Exhibit Introduction

"Windows on the World" reveals to the general public and university community some of the many historical map resources currently available in University of Wisconsin library collections. These cartographic treasures are often overlooked, embedded as they are in a huge library system that must respond to dozens of demanding undergraduate and graduate programs. We hope that this exhibit will remind scholars not only in the history of cartography and the historical geography of the Midwest but the general public as well of these rich primary collections.

The collections of early atlases at the Wisconsin State Historical Society rivals that of any other historical society. We find there the first edition of Ortelius's famous 1570 atlas, often called the "first modern atlas." Moreover, there is a selection of the standard sixteenth to eighteenth century atlases acquired at the turn of the twentieth century when they were still available as whole volumes. (Shortly after these acquisitions, dealers began to break up the volumes.) That selection includes works by some of the most well-known cartographers and publishers — Braun and Hogenberg, Jansson, Ottens, Covens and Mortier, Blaeu, Jaillot, Delisle, Pitt, Moll, Lotter, Faden, Robert de Vaugondy, Sayer and Bennett, Reid, and Matthew Carey.

In the UW Memorial Library Department of Special Collections cartographic and history of science resources (often but not always in the magnificent Chester H. Thordarson Collection), we find editions of Ptolemy, Münster, Ogilby, and De Bry, a growing number of rare surveying manuals and works on astronomical cartography, and a large collection of separate maps of Ireland. These holdings are in addition to the hundreds of rare maps in travel books of the period. One can consult the exhibition catalog for "Images of Asia," an exhibit the History of Cartography Project organized in 1987, for a hint of the richness of this collection.

The "Windows on the World" exhibit is launched on the occasion of the 24th annual Institute for Research in the Humanities Burdick-Vary symposium (6-8 April 2000). This year's symposium focuses on cartography in the European Renaissance and is intended as a forum for issues arising out of the research for Volume Three of the History of Cartography Project.

David Woodward, Director
The History of Cartography Project