Striking old colored example of Braun & Hogenberg's views of Wratislavia, showing a major town on the Oder River in Lower Silesia, from an early edition of Braun & Hogenberg's Civitates Orbis Terrarum.
Braun & Hogenberg's view of Wratislavia, known today as Wroclaw or Breslau, offers a detailed visualization of Wratislavia during its time under the Kingdom of Bohemia and the Holy Roman Empire.
The view offers a vivid representation of the town on the Oder River,, with careful attention to the city's layout, with the buildings presented in a bird's-eye view. The city's fortifications and dense structures are clearly marked, indicating the historical topography of the city. At the lower corners of the map are detailed keys pointing out major landmarks, such as the city hall, cathedral, monasteries, and prominent residences. These keys provide a useful guide for understanding the city's layout and infrastructure.
The map is further embellished with two decorative coats of arms, which provide a hint of the city's governance at the time.
Wratislavia's history until 1600 is that of a crucial trade center located on the Oder River. After its establishment in the 10th century, the city expanded under Polish rule in the 11th and 12th centuries, later joining the Kingdom of Bohemia in the late 14th century.
The 16th century marked a period of growth for the city, both culturally and academically, despite the religious conflicts of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation. It is within this backdrop that the "Civitates Orbis Terrarum" was created, offering a snapshot of Wratislavia during this pivotal era.
Georg Braun (1541-1622) was born and died in Cologne. His primary vocation was as Catholic cleric; he spent thirty-seven years as canon and dean at the church St. Maria ad Gradus, in Cologne. Braun was the chief editor of the Civitates orbis terrarum, the greatest book of town views ever published. His job entailed hiring artists, acquiring source material for the maps and views, and writing the text. In this role, he was assisted by Abraham Ortelius. Braun lived into his 80s, and he was the only member of the original team to witness the publication of the sixth volume in 1617.
Frans Hogenberg (ca. 1540-ca. 1590) was a Flemish and German engraver and mapmaker who also painted. He was born in Mechelen, south of Antwerp, the son of wood engraver and etcher Nicolas Hogenberg. Together with his father, brother (Remigius), uncle, and cousins, Frans was one member of a prominent artistic family in the Netherlands.
During the 1550s, Frans worked in Antwerp with the famous mapmaker Abraham Ortelius. There, he engraved the maps for Ortelius’ groundbreaking first atlas, published in Antwerp in 1570, along with Johannes van Deotecum and Ambrosius and Ferdinand Arsenius. It is suspected he engraved the title page as well. Later, Ortelius supported Hogenberg with information for a different project, the Civitates orbis terrarium (edited by Georg Braun, engraved by Hogenberg, published in six volumes, Cologne, 1572-1617). Hogenberg engraved the majority of the work’s 546 prospects and views.
It is possible that Frans spent some time in England while fleeing from religious persecution, but he was living and working in Cologne by 1580. That is the city where he died around 1590. In addition to his maps, he is known for his historical allegories and portraits. His brother, Remigius, also went on to some fame as an engraver, and he died around the same time as his brother.