The Cartographic Collection of the National Library of Latvia was formed after the establishment of the Library in 1919. In the eighty years since then a considerable number of ancient and recent maps reflecting Latvia has accumulated.
The feeling of magic associated with ancient maps is hard to explain. The old and yellowed sheets embody the vision of cartographers of bygone centuries and reveal their impression of our land. Many are the testimonies of Latvian history recorded in maps. The masterful artistic skills of printers and engravers are also indisputably seen there.
The complicated course of its history and its geographical location at the crossroads of European powers explain why the outline of Latvia can be found in ancient maps depicting Scandinavia, Germany, Poland, Prussia and Lithuania, as well as Russia.
The maps of the 16th and 17th centuries and some of the 18th century imprints are stored at the Department of Rare Books and Manuscripts of the NLL, including noteworthy atlases dedicated to the history of cartography (Abraham Ortelius, Gerhard Mercator, Ludvig August Mellin etc.), maps on separate sheets, and various cuttings from books and atlases. More recent maps dating from the 18th century are stored at the Department of Cartography.
In 2001/2002, the NLL collection of ancient maps was considerably augmented by a donation from the Latvian Documentation Centre (LDC) of the Latvian Welfare Fund’s community centre at “Straumēni” (Catthorpe Manor, England). The donation was a part of the extensive and remarkable private collection of the late Very Rev. Ringolds Mužiks (1914-2000), and was transferred to the Library by Inese Auziņa-Smith, Head of the LDC and a long-standing supporter of the NLL.
This electronic publication offers users a significant part of the NLL’s collection of three centuries of maps, on which are depicted Latvia or the territory of its historical regions.
Many of the scanned materials are cuttings from the diverse editions of a particular period (atlases by A.Ortelius and G.Mercator, S.Minster’s “Cosmographei”, revised versions of Klaudios Ptolemaios’ maps from the 16th and early 17th centuries. Sometimes only insignificant changes in the text or in the size of plates give proof to the existence of similar sheets in different printings. While preparing descriptions of the maps, problems with lack of the requisite originals for identification, or their description in bibliographic indexes, must be acknowledged. It was discovered that the handwritten notes of previous owners and library staff members that were found in the originals proved to be misleading. The dates and sources of printed matter mentioned there were not always accurate. Therefore, the descriptions in this publication offer as complete a set of information about each map as has been accessible in researching its origins; they could prove to be useful for further corrections (size, number of pages, language of the text). Call numbers added to the maps designate the section of the NLL where the original is stored, thus facilitating access to it.

Project working team

R.Kalniņa / project leader
I.Klekere, A.J.Zālīte / compilation and text
K.Priedītis, M.Kalniņš / digitisation
D.Morica / translation
V.Knikste / design

The project was implemented with the financial support of the Culture Capital Foundation of Latvia

© NLL, 2002
© Project working team, 2002