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Striking, Extremely Rare Sixteenth-Century Map of the Canton of Zurich

Spectacular, large map of the canton of Zurich printed on six sheets and first issued by Jodocus Murer in 1566. This is the circa 1765 reissue, which exists in only a handful of examples. The original 1566 printing does not survive.

The map is oriented northeast, as explained in the decorative border and the compass rose in Lake Zurich. The windheads lodged in the border are delightfully detailed, with some old and wrinkled, some youthful and with plump cheeks, and several, to the southwest and southeast, as fierce skulls. One of the skulls is spewing bones.

At the top, framing the title, are two shields showing the simple, diagonal two-tone coat of arms of Zurich. At the bottom right is the coat of arms and name of the map’s draughtsman, Jos [Jodocus] Murer (1530-1580), who is also represented with a pair of dividers.

There are several cartouches in the map. In the upper right is one with a dedication to Bishop Otto von Friezinger, most likely a postdated reference to Otto II, Bishop of Friesing (d. 1220), who wrote the Laubacher Barlaam. There is a history of the canton of Zurich in the lower left and another history cartouche in the lower right which has a strapwork border.

The map shows a wealth of detail about the cities, settlements, and countryside of the canton. Dotted lines demarcate administrative units. The hilly and mountainous terrain is clearly shown, as are the many lakes and rivers. The largest of these is Lake Zurich, which covers much of the lower right of the map.  

Towns and villages are shown with the distinguishing architecture—usually a church—and, when relevant, a coat of arms. By far the biggest settlement is Zurich itself, located just below the center of the map. A twin-towered church, the Grossmünster, is visible, as are many other buildings and the city walls.

Jodocus Murer and the cartography of Zurich

Murer produced only two known works, but both are important to the history of cartography of Zurich. For both works, the wood cutter was Ludwig Fryg the Elder and the printer was Christoph Froschauer the Younger, the nephew of the first printer in Zurich.

Besides this map, Murer’s other work is a birds-eye view of the city of Zurich, "Der uralten wytbekannten Statt Zurych gestalt und gelaegenhait" (1576). As with this map of the entire canton, that map is richly very detailed, showing the medieval city down to the last house. It was later used as the basis for Braun and Hogenberg's own birds-eye view of Zurich, published in their Civitates orbis terrarium.  

Zurich in the sixteenth century

Zurich was one of the most important cities in Europe when this map was published, thanks to its central role in the Reformation, although the history of the canton extends much further back in time. The territory that became the canton corresponds to the land controlled by the city of Zurich after it became a free city in 1218. As an independent state, Zurich banded together with its neighbors as the Swiss Confederacy in 1351. The word canton entered common usage in the sixteenth century.

The Swiss Reformation began in Zurich, at the Grossmünster, which is shown on this map. Huldrych Zwingli was a cleric trained at the Universities of Vienna and Basel. In 1519, he became a priest at the Grossmünster, then a Catholic church. Zwingli used the pulpit to preach for reform in the Church. He advocated clerical marriage and denounced fasting during Lent and the veneration of the saints.

One of the most famous episodes of the Swiss Reformation, the Affair of the Sausages, is connected to this map. The uncle of the printer of this map, Christoph Froschauer the Elder, was an associate of Zwingli and the first printer in Zurich. During Lent in 1522, Froschauer gathered a group of humanist thinkers together, including Zwingli, and ate smoked sausages, forbidden food during Lent. Zwingli supported the act and was brought into open conflict with the Catholic Church. Most of his parishioners, however, supported Zwingli and he came to be a leader of the city.

Some of the other cantons preferred to remain Catholic, which led to tension with Zurich. Hostilities nearly broke out in 1529, the same year Zwingli disagreed with Martin Luther over the presence of the Divine in the eucharist at the Marburg Colloquy. In 1531, the Catholic cantons, called the Five States, declared war on Zwingli and Zurich. Zwingli marched into battle with the Zurich army and was killed on October 11. In the decades after his death, Zurich remained fiercely independent and was the home of the Reform movement; it is this Zurich, with its surrounding territory, that is shown on this map.

Rarity & Editions

The map is extremely rare. The original edition of 1566 is not known to survive, although the wood blocks are held in the State Archives of Zurich. A second edition was issued in 1568, which survives in a single example in Basel.

Subsequent editions were published in ca. 1700, 1759, ca. 1765, 1859, and in the twentieth century. 

This is a map at the center of the canton's history, particularly its role in the Reformation. Its rarity, beauty, and detail make it a map of the utmost importance.

Condition Description
Original hand-color in full. Woodblock on six sheets of laid paper. Mounted on linen (probably 19th century. With green selvage at left and right edge.
Arthur Durst "Das alteste bekannte Exemplar der Holzschnittkarte des Zurcher Gebiets 1566 von Jos Muere und deren spatere Auflagen," Vermessung, Photogrammetrie, Kulturtechnik, Fachblatt, 1975; Mathis, Zürich, 137; Jasper Cornelis van Putten, Networked Nation: Mapping German Cities in Sebastian Münster’s 'Cosmographia' (Leiden: Brill, 2018), 319.