The history of mapping of Belarusian lands is inseparably linked with the history of West-European and Russian cartography. The map coverage of Belarus was conditioned by its location in Central Europe, foreign-policy circumstances and physiographic factors. All of this urged West-European cartographers to map the Belarusian lands which were known at that time as “Lithuania”, “White Russia”, “Russia Alba”, “Sarmatia” or “European Sarmatia”, “Russia”, “Polesie” etc. Right up to the 16th century these concepts were rather unstable and mobile and related to different territories and peoples.
The Rare Book Division presents to your attention the collection of old printed editions from its stock. The editions containing a number of cartographic materials are of great interest.
The central exhibit is “The Map Of Poland With Its Provinces, Lands And Regions” by Italian astronomer, geographer and cartographer Giovanni Antonio Rizzi Zannoni (1736–1814). The map was created under the patronage and sponsorship of voevode of the town of Novogrudok Joseph Aleksander Yablonovsky. It was published in Paris and London (1772) in two variants: a large wall map and an atlas (the exhibition presents the atlas). This is the first comprehensive large-scale map of Poland (before its divides) covering the territories of contemporary Poland, Lithuania, Belarus and the western regions of Russia. The Grand Duchy of Lithuania is represented by the Provinces of Vilno, Trakai, Polotsk, Novogrudok, Vitebsk, Berestie, Mstislavl and Minsk. The maps are engraved and illuminated by hand (watercolor). This is the only old printed atlas in which the Belarusian lands are mapped in large scale and in detail.
The exhibition presents maps of different periods. There are two palaeotypes: the work “Polyhistor” by ancient Roman writer Gai Julius Solin (III A.D.) printed in Basel in 1538 and the work on history and topography by Swiss historian Johann Stumpf (1500–1577) published in Zurich in 1548. The maps feature the following names: “Lithuania”, “Moscovia”, “Borysthenes” (the Dnieper) and others.
The 17th century is represented by the edition of court cartographer Nicolas Sanson d’Abbeville (1600–1667) “The Atlas of Europe”. All Belarusian names are in the maps of Poland and Russia. The numerous rivers are signed – “Swislocz”, “Vilia”, “Dzwina”, “Dnieper”, “Buge”; the towns – “Minsk”, “Grodno”, “Neswiess”, “Borissow”, “Braslaw”, “Lida”, “Witepsk”. Polesie is marked as well. The Russian maps “The New Atlas…” (Saint Petersburg, 1793) are also on display. The Belarusian lands are represented in the following maps: “Europe Divided Into The States”, “The Map of Poland With The Neighboring Lands” and “The Western Part Of The Russian State”.