The Topographia of Matthäus Merian

The City of Frankfurt
by Matthäus Merian

On September 22, 1593, Swiss-born German master engraver and publisher Matthäus Merian der Ältere was born. He is best known for his 21-volume set of the Topographia Germaniae, which includes numerous town plans and views, as well as maps of most countries and a World Map.

From a previous blogpost, you may have heard about Maria Sibylla Merian, the daughter of Matthäus who became widely known for her extraordinary detailed observations and documentations of numerous animals and other objects found in nature. Obviously, she was not the only talented person in her family.

Matthäus Merian
(1593 – 1650)

Her father received a pretty good education at a grammar school and later started an apprenticeship at a local engraver. In 1610, he began working and educating himself in Strasbourg, Paris, Nancy and Basel, where he created great city maps. During his travels, he learned to draw in the bird’s eye view, a great advantage in his business back then, which made his creations unique and admired.

The talented man continued his travels through the years through Germany and the Netherlands, working at numerous towns for various copperplate engravers. In later years, Merian became a publisher and after his death, his sons continued his business. He was known to be a very religious man, getting lots of inspirations from religious thoughts and writings. His various cityscapes, which he created with his assistants were widely admired for their high level of detail and made him famous. He created over 90 maps and hundreds of smaller city views during his lifetime. However, his masterpiece, the Topographia Germaniae, was continued and completed up to a 30 book series by his sons after 1650.

At yovisto, you may enjoy a lecture on Central European Drawings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1400 – 1700 including an engraving by Matthäus Merian on the city of Prague

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