Topographia Germaniae

The Topographia Germaniae is one of the masterpieces of the engraver and publisher Matthäus Merian the Elder. He created the Topographia together with Martin Zeiller (1589-1661) from Ulm, who was responsible for the lyrics.

The work depicts in great detail more than 2,000 views of remarkable cities, monasteries and castles of the Holy Roman Empire; it is still regarded as one of the most important works of geographical illustration.


Matthäus Merian had begun in 1642, the large-scale complete works of a comprehensive topography issue with city views under the title Topographia Germaniae. In it he wanted - after the success of its contemporary history Theatrum Europaeum ( 1635) and his description of the world Archontologia cosmica ( 1638) - systematically summarize and supplement the data collected by him for three decades, models and drawings of cityscapes, landscapes and maps. At this large publishing task he had been encouraged by the good sales success of Daniel Meisner and Eberhard Kieser from 1623, published in Frankfurt am Main thesaurus philopoliticus, on which he had occasionally worked as a template draftsman and engraver.

His Topographia Germaniae appeared in Merian Verlag in Frankfurt am Main from 1642 to 1654, first in 16 volumes, which until 1688 was followed with further descriptions of other European territories such as France, Italy and Crete. The complete works eventually contained in 30 volumes of 92 cards and 1486 engravings with 2142 individual views; it was one of the largest publishing works of the time. After Merian's death in 1650 his sons Matthäus Merian led the Younger ( Matthew Younger) and Caspar Merian continued his work.

The best-known volumes

The best-known volumes of the complete works ( in chronological order ) carry the following Latin title ( behind the years of the various editions ):

In continuation of the Latin title followed in each band a free translation of the title, which was, for example, for the second edition of Volume 3: This is Vollkömliche description and illustration of eygentliche vornehmbsten Städt and Oerther, the superiors and stores Alsace, also the neighboring Sundgöw, Brisgöw, Graff Mümpelgart shaft, and other parts.

By Matthäus Merian is known that he has 16 volumes, although arranged in chronological order, but not numbered. Only his heirs took in the main register of 1672 a census, but was arbitrary and not fixed by the time of publication. The above numbering takes into account the results of recent research ( see references ), which also are the facsimile editions of Bärenreiter basis.

In each case, the first issue of a tape Topographia got a few years after the publication of a designated " Appendix" supplementary volume, which had to be subsequently incorporated in the renewed second edition. All volumes experienced at least two revised and expanded editions, with the exception of Volumes 8 and 12 all volumes even more spending.


The individual volumes of Topographia begin with a preface of the publisher, followed by a geographical and historical description of the country. It join: a list of engravings contained in the band (side note) and an alphabetical index of " cities to have little town, stains, Dörffer, monasteries, castles, valleys, mountains, forests, waters, etc. so in this augierten Topographia Alsatiae to find Being " (taken from the second edition of Volume 3 ). Main components of each band are the views of the city, each with a description of the depicted city and its history in a nutshell.

It's Matthäus Merian then managed to sign the well-known travel writer and geographer Martin Zeiller from Ulm (1589-1661) for the explanatory texts. This is also the author of the designated as the "first German Baedeker " travel diary itinerary Germaniae novantiquae (1632 ) and the itinerary Italiae novantiquae (1640 ), with engravings of Matthäus Merian. The lyrics for the Topographia to Zeiller relied on his own works as well as the Sponheim chronicle of Johannes Trithemius (1462-1516), the Cosmographia of Sebastian Münster (1489-1552) and to local sources.

The city views in the document Topographia often the state of the cities from the devastation of the Thirty Years' War; they are therefore still of great cultural historical and art historical value. Merian himself declared that, his paintings often represent the ideal stage of construction of a golden age, but I no longer existed in reality; they are therefore suitable as models for reconstruction.

Template draftsman and engraver

The engravings of the first nine volumes of the Topographia (1642-1648) go back to a large extent on handwritten drawings and templates by Matthäus Merian. In addition, he worked in his Frankfurt Offizin renowned topographer, draftsman and engraver, including his two sons Matthew and Caspar Merian the Younger and his pupils Wenzel Hollar (* 1607, Prague, † 1677, London). He received templates also by Wilhelm Dilich (around 1572-1650 Dresden) and other artists. Overall, the names of more than fifty participating in the Topographia artists are known.

For Lower Saxony, for example, Conrad Buno known as template illustrator.

The publishing house Merian

From the appearance of the first volume of the Topographia at (1642 ), all volumes were prepared and laid in the own publishing house by Matthäus Merian in Frankfurt am Main for the pressure; the printer works is awarded in part to Frankfurt printers, including the book publishing by Wolfgang Hoffmann and Johann Georg Spörlin.

After the death of Matthew Merian on June 19, 1650 his sons Matthäus the Younger and Caspar led the publishing house under the name of Matthew Merian's soul. Heirs continued. 1687 was the publishing house on the third generation, on Johann Matthäus Merian ( 1659-1716 ), a son of Matthäus Merian the Younger, who was later to the peerage and appointed by the Elector of Mainz to the Privy Council. After the death of Johann Matthäus Merian in 1716 his niece, Charlotte Maria Merian ( 1691-1729 ) led the company until its dissolution in 1727th

Apart from the numerous editions of the Topographia by the publishing house Merian there was, inter alia, the Dutch pirate editions of the so-called Swiss band from 1644 as well as publishing foreign Late prints using the original plates; Finally, there also exist the early, not illustrated Ulmer prints the texts of Martin Zeiller.