the castle sits on). The coat of arms of the city floats above the image, and some ships at sea fly Danish flag.

The map portrays the city with its attractive buildings in the style of the Amsterdam Canal houses. Grand churches are scattered throughout the city, and the city gives way to the low hills of Sjaelland in the background. The city is shown during the reign of Christian IV, at the end of a period of extremely rapid growth. The city would become the capital of Denmark-Norway in 1661, and a new round of defenses would soon be constructed. Many of the buildings shown would be destroyed in the 1728 Copenhagen Fire.

Matthaus Merian Biography

Mathaus Merian (1593-1650) was the father of engraver Matthäus the Younger, and of the painter, engraver, and naturalist Maria Sibylla Merian. He was born in Basel, Switzerland and trained in engraving in Zurich. After a time in Nancy, Paris and Strasbourg, he settled in Frankfurt. While there, he worked for Johann Theodor de Bry, the publisher and son of the travel writer. In 1617, he married Maria Magdalena de Bry, Johann Theodor’s daughter. In 1623, Merian took over the de Bry publishing house upon the death of his father-in-law. Merian’s best known works are detailed town views which, due to their accuracy and artistry, form a valuable record of European urban life in the first half of the sixteenth century