Early Modern Land Surveys

What are Land Surveys?

Landesaufnahmen (land surveys) have been produced since the sixteenth century by official commission. They typically combined maps with texts and described an entire territory (or significant parts of it). The maps were based on more or less intensive surveys, including research in administrative documents and interviews with local people. The texts mostly listed the external borders as well as the internal administrative structure and topographical characteristics; they were often enriched with tables and lists. Photographs of the territory were often intended for internal use only and therefore were rarely printed. As a rule, the associated sets of maps exhibit large scales and completely take the population into account.

One of the best known and most detailed topographic maps is the work of Philipp Apian (1531-1589), who systematically surveyed the Duchy of Bavaria (Upper and Lower Bavaria) until 1561. The result of this land mapping was the so-called "Große Karte" (Great Map). In 1568, the Apian land survey was printed as "Bayerische Landtafeln".

Why and for what Purpose did the Land Surveys originate?

Medieval rulers' claim to authority initially referred to groups of persons rather than to certain areas. Therefore, maps at the end of the Middle Ages usually do not show any linear borders but rather define border zones. By the beginning of the sixteenth century, however, in most parts of the Holy Roman Empire the ideal of the national territory as a firmly delimited area had prevailed. The detailed demarcations between the early modern sovereignties and the respective neighbours across the border were usually drawn up in the decades after 1500. This process was often laborious, expensive and protracted; it was therefore ordinarily followed by a (re-)marking with boundary stones and a textual description of the course of the border. The next logical step was to map and describe the territory demarcated in this way.

Later country photographs were needed and used for the administration and documentation of rulership, since they represented all rights of ownership and domination within the respective borders, as seen from the point of view of their client. The maps and texts of the Landesaufnahmen were therefore used in numerous early modern juridical disputes. Such disputes might concern forest or hunting right, court right or the right of escort in certain areas.

Land Surveys in the Bavarian Region

Three early examples are the Pfalz-Neuburgische Landesaufnahme (1579/84-1604), the Landesaufnahme of the Markgrafschaft Burgau (c.1613) and the survey of part of the Hochstift Bamberg (1579-1608). The associated sets of maps, but not the corresponding text sections, are now accessible digitally for the first time through the bavarikon portal. However, transcriptions of the texts of the Pfalz-Neuburgische Landesbeschreibung can be found at: https://www.heimatforschung-regensburg.de/97/.

The text descriptions of the Pfalz-Neuburgische Landesaufnahme as well as the survey of Bamberg are preserved in the respective Bavarian state archives.

Sarah Hadry

The Early Modern Land Surveys available in bavarikon

>> "Early Modern Land Surveys" is a project of the Generaldirektion der Staatlichen Archive Bayerns (Directorate General of the Bavarian State Archives). This collection combines unique pieces of the Bayerisches Hauptstaatsarchiv (Bavarian Main State Archive), the Staatsarchiv Amberg (Amberg State Archive), the Staatsarchiv Augsburg (Augsburg State Archive), the Staatsarchiv Bamberg (Bamberg State Archive), the Diözesanarchiv Eichstätt (Eichstätt Diocesan Archive), the Stadtarchiv Kronach (Kronach City Archive), the Staatsarchiv Nürnberg (Nuremberg State Archive), the Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek (Bavarian State Library), the Staatsbibliothek Bamberg (State Library Bamberg), and the Historischer Verein für Oberpfalz und Regensburg (Historical Association for Upper Palatinate and Regensburg).