Ubbo Emmius: 1595

This is the map everyone else cribbed from for decades.

Ubbo Emmius (1547-1625) published this map in 1595. This is a 1962 facsimile from the NYPL collection.

The outlines of this map get used again and again in all the authoritative atlases of the time: Blaeu, Mercator, Visscher. The lettering changes; the water and the creatures and boats in it change; the symbols for towns and villages and hamlets change. But the place names stay the same, and the contours are primarily fixed, except for an occasional correction. (Click on the detail above to see a bigger version.)

Curiously, since Emmius spelled the northernmost town in Harlingerland Holen, with an N, just about everyone after him did, or at least all the people who used his map as a source, for the next 200 years or so. As far as I know, the place’s name was always Holem (or Holum, if you like).

Emmius used such ornate lettering to decorate his map that sometimes it’s hard to read. This detail shows an old name of an area in the vicinity of present-day Saterland: Averledingerlaend. In other places, you’ll find the same area called Overlederalond, Overlengerlandet (Fabricius) or Overlendingen. In each case, the name refers to the land found across the Lenger River. This is a very typical Dutch way of naming an area—Overbeek, Overmaas, Overijssel and many other names all refer to land across a river. The variants stem from variant names for the river (Lenga, Lender, Ledera, etc.), plus different words for “land” (lond, landet, laend).

Saterland is actually somewhat different region in the same general area. Its name is probably unrelated to the Over-Lenger name. (The area usually called the Saterland doesn’t directly abut the Lenger; it’s more or less an oval-shaped island of three villages a little further south.) An older variant name for Saterland is Sagelteralond (see T.L. Markey, Frisian, p. 43). No doubt there were others.

Mormonalond was an old name for what here is called Moermerland; Reideralond for Reiderland. The regions are centuries old; the names fluctuate a bit over time (or depending on who’s writing them down), but the places stay the same.

(Actually, the regions as marked on this map might not be exactly where you’d find them on a modern map, but those aren’t the only locations on the map that are a little approximate.)

Notice also how Ubbo ran out of room for the word Munster and had to finish it above where he began it. (Click on the map above for a bigger version, or here for a version that’s so huge I can’t imagine anyone needing that level of detail.)

In the lower left corner of many older maps is a collection of notes indicating the authors and publishers of the map, as well as publication date, any sources and occasionally information about where the map can be obtained. A later version of this map (the date on this version is 1595, written at the bottom of the oval shield above) featured a farmer leaning over the legend, with a mapmaker’s compass embracing him. That motif gets picked up and extended through successive maps by many mapmakers over the next 200 years. (Click on the detail above to see a bigger version.)

The 1617 edition of this map retains the outlines, the inset map of Emden and most of the ornaments, including fish and ships floating in the water. It changes the lettering and the motif in the lower left corner, and it’s cropped a little tighter on the bottom and the left edge. (Click on the map above to see it in larger format.)

Map facsimile accompanied Heft 5 of Nordseeküste, 1962, a publication of the Küstenmuseum Juist in Juist, Germany.

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All maps on these pages are reproduced courtesy of

The Map Division
The New York Public Library
Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations

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