the southern route​

The way through the southern Baltic is the only one of the three routes that only lead over land. It passes through larger cities such as Berlin, Warsaw, Vilnius and Riga and was attractive to diplomatic travelers and scholars because of the cultural sights and collections they could visit along the way. It is the only route that passes through many parts of the territory of modern Estonia.

The maps chosen for this route begin with a larger view of Europe as a whole and then successively zoom in to individual points along the way. The selection of historicized maps and the occasional unique or hand drawn specimen allow glimpses of the historical and spatial situation on the route. Having reached the cultural region of Wolfenbüttel, a number of special highlights are presented, among them Goslar as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the Herzog August Bibliothek, which was praised as the eighth wonder of the world in the 17th century.

„And the distance to Tallinn being not much less than 300 German miles, a long journey, taking the land route through Prussia and Livonia, even if there were no other hindrance, nor one such to arise en route, with such a wench, one would still have to calculate 3 whole months for the trip’s completion – from here to Tallinn – even though the travelling were to go altogether happily and well, and thus, one could hardly estimate to reach Tallinn before the month of November.”

From: Landgr. Philipps von Hessen Antwort dem Schwedischen Secret. Christo Schieffer ausgestellt in der Vermähl.-Sache seiner Tochter mit Kön. Erich XIV. In: Göttingisches Historisches Magazin von C. Meiners und L. T. Spittler, Vol. 3 (1788), p. 703-740.

Station 1

A copper engraving depicting Europe adorns the title page of this town atlas issued by Dutch publisher Frederick de Wit. De Wit’s atlas includes older town maps from the publishing houses of Blaeu and Janssonius. In addition to Oldenburg, this book of Europe’s most illustrious towns and cities contains maps of Osnabrück, Lüneburg and Hildesheim – all of them on the territory of modern Lower Saxony.


Cartographer/Engraver/Publisher: Frederick De Wit

Aus: Theatrum praecipuarum totius Europae ubium

Amsterdam [um 1698]

Copper engraving


Nova Et Exquisita Descriptio Navigationum Ad Praecipuas Mundi Partes

Cartographer/Engraver/Publisher: Nicolas de Nicolay

[S.ll], 1544

Copper engraving, 88 x 57 cm

Station 2

French geographer Nicolas de Nicolay (1517-1583) travelled through most of Europe and the Near East. His knowledge of the Baltic, however, was rather sketchy, as his map of Europe from 1544 shows. It names the Baltic Sea as Sea of Ice (Mare glaciale) and shows a coastline that is only approximately accurate when it comes to the southern shores between Denmark and Prussia.

Station 3

This map of Europe is oriented to the West and consists of two parts. The larger part stretches north to the Gulf of Finland but does not show all of the Baltic. A smaller scale map of northern Europe to the right of the larger map includes Spitsbergen and Greenland. Following the style of older Portolan charts, the map’s focus is on coastlines and seaports.

Waßende Graade Paskaardt Vertonende alle de Zeekusten van Europa

Cartographer/Engraver/Publisher: Dirk Rembrantsz van Nierop, Jacobus Robijn

Amsterdam, [1650]

Copper engraving, 74 x 58 cm

Livland nach der Eintheilung Heinrich des Letten und zu den Zeiten der Bischöffe u. Ordensmeister u. Ordensmeister bis 1562

Livland nach der Eintheilung Heinrich des Letten und zu den Zeiten der Bischöffe u. Ordensmeister bis 1562

Cartographer/Engraver/Publisher: Wilhelm C. Friebe, Johann W. Krause

[Riga, Leipzig], [1798]

Copper engraving, 47 x 69 cm

Station 4

The genre of thematic maps showing a specific historical time or period emerged as early as the Renaissance. At first, cartographers focussed on classical antiquity. During the 18th century, they started to produce maps of medieval and early modern times. This map represents an attempt by Livonian teacher Wilhelm Christian Friebe (1761-1811) to depict the political situation of the northern Baltic region during the High Middle Ages based on the Livonian Chronicle by Henry of Latvia (ca. 1181/88-after 1259). Friebe published several works on Baltic history and economy. The map’s frame is as interesting as the map itself. In its lower left corner, Johann Wilhelm Krause (1757-1828), later professor of Economics and Architecture at the University of Dorpat, portrays the Baltic native population as rough warriors who, in the lower right corner, have to submit to a Christian bishop and members of a military order. Accordingly, the allegory of Justice present in the Cartouche finds the cross to weigh heavier than “Rights of the Nation”.

Station 5

In 1747, the Nuremberg publishing house of Homann issued this map of Courland and Semigallia, a duchy under the dominion of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. While the map was published under the name of architect Johann Christoph Barnickel of Mitau (ca. 1700-1746), it was actually created by pastor Adolph Grot (1676-1726) from Courland, who travelled the region from 1718 to 1725. Both cartouches show the duchy’s coat of arms and express contemporary views of what was supposed to be typical of Courland: Rich crops of cereals, abundant fishing grounds and wild nature.

Dvcatvs Cvrlandiæ

Cartographer/Engraver/Publisher: […] Homann

Nuremberg, 1747

Copper engraving, 47 x 34 cm


Regni Poloniae Magnique Ducat. Lithuaniae Nova et exacta Tabula

Cartographer/Engraver/Publisher: Johann Baptist Homann

Nuremberg, 1739

Copper engraving, 55 x 47 cm

Station 6

Homman’s map of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth shows the entire Baltic region up to the Gulf of Finland. The shores of the Baltic Sea is depicted from the mouth of the River Oder to Saint Petersburg. The northern Baltic with Estonia did not belong to the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth but to Sweden. Therefore, the map only shows its outlines while the lands themselves are not coloured.

Station 7

At first glance, this map of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth appears to be of Dutch production. In the 17th century, the Netherlands were the centre of European cartography. Several competing workshops, however, were wont to republish their maps repeatedly, as often as possible. This may have served business interests but it was detrimental to the maps’ quality. In contrast, French cartography proved to be much more innovative. Thus, it is not by accident that Justus Danckerts (1635-1701), scion of an Amsterdam dynasty of cartographers, did not produce his own map but rather relied on the model of one by French royal geographer Guillaume Sanson (1633-1703).

Regni Poloniæ et Ducatus Lithuaniæ Voliniæ, Podoliæ Ucraniæ Prussiæ et Curlandiæ descriptio

Cartographer/Engraver/Publisher: Justus Danckerts

Amsterdam, [1700]

Copper engraving, 48 x 57 cm

Potentissimo Borussorum Regi Friderico Wilhelmo Maiestate, Fortitudine Clementia Augustissimo Hancce Lithuaniam Borussicam

Cartographer/Engraver/Publisher: Johann F. Betgen, Homannsche Erben

Nuremberg 1735 [published 1782]

Copper engraving

Station 8

In the early 18th century, the Nuremberg publishing house of Johann Homann (1664-1724) and his heirs was one of the leading firms in the production of maps. This map represents a combination of a larger-scale map of a region on the one hand and a city map on the other. The Memel district (today: Klaipeda in Lithuania) forms the northern tip of Prussian territory. In 1735, King Friedrich Wilhelm I of Prussia gave Gumbinnen its town charter and settled Protestant refugees from Salzburg there.

Station 9

Only one copy of the oldest printed map of Poland is still extant. It is held by the Herzog August Bibliothek Wolfenbüttel. The map was printed in Antwerp in 1562. It only shows Poland’s core territory and the area immediately south of it. Western Prussia and the Baltic coast are not depicted, even though the region around the mouth of the River Vistula had, at that time, long been a part of the Kingdom of Poland. In the upper part of the map, the neighbouring regions of Pomerania, Prussia and Lithuania are named. In the South, Silesia and Moravia are only identified as belonging to Poland by subsequent colouring, while Mazovia and Warsaw remain uncoloured. The reasons for this are unknown

Poloniae Recens Descriptio : Cum Privilegio Regis

Cartographer/Engraver/Publisher: Hieronymus Cock

Antwerp 1562

Copper engraving, 56 x 45cm

Special-Charte vom Herzogthum Pommern : nebst den angränzenden Ländern von Mecklenburg der Ucker- und Neumark Westpreußen und Netzdistrict / Nach den besten Zeichnungen und Karten entworffen

Cartographer/Engraver/Publisher: W. Brüggemann, Adam Gottlieb Schneider

Nuremberg 1792

Copper engraving, 44 x 70 cm

Station 10

This map provides a detailed depiction of Pomerania. Between 1648 and 1815, the region was divided between Sweden and Prussia. In addition to several lines of communication, the map also shows individual businesses. In 1780, Adam Gottlieb Schneiders (1745-1815) founded a book-trading company with a focus on the arts. It was his marriage to Maria Johanna Stellwag, who had inherited the art dealer’s shop Weigel, that made this business venture possible. Schneiders published several maps. This “Special-Charte” is based on a number of drawings and maps, as well as contemporary statistical and topographical descriptions of regions: the „Ausführliche Beschreibung des gegenwärtigen Zustandes des Königl. Preußischen Herzogthums Vor- und Hinter-Pommern“ (Comprehensive description of the current situation of the royal Prussian Duchy of Western and Eastern Pomerania) by Ludwig Wilhelm Brüggemann (1743-1817), court preacher at the palace church in Wittenberg, and the “Schwedischpommersche Staatskunde” (Description of the Swedish-Pomeranian state) by Thomas Heinrich Gadebusch (1736-1804), professor of Public Law at the University of Greifswald.

Station 11

This undated hand drawn map shows the territory of the Duchy of Mecklenburg-Schwerin between the third partition of Mecklenburg in 1701 and the Malmö Treaty of 1803, with which Sweden returned Wismar to the duchy. The map does not include the town of Ludwigslust between Neustadt, Grabow and Eldena. Luwigslust was established as a ducal residence in the middle of the 18th century. The map provides information on lines of communication and settlements. Numerous place names in the western part of the region have been added by hand subsequently. The level of detail, however, is not on par with that of the most important contemporary maps of the duchy, which the Berlin Academy of Sciences issued in 1764.

Situations-Carte von dem Hertzogthum Mecklenburg

[zwischen 1700 und 1800?]

hand drawing, 45 x 58 cm

Peraccurata S. Romani Imperii Tabula : comprehendens Regiones vulgo Sub Nomine Germaniæ Nuncupantes

Cartographer/Engraver/Publisher: Nicolaes Visscher, Gilliam van der Gouwen

Amsterdam [between 1683 and 1702] Copper engraving, 56 x 71 cm

Station 12

Amsterdam cartographer and publisher Nicolaes Visscher (1618-1679) produced considerable numbers of maps and atlases. His map of the Holy Roman Empire provides a highly accurate representation of the coastline from the Netherlands to Prussia. The map’s colouration illustrates Germany’s division into several so-called Imperial Circles. The western part of modern Lower Saxony belonged to the Westphalian Circle (coloured rose), while the eastern part, together with Holstein and Mecklenburg, formed the Lower Saxon Circle (coloured green). Pomerania, on the other hand, was part of the Upper Saxon Circle (outlined in yellow).

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Brunswick (1)

In the early 9th century, the town of Brunswick started to develop on the ford across the River Oker. In 1142, Henry the Lion, Duke of Saxony and Bavaria, acquired the town and turned it into his ducal residence. In 1432, Brunswick achieved independence when the territorial rulers moved their seat to nearby Wolfenbüttel, which remained the residence of a branch of the Guelph dynasty in the early modern period. In 1753, they relocated their residence to Brunswick, but their library, the precursor of today’s Herzog August Bibliothek, remained in Wolfenbüttel.


Brunswick (2)

Today, Brunswick is a city with a population of about 250.000 in Lower Saxony. This silhouette of the city from the century of the Thirty Years War (1618-1648) shows Brunswick with its strong fortifications. These, however, did not prevent Duke Rudolf August and his brother Anton Ulrich from taking the city after a siege of three weeks in 1671. After almost 250 years of independence, the town reverted to princely dominion.

Cathedral of St Blaise

Henry the Lion founded Brunswick Cathedral immediately next to his castle Dankwarderode. The so-called Lion of Brunswick, an 880kg bronze monument depicting a lion, stands in the square in front of the church. The original of the statue is 850 years old and, due to considerations of conservation, is now kept in the castle. The cathedral houses the tomb of Henry the Lion and his wife Matilda of England. The Gospels of Henry the Lion were an endowment to the cathedral. The codex is one of the most ornate illuminated medieval manuscripts and marks a peak of the art of illumination in the Romanesque period. On 6 December 1983 the State of Lower Saxony acquired the Gospels at an auction in London for the price of 32.500.000 Deutschmark – at that time, the highest sum ever paid for a book. Since then, the manuscript – kept at the Herzog August Bibliothek Wolfenbüttel – has been the shared property of the states of Lower Saxony and Bavaria, the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation and the Federal Republic of Germany



The former residence of the Guelphs with its historic center, the Juliusstadt, and the the so-called library quarter still testifies to the town’s history. Until 1753, the town was the residence of the Principality of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel. Not all princely collections vanished when the court relocated to Brunswick. The largest collection of the Guelphs, their library, was housed in its own, freestanding building. Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz and Gotthold Ephraim Lessing were the institution’s most famous librarians.

Wolfenbüttel Castle

First documented as a moated castle in 1074, the castle was repeatedly modified during the following seven centuries. The highest tower has survived, the others, however, have been lost due to wars and alterations – along with its former character of a fortified castle. Today, the castle – the second largest castle in Lower Saxony – is characterized by a timber frame façade from the early 18th century, complete with a bridge with sculptures and a gateway.


The ducal library of Wolfenbüttel

Between 1706 and 1710, architect Hermann Korb, commissioned by Duke Anton Ulrich, constructed the library as the first independent, purpose-built secular library building in Europe. It is executed in the shape of a rotunda. A gilded celestial globe, symbolic of the universal nature of science, used to adorn the roof but was later removed because of structural concerns. In 1887, the rotunda was demolished and all books were relocated.

Goslar (1)

In the Middle Ages, the town of Goslar became a centre for ore mining and started to flourish. By the 18th century, however, it was long past its former glory. Nonetheless, the Imperial Palace and the Rammelsberg mining complex as UNESCO World Heritage sites still testify to the town’s halcyon days. Further information under https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goslar and https://et.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goslar 

Goslar am Harz

During the Middle Ages, the Imperial Palace of Goslar was a centre of power. The town was awarded imperial immediacy as early as 1290 and retained the status as a free imperial city until 1802. In the 14th century, Goslar supplied all houses in the town centre with fresh water by connecting them to a network of wooden pipes. Further information under https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goslar and https://et.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goslar 



1714 – 1767

Two views of the town of Helmstedt with scrolls and coats of arms from an illustrated volume of the Herzog August Bibliothek. Around 1700, the university had a major impact on life in Helmstedt. In addition to the university, the view identifies other prominent buildings and features by name, among them churches, the town hall and the Brocken mountain (Blocksberg) in the background.

The University of Helmstedt (Academia Julia or Academia Julia Carolina or „academia helmstadiensis“) existed from 1576 to 1810. It originated from a “Pädagogium Illustre” (an elite school), which had been founded in Gandersheim in 1571 and was relocated to Helmstedt on 6 July 1576.


In the early modern period, Helmstedt was known as a university town and a member of the Hanseatic League. Due to the location on the roads from Lüneburg to Halberstadt and from Brunswick to Magdeburg, trade in Helmstedt flourished. Around the year 1200, Helmstedt was almost completely destroyed in the war between the dynasties of the Staufer and the Guelphs. Between 1426 and 1518, Helmstedt was a member – albeit the least one – of the Hanseatic League. Today, the historic town of Helmstedt has a population of 25.000 people.



The town of Königlsutter near Helmstedt is famous for the Kaiserdom church. Built as a monastic church for the Benedictines by Emperor Lothar III in 1135, it serves as the final resting place of the founder, his wife Richenza and their son-in-law, Henry the Proud. In addition to cultural monuments, there is also a noteworthy natural monument: next to the Kaiserdom, there is a large-leaved lime honouring the emperor. It is estimated to be about 900 years old. The circumference of its trunk is more than twelve meters, it is more than twenty meters high and the crown’s width measures 26 meters. According to legend, it was Emperor Lothar who had the tree planted.


Iuleum Novum

Die Universität Helmstedt (Academia Julia oder Academia Julia Carolina oder „academia helmstadiensis“) bestand von 1576 bis 1810. Sie ging aus einem Pädagogium Illustre hervor, welches 1571 in Gandersheim gegründet und am 6. Juli 1574 nach Helmstedt verlegt worden war.


Views of the Lower Harz Mountains on the Way to Goslar

The etching from the Göttingen publishing house Wiederhold shows a landscape of the Lower Harz with herdsmen in the foreground. Such graphics were often used in autograph books and scrapbooks. According to the legend, the etching depicts the view toward the Lower Harz as seen from the road to Goslar.

1776 – 1850

View of the Harz

The graphic shows a landscape from the Harz mountains. Under a tree in the foreground, two people look at buildings on the peak in the background, the Brocken mountain – colloquially known as the Blocksberg. With a height of 1140m, the mountain is the highest peak of the range. The building on the is the “Brockenhaus”, known under that name since 1800.

1776 – 1825

Landscape of the Harz Mountains

The hand-coloured graphic by an unknown artist shows a hilly landscape with a wanderer in front of the mountain range, presumably the countryside around Clausthal-Zellerfeld. It was probably the same artist who created other graphics with similar subjects, among them another landscape of the Harz region, which is in the collection of the Herzog August Bibliothek (shelf mark Top 18b : 24).