The Distinctive “Homännische” Style of Early German Mapping

Johann Baptist Homann (1664-1724) was a prominent German map engraver and publisher. There is little information on his upbringing, but it is believed that he was self-taught as a copper engraver (French 2001, 361). After working for several printing firms, in 1702 he founded his own cartographic and printing establishment in Nuremburg. By 1707 he had prepared enough maps to publish his Neuer Atlas über die ganzte Welt. The 1710 edition of the Neuer Atlas contained this map of North and South America: Totius Americae septentrionalis et meridionalis novissima repraesentatio. This was likely the last map of the atlas, one of the maps of the world and the continents added to Homann’s collection of maps of the Holy Roman Empire to make a “world” atlas (Heinz 1993).

Totius Americae is not that important as an historical document, but it nicely demonstrates how Homann changed the mapping industry in central Europe. By the early eighteenth century, the Holy Roman Empire was finally recovering economically from the terrible effects of the Thirty Years War, which had ended in 1648. The emergent middle-class supported a whole new market for book and map sellers: no longer did one have to be wealthy to own maps. Homann noticed and soon dominated and shaped the commercial market for maps in Germany (Zögner 1982). Homann offered his customers several options for buying his maps: they could acquire them either separately or in atlases; for the latter, they could also have customized title pages and indexes (Heinz 1993, 105). To reach customers across eastern and northern Europe, Homann made his maps with the lingua franca of Latin. Realizing that people liked decoration, he also provided images of historical events on his maps (Heinz 1993, 109). Such imagery can be seen, for example, in the lower-left corner of Totius Americae

Homann’s rivalry with his former apprentice Matthias Seutter (Ritter 2001) kept his firm continually printing more maps and building an impressive stock of maps, globes, and various instruments. After his death in 1724, and his son’s death in 1730, the firm of Homann Heirs (Homännischen Erben) continued to be a major force in the mapping industry. Only in the middle of the nineteenth century did the centers of German map production shift to Berlin and Vienna (Zögner 1982).


Further Reading

French, Josephine, ed. 2001. Tooley’s Dictionary of Mapmakers. Rev. ed. Riverside, Conn.: Early Word Press.

Heinz, Markus. 1993. “A Research Paper on the Copper-Plates of the Maps of J. B. Homann's First World Atlas (1707) and a Method for Identifying Different Copper-Plates of Identical-Looking Maps.” Imago Mundi 45: 45-58.

Ritter, Michael. 2001. “Seutter, Probst and Lotter: An Eighteenth-Century Map Publishing House in Germany.” Imago Mundi 53: 130-35.

Zögner, Lothar. 1982. Review of Christian Sandler, Johann Baptista Homann, die Homännischen Erben, Matthäus Seutter und ihre Landkarten. Beiträge zur Geschichte der Kartographie (Amsterdam: Meridian Publishing, 1979; reprinted from 1886). Imago Mundi 34 (1982): 106-107.


Izaak Onos (BA Geography-Anthropology; USM 2016)

November 2013

Prepared for GEO 207, “Map History”