the sea route

For a long time, the route over the Baltic Sea was the preferred one for merchants. They travelled from ports such as Stralsund, Lübeck and Kiel to trade in the cities of the Baltic. Ships even came to Tallinn and the other Estonian harbours from faraway places such as Amsterdam and Hamburg, sailing along the coasts of the North Sea and passing Denmark. With the rise of steamships in the middle of the 19th century, regularly scheduled sailings from Lübeck to Tallinn began.

The maps of this route start with early printed pieces and overview maps of the Baltic Sea, followed by detailed cartographic representations of the Baltic throughout history. Having reached the European mainland, maps from the 16th to the 18th century document the cartographic survey of the Oldenburg Land. Selected highlights present particularities of this cultural space, among them the megalithic tombs “Visbek Bride and Groom” from the funnelbeaker culture, or the Island of Wangerooge in the Wadden Sea national park (UNESCO World Heritage region).

“Coming from Riga, having reached the Gulf of Finland and having passed the Isle of Nargö, one sets course for the South and through the telescope one can already spy the Olaithurm tower in Tallinn. Approaching the city in summer, when the whole bay, where the city is located at latitude 59° 29′ and longitude 24° 47′, is flooded by bright sunlight, the waters are dotted with white sails and a cloudless sky covers all of the land. The view reminds one of Naples. But only in summer. In the rougher season, sheets of ice are stacked on top of each other in the harbor and a winterly veil covers the view that was so lovely in summer. During the summer months, Tallinn is a popular seaside resort thanks to its magnificent location.”

From: Lehnert, Josef von et al..: Die Seehäfen des Weltverkehrs. vol 1. Vienna, 1891, p 856-858.

Scandianæ insulæ index

Cartographer/Engraver/Publisher: Johannes Magnus, Olaus Magnus, Giovanni Maria Viotti

Rome 1554

Woodcut, 26 x 17 cm

Station 1

The “History of all Kings of the Goths and Swedes” by Johannes Magnus contains one of the earliest maps of the Baltic Sea and of Scandinavia. The history was published by Magnus’ brother, Swedish bishop Olaus Magnus, in 1554. The map was based on his great “Carta Marina” from 1539. The woodcut only provides a highly simplified depiction of the coastline and topographical features. Nonetheless, the map names the individual regions of Scandinavia and neighbouring lands on the shores of the North Sea and the Baltic Sea.

Station 2

At first glance, this nautical chart of the Baltic Sea appears to be a work of the publishing house Covens & Mortier, which operated in Amsterdam from 1685 to 1866. The network of lines is a means to facilitate navigation. An accurate depiction of the coastline is, thus, especially important. This is accompanied by several numbers indicating the depths of the seafloor. Upon closer inspection, however, the map is from the „Neptune François, ou Atlas nouveau des cartes marines“, a French volume of nautical charts created on the initiative of Jean-Baptiste Colbert (1619-1683) and published by Claude Gournai in Paris in 1693. It contains several nautical charts of the Baltic Sea, the North Sea and the European Atlantic coast. In the same year, Pieter Mortier (1661-1711), father of the two purported creators of the Baltic Map, Cornelis Mortier (1699-1783) and Johannes Covens (1697-1774), also published the “Neptune François” – without authorization by the King of France. His edition, however, was not used by navigators but served the purpose of a showpiece. No later than 1721, the publishing house ceased printing the volume. Existing copies of the whole volume as well as individual maps were sold off in the following years. Thus, the map of the Baltic Sea is not a “Nieuwe Caart” but rather an unauthorized variant edition.

Nieuwe Caart Van De Oost Zee ou Carte De La Mer Baltique : Contenant les Bancs, Isles Et Costes Comprises entre L’Isle De Zelande et l’Extremité du Golfe De Finlande

Cartographer/Engraver/Publisher: Johannes Cóvens, Corneille Mortier, Jacques LeRoy

Amsterdam [1750?]

Copper engraving, 60 x 87 cm

Sinus Finnici Delineatio Geographica

Cartographer/Engraver/Publisher: Tobias Mayer

Nürnberg 1751

Copper engraving, 44 x 40 cm

Station 3

This map by Tobias Mayer (1723-62), an astronomer and professor of Mathematics from Göttingen, shows the Gulf of Finland. From 1746 to 1751, Mayer was the director of the publishing house Homann, which specialized in maps. The map shows the complete territory of the governorate of Estonia, then part of Imperial Russia. The copper engraver Johann Baptist Homann (1664-1724) had founded the publishing house in 1702. After the founder’s son had died, Johann Georg Ebersberger (1695-1724) and Johann Michael Franz (1700-1761) ran the business. The map was included in the „Atlas geographicus maior“, the most prestigious edition of this publishing house, which flourished during those years and produced a considerable number of new, high quality maps.

Station 4

Pieter Groos (1616-1675) was one of Amsterdam’s best-known bookdealers who was also responsible for the publication of several volumes of nautical charts and nautical handbooks. Between 1650 and 1678, he published 21 editions of the “Zee-Spiegel” in three languages, among them the rare Spanish edition of 1669. The overview maps of the North Sea and the Baltic Sea from the “Atlas de la Mar” are mostly based on maps from the “Zee-Atlas” of Goos’ Amsterdam competitor Hendrick Doncker.

Pas-Caart van de Oost Zee : Verthoonende Alle de ghelegentheydt tusschen ´t Eÿlandt Rugen ende Wÿborg.

Cartographer/Engraver/Publisher: Gerard Coeck, Pieter Goos

Amsterdam 1669

Pascaert van Schager-Rack, De Best en de Orisondt; tot in de Oost-Zee

Cartographer/Engraver/Publisher: Hendrick Doncker

Amsterdam 1692

Copper engraving

Station 5

In 1448, Count Christian I of Oldenburg became King of Denmark and King of Norway in 1450, thus establishing a dynasty of European high nobility that is still important today. Between 1667 and 1773, the County of Oldenburg belonged to Denmark and was ruled directly from Copenhagen. This detailed map of the Skagerrak was reissued by Doncker. Hendrick Doncker (1626-1699) ran his publishing house in Amsterdam for more than 50 years. Other than Goos, Doncker was always keen on the continuous improvement and growth of his collection of nautical charts. Thus, the “Zee-Atlas” continued to grow.

Station 6

Pieter Goos of Amsterdam (1616-1675) published, engraved and traded in nautical charts and nautical atlases. His atlases were not primarily intended to be used at sea but rather meant for ship-owners and merchants. Professionally engraved maps with attractive colouration stimulated his customers’ demand. 

Pascaart van de Noort Zee : Verthoonende in zich alle de Custen en havens daer rontom gelegen

Cartographer/Engraver/Publisher: Gerard Coeck, Pieter Goos

Amsterdam 1669

Copper engraving

Circvlvs Westphalicvs Sive Germaniæ Inferioris

Cartographer/Engraver/Publisher: Joan Blaeu

Amsterdam [ between 1640 and 1659]

Copper engraving, 40 x 53 cm

Station 7

In 1500, the empire of Maximilian I was divided into ten Imperial Circles. The Lower Rhenish-Westphalian Circle included the Northwest, from the lower Rhine to the coast, and reached to the River Weser in the East. The County of Oldenburg also belonged to it. This map of the Westphalian Circle is from the Great Atlas by Joan Blaeu (1596-1673). The Dutch Blaeu dynasty of publishers and cartographers published numerous maps and atlases in the 17th century. Willem Janszoon Blaeu (1571-1638) studied Astronomy and Cartography with Tycho Brahe. In 1633, Blaeu became the official cartographer to the Dutch East India Company (VOC). His son Joan Blaeu continued to run the company successfully until, in 1672, a fire destroyed the workshop in Amsterdam – together with the precious copper plates.

Station 8

The Oldenburg Land in the north-western part of modern Lower Saxony includes the coastal areas west of the mouth of the Weser, up to the island of Wangerooge, and reaches south to the Dümmer lake, north of Osnabrück. In the Middle Ages, the County of Oldenburg was established along the rivers Jade, Hunte and Weser. In 1583, Laurentius Michaelis (ca. 1529-1584) drew the first map of the county, which Abraham Ortelius (1527-1598) printed in his new Theatrum-edition in the following year. It shows the union of the lordships of Jever (red) with the County of Oldenburg (yellow) since 1575 and is, therefore, of considerable political importance. The map is rather inaccurate and out of date with regard to its representation of geographical detail, particularly for the Jade Bight. Due to the map’s distribution via the atlases of Ortelius and Mercator, however, this false depiction of the region was widely disseminated.

Oldenbvrg Comit.

Cartographer/Engraver/Publisher: Laurentius Michaelis, Abraham Ortelius

[Antwerpen], [after 1595]

Copper engraving, 33 x 23 cm

Oldenbvrg Comitatvs

Cartographer/Engraver/Publisher: Jan Jansson

Amsterdam [after 1630?]

Copper engraving, 36 x 47 cm

Station 9

This map influenced the representation of the County of Oldenburg in atlases subsequently to the year 1630. Jodocus Hondius (1594-1629) was its original creator. He sold the copper plate to Willem Janszoon Blaeu (1571-1638), who published it without emendations in several editions of his atlases. Blaeu’s competitor Jan Jansson (1588-1664) copied the map and created new engravings. These continued to be used into the early 18th century.

Station 10

This map by Oldenburg “Deichgraf” (state officer in charge of the levees) Johann Wilhelm Anton Hunrichs dates from 1761 and is the result of meticulous new cartographic surveys that were carried out in the middle of the 18th century. The map – also called “Vogteikarte” – emphasizes the boundaries of the “Vogteien” (bailiwicks), shows the course of the levees and – for the first time – depicts roads with double lines. It also shows the large areas of bog land, the more densely populated marshland along the coast and in the river valleys, as well as the sparsely inhabited flatland of the Geest. These three types of landscape dominate the Oldenburg Land until today, even though many bogs have been drained in the last centuries.

Comitatvvm Oldenbvrg et Delmenhorst pro recentissimo Statu uti est Sub Regno Potentissimi Regis Friderici v Facta delineation

Cartographer/Engraver/Publisher: Johann Wilhelm Anton Hunrich

Nürnberg, Homannsche Erben, 1761

Copper engraving, 49 x 48 cm

Scroll to Top


Vera et genuina delineatio insignis Ciuitatis Oldenbvrgensis vnde hodierni Reges Daniæ Originem traxerunt. Amstelodami : F. de Wit Excudit, [1680-1700?] 35 x 46 cm, copper engraving

At the end of the 16th century, Oldenburg was a fortified town with about 5.000 citizens. The castle, surrounded by moats, secured the crossing of the River Hunte. The copper plate for this town map of Oldenburg was engraved by Wenzel Hollar. The map was first published in the town book by Jan Jansson. Hollar was mostly faithful to the model of the first map of Oldenburg by Pieter Bast from 1598. Frederick de Witt acquired the copper plate in 1694 and added his imprint for the edition in his town book.



Oldenbvrg, in: Oldenburgisch Chro-||nicon Das ist/|| Beschreibung|| Der Löblichen Vhralten|| Grafen zu Oldenburg vnd Del-||menhorst/[et]c. Von welchen die jetzige|| Könige zu Dennemarck vnd Hertzo-||gen zu Holstein entsprossen : Sampt|| Jhres Stammens ersten An-||kunfft/ Thaten/ Regierung/ Leben vnd|| Ende
Hermann Hamelmann (1526-1595); Warner Berendts Erben.
Oldenburg : Berendt, 1599

The first charter evidence of the “Aldenburg” at the crossing of the River Hunte dates from 1108. The place developed into the seat of the Counts of Oldenburg and received its town charter in 1345. The first view of the town of Oldenburg is included in the printed Chronicle of the County of Oldenburg, written by Lutheran theologian and historian Hermann Hamelmann (1525-1595). The plain woodcut is supposedly based on a drawing by Johannes Schäfer.



Eigentliche Abbildung der Hochgräflichen Residenz Statt und Festung Oldenburg. In: Oldenburgische Friedens- und der benachbarten Oerter Kriegs-Handlungen (…).Oldenburg : Zimmer, 1671

This 1671 map of Oldenburg also shows the town’s environs with arable land and the two baroque gardens that Count Anton Günther (1583-1667) had created for his wife in 1630 and the following years. It was Count Anton Günther’s mark of distinction to have protected his territory from the major devastations during the Thirty Years War by remaining neutral. Historian Johann Justus Winckelmann (1620-1699) paid tribute to this achievement in the chronicle he wrote under commission of the count about his long reign. The book also contains a number of copper engravings showing towns and castles from the territory of Anton Günther.

Eigentliche Abbildung der Hochgräflichen Residenz Statt und Festung Oldenburg

The Library

Die Bibliothek, in: Oldenburg. 1849. Elise Lasius (1803-1872) s.l., ca. 1849

In 1792, Duke Peter Friedrich Ludwig founded what is today the Regional Library of Oldenburg. At that time, the library’s collection numbered 22.000 books on all areas of knowledge. From the beginning, the library’s mission was to provide the public with education and information. In 1847, the library was relocated to a prestigious new building that could house as many as 90.000 volumes.

The castle

Das Schloss vom Teiche aus, in: Oldenburg, 1849. Elise Lasius (1803-1872) s.l., ca. 1849

In 1773, Oldenburg was raised to the status of duchy and experienced a cultural bloom under Duke Peter Friedrich Ludwig (1755-1829) and his son Paul Friedrich August (1783-1853). This is reflected by several buildings in the classicist style that still distinguish the town today. In 1815, after the end of the Napoleonic occupation, the castle garden was created in the English style. In 15 drawings, Elise Lasius (1803-1872) portrayed buildings and streetscapes in the middle of the 19th century. Lasius was taught drawing at the Cäcilienschule, a girls’ school in Oldenburg.

The port "Stau"

Der Stau. in: Oldenburg, 1849. Elise Lasius (1803-1872) s.l., ca. 1849

This idyllic view of Oldenburg’s inland port on the River Hunte does not betray its great importance for the development of both town and county. The port was called “Stau” and the first evidence of its existence dates from 1383.

In: Oldenburg : 1849 Elise Lasius (1803-1872) s.l., ca. 1849


Wilshausen. Merian, Matthaeus, der Ältere
[Frankfurt am Main] : [Matthäus Merian], [um 1647?]

The area around Wildeshausen has been inhabited from prehistoric times, as numerous archaeological finds testify. In 850, Saxon nobleman Waltbert had the bones of Saint Alexander translated from Rome to Wildeshausen, where he founded a religious house dedicated to the saint. In 1270, the settlement that had emerged around the religious house received its town charter. This makes Wildeshausen the oldest town of the Oldenburg Land. Over the centuries, lordship over the town changed back and forth between the Counts of Oldenburg, the archbishops of Bremen and the bishops of Münster.

Bride and Groom of Visbek

Denkmal bei Engelmanns Bach im Herzogthum Oldenburg. In: Monumente aus dem Heidenthum im Herzogthum Oldenburg: dargestellt in Steindruck,
Oldenburg: Stalling, 1827

The megalithic graves in the marshlands around Wildeshausen belong to the most impressive remains from prehistoric Germany. They were created between 3.400 and 2.800 years before Christ. Many different tales have been associated with the mysterious pagan monuments, reflected by fanciful names such as the “Bride and Groom of Visbek”, which lies close to the Engelmannsbäke near Ahlhorn.


Nieuburg : Oldenburgisch Merian, Matthaeus, der Ältere​

Nieuburg, in: Merian, Matthaeus, der Ältere: Oldenburgische Friedens- und der benachbarten Oerter Kriegs-Handlungen. Oldenburg : Zimmer, 1671

To the west of the Oldenburg Land lies East Frisia. Nienborg (or Neuburg) was a fortified castle near Apen, on the northwestern border of the County of Oldenburg. Its counterpart on the Frisian side was the fortress of Friedeburg. Due to the expanses of inaccessible moorland, there were only two routes connecting the counties of Oldeburg and East Frisia, who were frequently at war with each other.

Baroque Garden next to Nienburg

In: Oldenburgische Friedens- und der benachbarten Oerter Kriegs-Handlungen : Johann Just Winckelmann Oldenburg : Zimmer, 1671

In the 17th century, Count Anton Günter created another baroque garden next to the castle of Nienburg.


Das Oldenburgische Lusthaus Rastett. In: Oldenburgische Friedens- und der benachbarten Oerter Kriegs-Handlungen. Oldenburg : Zimmer, 1671

The Ammerland region, to the north and west of Oldenburg, belonged to the county’s core territory. In 1336, the Counts of Oldenburg commissioned the monk Hinrich Goldsteen from their monastery Rastede to write the famous illuminated codex of the law book “Sachsenspiegel”, which is now preserved at the Regional Library of Oldenburg. The palace of Rastede served as the summer residence and still belongs to the ducal family.

In: Oldenburgische Friedens- und der benachbarten Oerter Kriegs-Handlungen : Johann Just Winckelmann Oldenburg : Zimmer, 1671


In: Oldenburgische Friedens- und der benachbarten Oerter Kriegs-Handlungen : Johann Just Winckelmann Oldenburg : Zimmer, 1671

The town of Jever is the historical centre of the Oldenburg Land. In the 15th century, the lordship of Jever was formed from the districts of Rüstringen, Östringen and the Wangerland region with the island of Wangerooge. For 200 years, it existed as an independent territory. In 1573, Maria von Jever made her cousin Count Johann VII. of Oldenburg her heir. In 1667, when the dynasty of the Counts of Oldenburg did not have any legitimate heirs, the Jeverland region fell to the Princes of Anhalt-Zerbst and later, in 1793, even to Russia. In 1818, finally, the region was incorporated into the Grand Duchy of Oldenburg.

Die Stadt Delmenhorst

Die Statt Delmenhorst. In: Oldenburgische Friedens- und der benachbarten Oerter Kriegs-Handlungen. Oldenburg : Zimmer, 1671

The town of Delmenhorst was the second seat of the Counts of Oldenburg. In the 17th century, the fortified castle was transformed into a palace with magnificent gardens in the style of the Renaissance. For some time, a branch of the ruling family reigned in Delmenhorst and the county experienced several periods of partition.

In: Oldenburgische Friedens- und der benachbarten Oerter Kriegs-Handlungen : Johann Just Winckelmann Oldenburg : Zimmer, 1671


Insel Wangeroge. In: Die Insel und das Seebad Wangeroge : zugleich ein Rathgeber für Diejenigen welche Seebäder gebrauchen wollen.
Oldenburg : Schulze, 1853

Today, Wangerooge belongs to the Wadden Sea, which is listed in the registry of UNESCO World Heritage sites. The shallow and muddy area of the Watt between the shoreline and the islands is dry during low tide and forms a unique ecological habitat. Houses lie in the lee of overgrown sand dunes that characterize the islands. These are constantly changing with the shifting of the sands. Since 1871, strong coastal defences, constructed for the Prussian navy port of Wilhelmshaven, have ensured that houses do not have to be relocated whenever the shifting sands transform the island.


Wangeroge. In: Die Insel und das Seebad Wangeroge : zugleich ein Rathgeber für Diejenigen welche Seebäder gebrauchen wollen.Oldenburg : Schulze, 1853

Wangerooge is the most easterly island of the East Frisian Islands and the only one belonging to the Oldenburg Land. The islands are close to the mainland and used to be centres of fishery. It was only around the year 1800 that they started to become destinations for tourists. Wangerooge’s career as a seaside resort began in 1804 – with a single bathing machine.

In: Die Insel und das Seebad Wangeroge : zugleich ein Rathgeber für Diejenigen welche Seebäder gebrauchen wollen Max von Eelking (1813-1873)
Oldenburg : Schulze, 1853


Karte von Wangerland vor 1542 und mit den bis zur Gegenwart ausgeführten Bedeichungen und Einlagen. In: 18 Karten zum Jeverschen Deichband. Oldenburg : Stalling, 1884

Levees are required to protect the low-lying land along the Lower Saxon North Sea coast. The coastline has experienced dramatic transformations during the centuries. Storm surges have repeatedly cut deeply into the land, thus creating new bays. Since the Middle Ages, however, the construction of levees has also wrestled new land from the sea. This map of the levee system of Jever from the year 1884 shows the campaigns for the construction of dikes in the Wangerland region, the northern part of the Oldenburg Land, in the time since 1542.

In: 18 Karten zum Jeverschen Deichband 
Oskar Tenge (1832-1913)
 Oldenburg : Stalling, 1884