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The old map collection of the Rovaniemi City Library represents Lapland, the North Calotte and the Nordic countries. A total of fifteen individual maps have been digitalised for these pages and Olof Tresk’s (1642-1643) atlas of Lapland’s Kemi and Tornio regions published in 1928. Around half the maps are original editions.

The majority of these maps were published in the 17th and 18th centuries. The geography of the 16th century in the Nordic countries is represented by Carta Marina of Olaus Magnus and the maps of Abraham Ortelius depicting Northern Europe. Olaus Magnus published the extensive history of the northern people Historia de gentibus septentrionalibus 1555 and Carta Marina was the preliminary work of his book. It was completed in Venice in 1539 and it became the main source for maps of the area until 1626 when Anders Bure’s map Orbis arctoi nova et accurata delineatio was published.

The maps not only tell of the charting of the globe at that time, but also of the era when the maps were made. Early maps were often dedicated to rulers. The proprietary vignettes were illustrated with coats of arms and other regalia. The sixteenth century journeys of exploration and world conquest required maps and the uncharted regions required mapping. Scientific information dominated the field for comprehension and explanation of the world. There was a shift from the Ptolemaic system centralised around the Earth to the solar system of Copernicus. The sailings of the Willem Barentz and Jan van Linschoten in the Arctic Ocean provided more information on the northern hemisphere.

Terra incognita, the unknown terrain of the North was given more accurate and precise outlines to become the exotic Ultima Thule, the Extreme North, the geography, life and peoples of which was surveyed and depicted by researchers and travellers. Gerhard Mercator (1512-1594) founded a new era in cartography based on precise measurements. The pioneers of charting the Nordic countries, Swedes Andre Bure and Olof Tresk adopted the Mercator measurement principles for drawing their charts. The maps of Tresk and Bure represented a huge development compared to the rough geography of the maps of Olaus Magnus.


As an introduction to the study of old maps Heikki Annanpalo has written:
Bringing the North Calotte to the knowledge of Europeans — what the old maps tell (2007).