Heinrich Scherer (1628-1704) was a Professor of Hebrew, Mathematics and Ethics at the University of Dillingen until about 1680. Thereafter he obtained important positions as Official Tutor to the Royal Princes of Mantua and Bavaria. It was during his time in Munich as Tutor to the Princely house of Bavaria that his lifetime's work as a cartographer received acclaim and recognition.
Scherer's Atlas Novus, first published in Munich between 1702 and 1710 and reissued in a second edition between 1730 and 1737 was a revolutionary work in terms of the development of European mapmaking at the beginning of the 18th Century.
The Atlas comprised 7 separate volumes entitled Geographia Naturalis, Geographia Hierarchica, Geographia Politica, Tabellae Geographicae, Atlas Marianus, Critica Quadrapartita, and Geographia Artificialis. The 180 maps included in this work were prepared between 1699 and 1700 and were engraved by Leonard Hecknaeur, Joseph Montelegre or Matthus Wolfgang with each volume introduced by fine allegorical frontispieces by the same engravers.
What makes Scherer's maps unusual is their highly decorative Catholic iconography and imagery and the revolutionary thematic nature of many of the maps. Scherer himself was a Jesuit and many of the maps draw heavily from the history and development of the Jesuit order since its establishment by St.Ignatius Loyala in the early 16th Century when it was the driving force behind the European Catholic Counter Reformation.
Scherer's maps vividly chart the revival and spread of the Catholic faith in the late 16th and 17th Centuries principally through the efforts of Jesuit missionaries around the globe and most notably in North and South America, South East Asia and the Far East.
Scherer fills his maps with the images of vibrant religiosity, of a vital Catholic Faith of contemporary Jesuit Saints and merciful Madonnas, a World divided between Darkness and Light, between the Protestant-Heathen & the True Believer, between the Chosen Sheep and the Rejected Goats.
This is not surprising given Scherer's Jesuit roots and the publication of his work in the deeply conservative Catholic Bavarian stronghold of Munich. In this imagery, Scherer took some of the first steps towards the development of what may be called thematic cartography.
On many of his maps he divides the world between areas of shaded darkness and unshaded light, the latter representing the light of the Catholic faith around the globe, albeit sometimes being shown in terms of hope rather than reality. This is certainly true for example in China, an area which Scherer invariably shows as unshaded inspite of the stumbling progress and limited successes of the small Jesuit Mission established in China by Matteo Ricci in the late 16th Century.
Scherer takes thematic cartography one step further in the Geographia Politica and Geographia Naturalis. He produces maps that remove political boundaries, borders and place names, replacing them with the revolutionary concept for the period of showing the Mountains and forests in physical relief with all of the major waterways and rivers systems clearly depicted.
Scherer's Atlas forms an important milestone in the development of scientific and thematic cartography, providing a remarkable and revolutionary alternative vision of the World in showing only its major physical and topographical features.