"Cairus, quae olim Babylon; Aegypti Maxima urbs", Braun & Hogenberg
Period: 1572 (circa)
Publication: Civitates Orbis Terrarum, Vol. I
Color: Hand Color
19 x 13 inches
48.3 x 33 cm
Braun & Hogenberg's Civitates Orbis Terrarum or "Cities of the World" was published between 1572 and 1617. Within the six volumes, 531 towns and cities were depicted on 363 plates, providing the reader with the pleasures of travel without the attendant discomforts. Braun wrote in the preface to the third book, "What could be more pleasant than, in one's own home far from all danger, to gaze in these books at the universal form of the earth . . . adorned with the splendor of cities and fortresses and, by looking at pictures and reading the texts accompanying them, to acquire knowledge which could scarcely be had but by long and difficult journeys?" Braun and Hogenberg incorporated an astonishing wealth of information into each scene beyond the city layout and important buildings. The plates provide an impression of the economy and prominent occupations, and illustrate local costumes, manners and customs.
This striking bird's-eye view of Cairo and the surrounding countryside includes depictions of the pyramids and the Sphinx. Several people are illustrated in the foreground including a cavalry engaged in exercises, travelers on the roads, veiled women and a man picking dates. Boats and crocodiles fill the Nile River. A legend describing the view is enclosed in a strapwork cartouche at bottom right. The text above the view of the pyramids reflects the disdain with which the non-Christian nations were viewed at the time. "These pyramids were nothing but an idle display of royal wealth. In this way the kings, or rather the crowned beasts, namely hoped to make their names immortal on earth and to keep their memory alive for a long time. Nothing in the world is of less fame, however, since neither the architect nor the insane king who built a pyramid is recorded." This is one of the few views of cities outside of Europe that were included in the Civitates. Latin text on verso.
References: Fussel pp.131-32.
A fine example with a minor spot of candle wax at right.