Ancient Atlas Returned to Sweden

Posted on July 6, 2012


Maps carry with them a great amount of history.  Ancient maps allow us to see how cartography, geography, and our views of the world have changed over the last few hundred years.  A 1597 atlas of the ‘New World’ was recently returned to its home in Sweden after a tumultuous ordeal.  MarketMAPS looks at the history of this ancient map book and the events that lead to its return. 


Over 400 years ago, Flemish cartographer Cornelius Wytfliet compiled a book of maps strictly dedicated to the ‘New World,’ containing one of the earliest know maps of California.  This atlas was stolen along with 55 other ancient books from the National Library of Sweden over the last few decades by Anders Burius, who headed the manuscript department at the Swedish library.  In 2004, Anders confessed to stealing the books and today many of them remain unrecovered.

Luckily, this particular atlas has been returned home.  Steven Feldman, a partner in the Herrick, Feinstein law firm that’s helping with the search, said that he learned in June 2011 that a copy of the Wytfliet Atlas was being offered for sale by Arader Galleries inNew York.

After being contacted by the Swedish library, Feldman said, Arader Galleries returned the Atlas to its previous owner—the Sotheby’s auction house inLondon. Sotheby’s turned the atlas over to the Swedish library on June 15.  Feldman said that’s office inNew Yorkhelped with the atlas’ return, and that law firms inLondonandGermanyalso are helping the National Library of Sweden track the remaining books.

Among the ancient books stolen from the last few decades were a 1651 edition of Thomas Hobbes’ “Leviathan,” 1600s astronomical treatises by Johannes Kepler and Christiaan Huygens, a 1633 volume of John Donne’s poems, Goethe’s 1789 nonfiction book, “The Roman Carnival,” and Maximilianus Transylvanus’ 1523 account of Magellan’s voyages, based on the author’s interviews with surviving sailors from the first expedition to circumnavigate the globe.

It’s amazing that such old maps have been preserved for so long.  Maps carry a great deal of history with them, and you never know when your map may be used in a future museum or library.  When purchasing a map from MarketMAPS, we offer our clients some of the best ways to protect their investments from damage and the passage of time.  Our variety of finishing options —including lamination, spring rollers, wooden rails, and synthetic, water-resistant map material—add to your map’s professional appearance and better format it for your applications.  Whether you need a map for the classroom, home, office, or to help you with business management and project planning, MarketMAPS has the professional finishing option to best meet your needs.

Contact MarketMAPS today and discover how our variety of finishing options can help preserve your map and protect your investment.

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