Detailed map covering the Northern Balkan regions, including larger parts of Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia & Herzogovina and eastern Slovenia, published by Gerard Mercator, father of the modern Atlas.
Gerard Mercator, one of the foremost cartographers of the Renaissance, created a plethora of maps that have since become masterpieces of historical geography. This map, characteristic of Mercator's meticulous style, offers a comprehensive look into the heart of Southeastern Europe in the early 17th century.
The scope and detail of the map are impressive. To the north, it reaches up to the Drava River and its confluence with the iconic Danube River. Moving southwards, one can trace the Dalmatian-Croatian Coast, with its picturesque islands, extending to the historic cities of Sebenico (Šibenik) and Spalato (Split). The map stretches eastwards to Belgrade and Drina in western Serbia and westwards to include Karlovac, Zagreb, and the island of Pag.
Along the Adriatic, the coast is depicted in detail, with each cove, bay, and inlet faithfully represented. Moving inland, the map traces the intricate web of rivers that crisscross the Balkans, as well as the rugged mountain ranges that have historically made this region a challenging one for both invaders and travelers.
Regions named include:
- Sclavonia (Slavonia): A fertile region, Slavonia saw frequent skirmishes between the Ottoman Empire and the Habsburg Monarchy during the 16th century, leading to significant territorial changes.
Croatia: While coastal Croatia enjoyed relative security, its inland territories were frequently under threat from Ottoman incursions. The region was a major frontier zone, witnessing several battles and fortifications.
Bosnia: By the 16th century, most of Bosnia was under Ottoman control. It became a crucial province for the Empire, serving both as an administrative hub and a forward base for further expansions.
Dalmatia: Though the coastal cities of Dalmatia maintained a degree of autonomy, the hinterlands saw frequent battles between the Ottomans and Venetians.
The Balkan regions, during the time captured in this map, was a theater of political intrigue, military campaigns, and cultural exchange, and Mercator's work serves as a beautiful and intricate window into this pivotal period.
Gerard Mercator is one of the most famous cartographers of all time. Mercator was born in Flanders and educated at the Catholic University in Leuven. After his graduation in 1532, Mercator worked with Gemma Frisius, a prominent mathematician, and Gaspar a Myrica, a goldsmith and engraver. Together, these men produced globes and scientific instruments, allowing Mercator to hone his skills.
With his wife, Barbara, Mercator had six children: Arnold, Emerentia, Dorothes, Bartholomeus, Rumold, and Catharina. In 1552, Mercator moved to Duisburg from Leuven, where he lived for the rest of his life. In 1564, he was appointed the official cosmographer to the court of Duke Wilhelm of Cleve.
Mercator’s most important contribution was the creation and popularization of a projection which now bears his name. On Mercator projection maps, all parallels and meridians are drawn at right angles to each other, with the distance between the parallels extending towards the poles. This allowed for accurate latitude and longitude calculation and also allowed navigational routes to be drawn using straight lines, a huge advantage for sailors as this allowed them to plot courses without constant recourse to adjusting compass readings.
Mercator’s other enduring contribution to cartography is the term “atlas”, which was first used to describe his collection of maps gathered in one volume. The Mercator atlas was published in 1595, a year after Mercator’s death, thanks to the work of his sons, particularly Rumold, and his grandsons.