TRANSLATE ENGLISH to Français, Deutsch, Italiano, Português, Español! Explanation
© LIBER and author
1. What is a facsimile?
The literal meaning of the word is 'make alike' (post-1800 Latin). The term was coined by A. E. Nordenskiöld for his collection of maps published in 1889: Facsimile-Atlas to the early history of cartography with reproductions of the most important maps printed in the XV and XVI centuries.
The maps are reproduced by means of photolithography and are nearly all in full size; when they are not - illustrations in the text, for instance - the original dimensions are given.
The usual definition of facsimile-map in present-day literature is: "an old map reproduced as
precisely as possible with modern printing techniques". This definition you can find in the
Kartografisch Woordenboek (Cartographic Dictionary) published by the Dutch
Cartographic Society in 1991, number 8.1.30. In the same dictionary an old map is defined as a map
produced in the past which no longer serves the purpose for which it was made but which can be of
historical or artistical value. Other definitions more or less agree with this, as e.g. in
Cartographical innovations (p. 318): "A facsimile map is a printed reproduction of an old
map identical with the original". And a facsimile atlas they call either a collection of facsimile maps
or the reproduction of an entire older atlas. Finally a definition of Blakemore and Harley (p. 42)
who call facsimile publishing: "the republication by photographic or other means of copying of
original early maps".
From these definitions we could deduce that the facsimile has to be a one-to-one reproduction made by means of modern printing techniques. So, the same dimensions for both the original and the facsimile.
This would mean that a colour copy of a map, made by a Xerox-machine, can be considered as a facsimile, whereas a new printing of old copperplates is a new edition (and not a facsimile).
The first printed facsimile actually appeared in 1598 with the publishing of the Peutinger Map by
Ortelius in 1598. Of a later period, the 19th century, famous works as those of De Santarem (1849
latest edition), Jomard (1842-1862) and Lelewel (1842-1857) can be mentioned. According to
Sijmons - formerly map curator of the map collection of the University of Amsterdam - it is better
to speak of 'copies' or 'imitations' than of facsimiles in the case of products from the pre-
photographic period. Therefore, he ascribes Nordenskiöld's atlas to the category 'pre-
Tony Campbell et al. (p. 116) says about this in Information sources in cartography: "these pre-photographic volumes contain redrawn copies, and caution is necessary when using them, since the draftsmen sometimes misinterpreted the original detail they were copying".
So, in this case, the original work of De Santarem is no real facsimile, but the edition of Rudolf Muller who, in 1985, published the latest edition of the Atlas de Santarem, is.
But what about the 1987 edition of Youssouf Kamal's Monumenta Cartographica Africae et
Aegypti which is a 60% reduced reprint in six volumes of the original 1951 edition which
appeared in 16 volumes. Although still impressive, the text on the maps is often illegible. Facsimile
And what about facsimile atlases which show a selection of the maps from the original atlas. Some examples: The Grand Atlas [of Blaeu] of the 17th century world with introductory text/notes by John Goss, published by Studio Editions in 1990. Or, from the same publisher, City maps of Europe, a selection of the maps from the atlas of Braun and Hogenberg. Are these coffee-table books or is this a way of promoting cartographic materials to a general public?
Anyway, you can find these atlases in my library, because we consider them as useful, exactly because of their compactness, their introductions with recent bibliographies, and their colours (although these are not always of superior quality). Through them our clients can meet with famous cartographers in a comfortable way. After all, the majority of our users do not have a geographical or cartographical background.
Another case to be considered is for example the facsimile atlas America in maps dating from 1500-1856, wherein some maps have been photographed from existing facsimiles rather than originals.
Harley (1977, p. 459) queries these practices especially since no account is given for them.
To complete this introduction about definitions, and probably making it even more complicated, I
would like to say a few words about the term 'facsimile'. You will have read about this in The
Map Collector, no. 59 (summer 1992).
The coiner of this phrase, Dr. Zsolt Török, has made a facsimile of Sebastian Münster's map of the Americas by engraving a woodblock, closely following the original lines. His philosophy is: a good facsimile should reproduce the original. The map, the physical object can be re-produced in only one way, by using materials and techniques identical to those used in producing the original. Of course, history can never be reproduced, only some of the facts, so the products are fact-similes. End of quote.
With respect to promoting cartographic materials this method will not be successful in my opinion because of the relatively high costs.
2. Standards for facsimile maps
Standards for good quality facsimiles could be very useful but I will start with some remarks about the people and institutions who are interested in facsimiles.
In 1964, Koeman already made a case for the integral facsimile reproduction. As he writes: "What
we should expect is in the first place a 100% reliable reproduction of the original. That means, inter
alia, that the publisher will not use two or three copies to complete those parts of the original
which are missing. Secondly: that names and lines are legible, not obscured by the screen. Thirdly:
that the original contents of the atlas (the cartography) are in harmony with the material and form
of the facsimile (colour and quality of paper, etc.)".
Fairclough (1972) also pleads for criteria to determine under which conditions a reproduction deserves the name facsimile. His first point is: a facsimile should correspondend as closely to the original as possible. Any differences should be clearly mentioned in the introduction.
Sijmons (1980) explicitly mentions:
Marc Hameleers, in a recent article in Caert-Thresoor entitled: "Maps in facsimile: may
one make demands?", even argues that the map is watermarked with the year of publication of the
facsimile. Specific research of the map itself is necessary when the facsimile publication is
accompanied by an extensive text. Hameleers gives the following scheme with points for
In general, point 3 is the least represented in most commentaries, because most introductions have been written by people with another than a cartographical background. Most introductions discuss only a selection of the points mentioned above. Hameleers doubts whether one-to-one reproductions are necessary for pure scientific aims. He says they are more interesting in his view for the lovers of decorative graphics than for the historical researcher.
My opinion is, that whatever one is doing, let it be acknowledged in the explanatory text. At the least, one must be informed about the following: the original year of publication and publisher; source and dimension of the original; year of publication and the publisher of the facsimile.
We as maplibrarians would appreciate that very much indeed, if only for making correct bibliographic descriptions!
3. Facsimiles in the Map Collection of the University Library of the Vrije Universiteit
3.1. Short characteristic of the Map Collection
The Map Collection has been part of the department of 'Special Collections' of the University Library since 1988. However, it started as part of the library of Social Geography and became an independent department in 1967.
The collection can be characterised as a general collection and contains well over 31.000 maps, 2.200 atlases, of a topographical as well as a thematic nature, dating from various periods. Besides these, the collection also contains some 3.400 titles concerning cartographic literature, reference- books, gazetteers and guide-books.
The collection is used for teaching and research purposes within the University. The users come from different disciplines, with an accent on the (faculties) of art-history, history, cultural anthropology and geology.
Our collection of wall-maps (consisting of 160 items) is used often for lectures.
We also welcome external visitors: they can be researchers, hobbyists, people from the business
community, publishers, schoolchildren, etc.
All our atlases and maps are stored in our study-room, except for the wall-maps. Atlases published before 1801 are to be found in the Department of Manuscripts and Old and Rare Books of the University Library.
The University Library has an on-line public catalogue. Searches can be made on author, title and subject to locate any book/atlas present in the library.
The maps are catalogued seperately in a regional card-catalogue and will be automated in the future.
As has been said the Map Collection is a general collection for a general public, but we focus of course on education and research within the University. So, we collect 'the whole world', but each region is graded on a scale from 1 to 4. The scale represents an increase in theme, scale and period. So, The Netherlands for example falls into category '4', which means that we collect topographic material as well as thematic maps, small-scale maps as well as large-scale maps. On the other hand the Arctic region falls into category 1 which means limited collecting of maps.
Because our budget doesn't allow us to buy old maps regularly, we acquire facsimile maps and atlases if possible. We also buy facsimiles to protect older material.
3.3. Facts and figures about the facsimiles in our collection
A map curator may well ask: Is it possible to complete a map collection with facsimiles from different centuries, so that we get a good insight in the history of cartography through the ages?
How does it work in a general collection like ours? Statistics about this matter are not directly available. I don't have any figures on the number of loose-sheet facsimile maps, because all our loose-sheet maps are catalogued in a non-automated card-catalogue. However, I have more information about our facsimile atlases. Thanks to a specific sub-field used when cataloguing our books, we can select all those publications which are facsimiles of material published earlier. So, I have a print-out of the titles of publications in the map collection with that particular sub-field. One has to bear in mind that a publication that contains facsimile-maps but is not itself a facsimile does not appear on this list. Therefore, you will not find titles such as: Portugaliae Monumenta Cartographica, Monumenta Cartographica Neerlandica or Asia in maps on this list. But you will find Youssouf Kamal's Monumenta Cartographica of 1987, and the Atlas de Santarem of 1985.
In which period were these maps originally published? To discover this, I sorted them according to century which resulted in the following divison.
Number of titles:
Another question that can be asked is: which regions do these facsimiles depict? I will show you the most often depicted regions:
|Profile grade||Region||No. of titles|
These numbers more or less correspond with the profile grade of the regions. We can come to a general conclusion: it is certainly possible to build a stable collection with representatives from different ages, at different scales, although there will always be gaps in some regions. Furthermore, there is a tendency to make more and more facsimiles of 19th century material and of material from the beginning of this century, which is praiseworthy.
4. Facsimile-publishing in The Netherlands
Facsimiles are published in various forms:
* Facsimiles of single maps, taken from an atlas or not, with or without a commentary on the map or a separate commentary.
* Facsimiles of complete atlases, often with an explanatory introduction.
* Facsimile atlases containing maps from diverse origins: a kind of factice-facsimile atlases.
Publications from all three origins have appeared in The Netherlands. I will mention the most important publishers at present.
5. The ideal facsimile: theory and practice
By a happy coincidence I recently discovered the oldest map-fragment in our collection: a wood-cut map from the beginning of the 16th century. Prof. Dürst from Zürich suggested me to join this unique fragment with the other unique part of the map (which is in another collection and incomplete as well) to make a facsimile of it. In this way I will have an opportunity to get a taste of the practical side of facsimile-making. According to strict standards it is perhaps not allowed to combine two originals to make one facsimile. However bearing in mind that the map is so rare, it seems justifiable to make a facsimile, which can make this map better known. And that's what we are aiming at when we talk about diffusion and promotion of cartographic materials. Finally, I would like to quote Harley (1988), who defines maps as a manipulated form of knowledge. Maps are never value-free images. In making facsimiles, it is also impossible to be objective; different slants can be given. It would therefore be very helpful indeed, if publishers would record the basic data mentioned above in a colophon or publisher's note. That would put the history of a map in order, just as the map itself puts our spatial environment in order.
List of cited literature
Atlas de Santarem / with explanatory texts by Helen Wallis and A.H. Sijmons. - Amsterdam : Muller, 1985.
Oorspr. titel en uitgave: Atlas composé de mappemondes, de portulans et de cartes hydrographiques et historiques depuis le VIe jusqu'au XVII siècle. - Paris : Thunot, 1849.
Blaeu, Joh., De grote atlas van de wereld in de 17e eeuw / inleiding, aanvullende teksten en selectie van kaarten: John Goss. - Lisse : Rebo Productions, cop. 1991.
Vert. van: Blaeu's The grand atlas of the 17th century world. - [London] : Studio Editions, cop.
Fotomechanische herdr. van 100 kaarten uit: Atlas major / Joh. Blaeu. - Amsterdam, 1662.
Blakemore, M.J. and J.B. Harley, Concepts in the history of cartography : a review and
In: Cartographica 17 (1980) 4. Monograph 26, p. 42-44.
Braun & Hogenberg, Stadskaarten van Europa : een selectie van 16e eeuwse
stadsplattegronden en afbeeldingen / [tekst]: John Goss. - Lisse : Rebo Productions, cop.
Fotomechanische herdr. van 67 kaarten uit: Civitates Orbis Terrarum / Georg Braun & Frans Hogenberg. - Keulen, 1572-1617.
Cartographical innovations : an international handbook of mapping terms to 1900 / ed. by Helen M. Wallis and Arthur D. Robinson. - [S.l.] : Map Collector Publications ; [etc.], 1987.
Choro-topographische kaart der noordelijke provincien van het Koningrijk der Nederlanden /
Kraijenhoff. - Delft : Topografische Dienst, 1979. - 1 kaart in 9 bladen.
Naar orgineel uit 1823.
Clement-van Alkemade, M.H.G., Coordinating of map collecting in the Netherlands, terra (in)cognita? : paper presented to the LIBER Conference at Uppsala, Sept. 12th 1988. (Manuscript)
Fairclough, R.H., Original or facsimile.
In: New library world 73 (1972) 863, p. 291-294.
Grote historische atlas van Nederland 1:50.000 / [inl.: P.W. Geudeke, K. Zandvliet ; cartografie: Dienst der Militaire Verkenningen, Den Haag]. - Groningen : Wolters-Noordhoff, 1990.
Facs. van de nettekeningen voor de 'Topographische en militaire kaart van het Koningrijk der Nederlanden, schaal 1:50.000', vervaardigd in de periode 1830-1859.
Hameleers, M., Kaarten in facsimile : mogen er eisen aan gesteld worden?
In: Caert-Thresoor 11 (1992) 1, p. 11-16.
Harley, J.B., America in maps dating from 1500-1856.
In: Annals of the Association of American Geographers 67 (1977), p. 458-460.
Harley, J.B., Maps, knowledge, and power.
In: The iconography of landscape : essays on the symbolic representation, design and use of past environments. - Cambridge : Cambridge University Press, 1988.
Historische atlas ... : Chromotopographische Kaart des Rijks 1:25.000. - Den Ilp : Robas, 1989-
Jomard, E.F., Les monuments de la géographie, ou receuil d'anciennes cartes européennes et orientales. - Paris : Duprat, 1842-1862.
Kamal, Youssouf, Monumenta cartographica Africae et Aegypti / verkl. Nachdr. in sechs Bänden, hrsg. von Fuat Sezgin. - Frankfurt am Main : Institut für Geschichte der Arabisch- Islamischen Wissenschaften an der Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität, 1987. - (Veröffentlichungen des Institutes für Geschichte der Arabisch-Islamischen Wissenschaften).
Kartografisch woordenboek / samengest. door E.S. Bos ... [et al.]. - [Amersfoort] : Nederlandse Vereniging voor Kartografie, 1991.
Koeman, C., An increase of facsimile prints.
In: Imago Mundi XVIII, 1964, p. 87-88.
Lelewel, Joachim, Géographie du Moyen Age : accompagnée d'atlas et de cartes dans chaque volume. - Bruxelles : Pillet, 1850-1857.
Nieuwe geographische Nederlandsche reise- en zak-atlas : vervattende vier en zeventig gekleurde,
naauwkeurig geteekende en gegraveerde, ook accuraat aan elkander sluitende kaarten van de
Vereenigde Nederlanden ... dezer / Jan Christiaan Sepp. - Alphen aan den Rijn : Atrium,
Facs. van de uitg.: 1733.
Nordenskiöld, A.E., Facsimile-atlas to the early history of cartography with reproductions of the most important maps printed in the XV and XVI centuries. - New York : Kraus, 1961.
Schilder, Günter G., Monumenta cartographica Neerlandica. - Alphen aan den Rijn : Canaletto, 1986-...
Schilder, Günter G., Wall-maps of the 16th and 17th centuries : a series of full-size wall-maps published in the Low Countries / ed. by Günter Schilder. - Amsterdam : Israel, 1977-...
Sijmons, A.H., Facsimile-kaarten
In: Kartografisch tijdschrift 6 (1980) 4, p. 30-36.
Theatrum orbis terrarum : a series of atlases in facsimile. - Amsterdam : Israel, 1963-1974.
Six series of each six parts.
Topographische en militaire kaart van het Koningrijk der Nederlanden / vervaardigd door de
Officieren van den Generalen Staf, en gegraveerd op het Topographisch Bureau van het Ministerie
van Oorlog, op de schaal van 1:50,000. - Delft : Topografische Dienst, 1973. - Facs. krt. in 62
Oorspr. uitg.: 1850-1864.
Török, T., Cartart facsimile.
Announcement in: The map collector no. 59, 1992, p. 19.
BDI-terminologie : verklarend woordenboek van Nederlandse termen op het gebied van bibliotheek en documentaire informatie : met vertalingen in het Engels, Frans, Duits, Spaans / red.: P. J. van Swigchem en E. J. Slot. - Den Haag : Nederlands Bibliotheek en Lektuur Centrum, 1990.
Brunner, Kurt, Faksimiles als Hilfsmittel der Kartographiegeschichte.
In: 4. Kartographisches Colloquium Karlsruhe 1988 ... / hrsg. von Wolfgang Scharfe ... [et al.]. - Berlin : Reimer, 1990. - P. 97-102
Grenacher, F., Das Kartenfaksimile, dessen Wesen und Zweck.
In: Vermessung, Photogrammetrie, Kulturtechnik. - 73 (1975) H. 1. P. 19-22.
Five centuries of map printing / ed. by David Woodward. - Chicago, Ill., [etc.] : The University of
Chicago Press, cop. 1975.
With o.a.: Lithography and maps 1796-1859 / Walter W. Ristow;
The application of photography to map printing and the transition to offset lithography / C. Koeman.
Heawood, E., Reproductions of notable early maps.
In: The geographical journal. - 76 (1930) no. 3. P. 240-248.
Hodgkiss, A. G., Facsimiles of early maps.
In: The Bulletin of the Society of University Cartographers. - 12 (1978) no. 2. P. 1-12.
Jolly, D., How to detect reproductions.
In: The map collector. - 55 (summer 1991). P. 26.
Jolly, D. C., Reproduction or original?
In: The map catalog : every kind of map and chart on earth and even some above it / Joel Makower, ed. ; Cathryn Poff [and] Laura Bergheim, associate ed. - 2nd ed., rev. and expanded. - New York, N.Y. : Vintage Books, 1990. - P. 160-161.
Kers, A. J., Facsimile-uitgaven van topografische kaarten.
In: Koschatzky, W., De grafische kunsten. - Nieuwkoop : Heuff, cop. 1981. P. 18: 'Origineel en reproduktie'.
Margary, H., An important series of facsimiles of early maps : the facsimile reproduction of early
In: The Bulletin of the Society of University Cartographers. - 7 (1973) no. 2. P. 1-7.
Modelski, A. M., Introductory essays and commentaries for the study of the history of cartography
from selected facsimile atlases in the Library of Congress.
In: Geography and Map Division bulletin. - 16 (1979), P. 43-45. [A list of references]
Muller, F., Remarkable maps of the XVth, XVIth and XVIIth centuries. - 6 vols. - Amsterdam : Rudolf Muller, 1894-97.
Ristow, W. W. and Graziani, M., Facsimiles of rare historical maps : a list of reproductions for sale by various publishers and distributors. - 3rd ed. - Washington, D.C. : [Library of Congress], 1968.
Sijmons, A. H., De produktie van kaarten en atlassen in facsimile in Nederland na de Tweede
In: Kartografisch tijdschrift. - 10 (1984) nr. 3. P. 24-25.
Sijmons, A. H., Some notes on the reliability of hand-drawn facsimiles. [Not published].
Wieder, F. C., Monumenta cartographica : reproductions of unique and rare maps. - The Hague : [s.n.], 1925-1933. - 5 vols.
Whitfield, P., Map reproductions : a publisher's view.
In: The map collector. - 55 (summer 1991), P. 26-27.
Witt, W., Lexikon der Kartographie / von Werner Witt. - Wien : Deuticke, 1979. - Band B.
Yonge, Ena L., Facsimile atlases and related material : a summary survey.
In: The geographical review. - 53 (1963) no. 3. P. 440-446.
Back to GdC Homepage