Vitebsk Province

This early-19th century playing card is from a set of 60 such cards, each devoted to a different province or territory of the Russian Empire, which at the time included the Grand Duchy of Finland, Congress Poland, and Russian America. One side of each card shows the local costume and the provincial coat of arms; the other side contains a map. This card depicts Vitebsk Province, part of present-day Belarus. Russia acquired the territory of Vitebsk Province after the first partition of Poland in 1772. Vitebsk (Vitsyebsk, in Belarusian), the administrative center of the province, is situated on the Dvina (Dzvina, in Belarusian) River. The card indicates that the distance from Vitebsk to St. Petersburg was 625¾ versts, and from Vitebsk to Moscow, 577¾ versts. A verst is a Russian measurement of distance, no longer used, equal to 1.0668 kilometers.

Tomsk Province

This early-19th century playing card is from a set of 60 such cards, each devoted to a different province or territory of the Russian Empire, which at the time included the Grand Duchy of Finland, Congress Poland, and Russian America. One side of each card shows the local costume and the provincial coat of arms; the other side contains a map. This card depicts Tomsk Province, located in the south-central part of the empire. Tomsk, the administrative center of the province, is situated on the Tom' River above its confluence with the Ob'. It was built in 1604 as a fortress by Tsar Boris Godunov. The card indicates that the distance from Tomsk to St. Petersburg was 4,339½ versts, and from Tomsk to Moscow, 3,823¾ versts. A verst is a Russian measurement of distance, no longer used, equal to 1.0668 kilometers.

Lifland Province

This early-19th century playing card is from a set of 60 such cards, each devoted to a different province or territory of the Russian Empire, which at the time included the Grand Duchy of Finland, Congress Poland, and Russian America. One side of each card shows the local costume and the provincial coat of arms; the other side contains a map. This card depicts Lifland Province, located in the western part of the empire, and bordered by the Gulf of Riga to the west and Lake Chudskoe to the east. Riga, situated on the Dvina River, was the administrative center of the province, and is the capital of present-day Latvia. The card indicates that the distance from Riga to St. Petersburg was 555½ versts, and from Riga to Moscow, 1,065¾ versts. A verst is a Russian measurement of distance, no longer used, equal to 1.0668 kilometers.

Courland Province

This early-19th century playing card is from a set of 60 such cards, each devoted to a different province or territory of the Russian Empire, which at the time included the Grand Duchy of Finland, Congress Poland, and Russian America. One side of each card shows the local costume and the provincial coat of arms; the other side contains a map. This card depicts Courland Province , located in part of present-day Latvia, and bordered by the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Riga. Russia acquired the territory of Courland Province after the third partition of Poland, in 1795. Mitau (now Jelgava) was the administrative center of the province. The card indicates that the distance from Mitau to St. Petersburg was 597½ versts, and from Mitau to Moscow, 1,107¾ versts. A verst is a Russian measurement of distance, no longer used, equal to 1.0668 kilometers.

Kingdom of Poland

This early-19th century playing card is from a set of 60 such cards, each devoted to a different province or territory of the Russian Empire, which at the time included the Grand Duchy of Finland, Congress Poland, and Russian America. One side of each card shows the local costume and the provincial coat of arms; the other side contains a map. This card depicts the Kingdom of Poland, located in part of present-day Poland, and bordered by Prussia to the northwest and the Austrian Empire to the south. Poland lost its independence in the late 18th century, when its territory was partitioned, in three successive stages, by Russia, Prussia, and Austria. In 1815, at the conclusion of the Napoleonic Wars, the Congress of Vienna established the Kingdom of Poland, which was linked to the Russian Empire in a personal union through the person of the Russian tsar. Warsaw, the capital of the kingdom, is situated on the Vistula (Wisła, in Polish) River. The card indicates that the distance from Warsaw to St. Petersburg was 1,303 versts, and from Warsaw to Moscow, 1,253¾ versts. A verst is a Russian measurement of distance, no longer used, equal to 1.0668 kilometers.

Modern and Complete Map of the Entire World

Oronce Fine (1494–1555), also known by his Latinized name of Orontius Finaeus Delphinatus, was born in Briançon, France and trained as a medical doctor at the University of Paris. He was appointed to the chair of mathematics at the Collège Royal in Paris in 1531 and, like many mathematicians of his day, applied his knowledge to cartography. In addition to mapmaking, Fine published a multivolume work on mathematics, astronomy, and astronomical instruments, and he was an expert on military fortifications. Fine’s Nova, et integra universi orbis descriptio of 1531 is the earliest known map on which the name Terra australis appears. Ancient geographers had speculated about the existence of a southern continent, and European explorers often assumed that newly discovered lands in the Southern hemisphere, such as Tierra del Fuego and New Zealand, were extensions of this continent. The existence of Antarctica was not definitively proven until the 19th century. Fine’s Terra australis bears a certain resemblance to Antarctica, but it is unlikely that he had any knowledge of the continent beyond the speculations of the ancient and Renaissance geographers.

Portolan Atlas of the Mediterranean Sea, Western Europe, and the Northwest Coast of Africa

Portolan charts came into use on sailing vessels in the Mediterranean Sea toward the end of the 13th century. Made for and, in many cases, by seamen, these nautical maps were characterized by the system of intersecting loxodromes, or rhumb lines, which crisscross each chart and the ornamented compass rose that usually appears. This atlas of five manuscript charts has been attributed to Juan Oliva, a member of the illustrious Oliva family of Catalan chartmakers who began working in Majorca some time before 1550. The atlas was compiled no earlier than 1590 and perhaps as late as the first few years of the 17th century. The maps in the atlas are: 1. the eastern Mediterranean, including Greece, the Aegean islands, Crete, Cyprus, and the Black Sea; 2. the central Mediterranean, including Italy, Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica, and Malta; 3. Western Europe and the British Isles, showing the entire coasts of Spain, Portugal, France, the Low Countries, Denmark, the southwest coast of Scandinavia, and the British Isles; 4. northwest Africa, including Madeira, the Canary Islands, the Cape Verde Islands, and part of the Azores; and 5. a world map drawn on an oval projection. In the world map, North America, identified as “terra florida” and “nova francia,” is joined with eastern Asia. Several of the maps include drawings of ships.

Chateau des Comtes, Namur, Belgium

This photochrome print of the Château des Comtes in Namur is part of “Views of Architecture and Other Sites in Belgium” from the catalog of the Detroit Publishing Company (1905). Located in central Belgium, about 65 kilometers from Brussels, the town of Namur is known for its military history and its key role in Belgium’s defense. The town was founded on a rocky spur, at the confluence of the Sambre and the Meuse rivers. A main feature of the town is its stone citadel, which was built by the Merovingians in the early Middle Ages. The citadel was reconstructed around 1230 during the reign of Louis IX (St. Louis) of France (1214–70). Within the fortress is the Château des Comtes, which served as the main residence of Namur’s counts from the 10th to the 15th century. As a result of numerous sieges in the course of successive European wars, particularly those mounted by Louis XIV of France in 1692 and William III of England in 1695, few of Namur’s historic buildings remain, but the towering citadel survived as an iconic feature of the town.

Via Roma, Naples, Italy

This photochrome print of the Via Roma in Naples is part of “Views of Architecture and Other Sites in Italy” from the catalog of the Detroit Publishing Company (1905). Stretching more than two kilometers from south to north, the Via Roma is one of the city's main thoroughfares. According to the 1909 edition of Baedeker's Italy from the Alps to Naples: Handbook for Travellers, "the noisy out-of-door life of the Neapolitans is picturesque and entertaining. . . . From morning to night the streets resound with the rattle or vehicles, the cracking of whips, the shouts of drivers, and the cries of vendors of edibles and other articles." The historic center of Naples, which features architecture from the medieval, Renaissance, and baroque periods, was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995.

Pitti Palace, Royal Residence, Florence, Italy

This photochrome print of the Palazzo Pitti in Florence is part of “Views of Architecture and Other Sites in Italy” from the catalog of the Detroit Publishing Company (1905). Situated on the south side of the Arno River, the palace was designed by the Renaissance architect Filippo Brunelleschi (1377–1466) around 1458, for Luca Pitti (1398-1472), a friend and servant of the Medici family. The palace was still unfinished when Pitti died. In 1550, nearly 80 years after Pitti's death, Eleonora de Toledo, the wife of Grand Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici, bought the palace; it became the official royal residence, replacing the Palazzo Vecchio, during the reign of Eleonora’s son, Ferdinando I. The palace underwent numerous renovations between the mid-16th century and 17th century, which were undertaken chiefly by the architects Bartolomeo Ammannati (1511–92), Giulio Parigi (1571–1635), and Alfonso Parigi (1606–56). Among the attractions at the palace are museums and galleries, including the Palatine Gallery within the Boboli Gardens and the Museum of Modern Art.