John and Mary Osman – Braun and Hogenberg Collection

Irvin Department of Special Collections

The John and Mary Osman Braun and Hogenberg Collection contains a variety of maps from the late 16th and early 17th centuries, primarily from the Civitates Orbis Terrarum (Cities of the World) by Georg Braun and Franz Hogenberg. The Civitates is considered one of the first modern atlases and it captures an exciting glimpse into the past through the eyes of some of Europe’s most skilled artists and engravers. In addition, the Osman collection also contains nearly three-dozen other maps, including some by rival cartographers. Though not a part of the Civitates, the additional maps help provide a larger context for the styles and locations thought important at the time. To the right is one of our three maps of Middelburg in the Netherlands.

About the Collection

The bulk of this collection comes from the Civitates Orbis Terrarum (Cities of the World), often recognized as one of the earliest modern atlases. Published in Germany and meticulously crafted in six volumes between 1572 and 1618, the atlas of Georg Braun and Franz Hogenberg represents a vision of the world as it was perceived in a time before cameras. Since the publication of the Civitates, the maps had been separated and individually sold to collectors. While complete sets of the maps are rare, the Osman collection contains a majority of the original maps, and the Irvin Department of Rare Books and Special Collections has a facsimile of all six volumes. The maps themselves offer enormous insight not only into the layouts of the cities and towns as they were then, but oftentimes into the local society by capturing slivers of daily life, anecdotes, and the occasional glimpse of a town’s history. For the literary minded, map 4.52.1 describes present-day Sulmona as Svlmo Ovidii Patria, the fatherland of Ovid, whereas map 3.57 is described in relation to a passage from Virgil’s Aeneid. Many of the maps also depict local figures in their foreground, capturing both clothing styles of the times as well as socioeconomic markers through the tasks the figures perform. To the right, you can see two minstrels walking through the French countryside (Lyon) and note the intricate patterns of their clothing as well as the lute held by the figure on the right.

Perhaps most fascinating about this collection is how the maps came together to form the volumes and this collection. Franz Hogenberg and noteworthy 16th century artist and engraver Joris Hoefnagel were responsible for a vast majority of the map engravings, and as the group progressed through each volume, they found themselves incorporating the engravings of other noteworthy artists of the time. Additionally, all of the maps were originally produced in black and white from copper-plate engravings, many of which have since been colored by notable artists of the day. Thankfully, the Osman collection has a number of maps that were never colored, in addition to their more colorful counterparts. At times, the side-by-side comparison this allows viewers is powerful. Maps like the ones depicting Forvm Vvlcani (3.58) are especially eye-catching examples, as we have four versions of the map, of which only one remains in the original black and white. The added colors give the maps gravitas; dark colors considerably dim otherwise normal scenes, whereas bright colors often highlight potentially significant aspects of the maps. As the pair proceeded through the volumes and gained notoriety throughout the early modern world, other artists and engravers began to send them sketches, allowing them to incorporate cities that neither Braun nor Hogenberg had themselves seen, including those of the then “new world.”

This collection was presented to the University of South Carolina in 1989 by Mary Ella Osman on the behalf of her and her husband, John. Mr. and Mrs. Osman built the collection while the couple lived in and traveled across Europe. In the wake of Hurricane Hugo, the Osmans were relieved when the maps were physically handed over to then Thomas Cooper Special Collections Librarian, Roger Mortimer, entrusting that the maps would be preserved for generations to come. Anecdotally, Mrs. Osman recalled that her husband’s favorite map was that of Stockholm, and regretted that they were never able to obtain a map of the city of Paris.

Early Maps from the John and Mary Osman –┬áBraun and Hogenberg Collection
Despite its focus on Georg Braun and Franz Hogenberg, the Osman collection is not limited in scope to their works. In fact, roughly 10% of the collection is comprised of various other maps that help put the Civitates in its larger cartographic context. These maps range in date from 1493 to 1694, and feature other notable cartographers and engravers, including Joan Blaeu and Matthaeus Merian, contemporaries and rivals of Braun and Hogenberg. Putting these maps in dialogue with the Civitates maps proves especially insightful in highlighting subtle but distinctive traits of the different artists, as well as perhaps signifiers of cultural importance. Below are two examples of Zutphen in the Netherlands. The Braun and Hogenberg map (left) features two crests, 11 points of interest, as well as a pair of figures walking in the foreground. Looking at the second map (right) by Nicolaes van Geelkercken, while the layout of the city is essentially the same, the map itself is distinctly different. In addition to the rotated bird’s eye view of the city, the map, though contemporanous to the one found in the Civitates, features more points of interest as well as a view of the cityscape from a horizontal vantage point along the river.

The John and Mary Osman Braun and Hogenberg Digital Collection took shape over the past few years with the help from John Knox (Ph.D. candidate, English), Bhavin Tailor (Ph.D. candidate, English), Michael Weisenburg (Ph.D. candidate, English), Digital Projects Librarian Ashley Knox, and Digital Initiatives Librarian Kate Boyd. John and Michael scanned the maps and put together the preliminary metadata; Bhavin edited the metadata, conducted research on the collection, and created the home page; and Ashley reviewed and edited the collection.

Creating the Collection
The scanning for the digital collection began in the summer of 2011 and was completed in spring 2013. John Knox and Michael Weisenburg scanned images on the Zeutschel OS 14000 A0 overhead scanner with Omniscan 12 scanning software. They scanned the images as 24-bit color TIFFs at 400 ppi. From the TIFFs, Bhavin Tailor created high quality JPEGs, which were then uploaded to CONTENTdm.

Bhavin also created a home page for the collection and assembled the metadata in an Excel spreadsheet, as well as conducted research to identify the maps that became the “Early Maps from the John and Mary Osman Braun and Hogenberg” subcollection. Bhavin wrote the introduction for the collection and Ashley edited the metadata. Ashley reviewed the collection records and images, and Bhavin uploaded the images to the CONTENTdm database.

Media Types