“Germany” without Borders: Johannes Stumpf, Germania Teutschland/die ander Landtafel des anderen buchs (1548) und Sebastian Münster, Cosmographia (1572)


These two maps by Johannes Stumpf (1500 –1578) and Sebastian Münster (1488–1552) from the sixteenth century depict Germany without borders. The first map is taken from Johannes Stumpf’s Schweizer Chronik, or Swiss Chronicle, of 1548. Stumpf, a Reformed pastor and historian, had written the chronicle in the 1540s and arranged it according to geographical criteria. The first book (chapter), which focuses on Europe, is followed by descriptions of Germania, Gaul, and Helvetia. Each book is preceded by a relevant map. Geographically, Stumpf’s map follows an earlier one by Sebastian Münster (from 1540) but is more sophisticated.

Sebastian Münster’s fame is largely based on his Cosmographia universalis, or Universal Cosmography, of 1544. Cosmographia drew on Münster’s own travel experiences but also on reports by European scholars. The second expanded edition was published in 1550 with 900 woodcuts and 40 maps. The present map comes from a later 1572 edition. Münster’s map is not oriented like standard modern maps; instead, north and south are inverted. Austria and Bavaria are at the top of the map, Mecklenburg and Lübeck at the bottom. Germany is bounded here by Styria and Croatia (top left), Valais (top right), Prussia (bottom left), and the West Frisian islands (bottom right). Allegorical maps were not uncommon in the sixteenth century; aside from any other information they conveyed, they also offered possibilities for depicting Germany (Germania) cartographically as well. The accompanying description of a “new Germany” by Sebastian Münster shows the regional and political fragmentation of the Holy Roman Empire into individual dominions and territories.


Source: Johannes Stumpf, Heinrich Vogtherr the Elder, from Johannes Stumpf, Schweizer Chronik. Zürich: Christoph Froschauer, 1548; colored woodcut, letterpress, Deutsches Historisches Museum, Berlin, Inv.-Nr. Do 54/1660. 

Sebastian Münster, Cosmographey oder Beschreibung aller Länder, Herrschafften, fürnemsten Stetten, Geschichten [...]. Basel, 1572, p. CCCLXVI. Available online at: http://dl.ub.uni-freiburg.de/diglit/muenster1572/0594

© Deutsches Historisches Museum, Berlin (Stumpf)/ Public Domain (Münster)

Heiliges Römisches Reich Deutscher Nation. 962 bis 1806. Altes Reich und Neue Staaten 1495 bis 1806. Catalogue, edited by Hans Ottomeyer, Jutta Götzmann, and Ansgar Reiss. Dresden, 2006.

Günther Wessel, Von einem, der daheim blieb, die Welt zu entdecken. Die Cosmographia des Sebastian Münster. Oder: Wie man sich vor 500 Jahren die Welt vorstellte. Frankfurt and New York: Campus-Verlag, 2004.

“Germany” without Borders: Johannes Stumpf, Germania Teutschland/die ander Landtafel des anderen buchs (1548) und Sebastian Münster, Cosmographia (1572), published in: German History Intersections, <https://germanhistory-intersections.org/en/germanness/ghis:image-225> [December 01, 2023].