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History of the Map Collection


Prof. V. Švambera

Distinguished Czech cartographer Prof. Václav Švambera was responsible for creating the State Map Collection in 1920. But in reality it had come into being thirty years prior. The core of the collection was composed of items from the Geographic Institute of the Faculty, along with numerous map sheets from the military archives in Vienna following the breakup of Austro-Hungary and cartographic archive materials from various libraries. Prof. Švambera received a regular subsidy from the Ministry of Education and National Enlightenment, as well as occasional extraordinary subsidies. In 1920 the collection obtained 20,000 CZK for acquisitions. (The average monthly salary of an official at that time was 150 CZK/month). The founder’s efforts were continued by other prominent figures such as Prof. Bedřich Šalamon and especially Prof. Karel Kuchař who worked practically 50 years for the collection. In the 1930s important atlas work included reproduction of old national maps – Monumenta Cartographica, cooperation on the Atlas Republiky československé, and preparations for an exhibition of global cartography. During the Second World War the universities were closed. Naturally, the collection was moved by a German university out of Prague because of bombing fears, which proved providential. In 1945 Emmaus Church was bombed.

The archive collections were expanded with the acquisition of foreign works and the obligatory copies of maps of domestic institutions and companies. After the Second World War, based on the Beneš decrees, the collections of German universities came into possession of the State Map Collection, and later acquisitions from disbanded chateau libraries. By decision of the national cultural commission, the fund of the State Map Collection was enriched with the map collections of the National Museum and the National Library. Since its inception and for the duration of its existence, the Map Collection has been housed in and functionally tied the CU Faculty of Science in the Albertov building, even though it has not always been organizationally integrated.

The State Map Collection retained its status until 1953, when it was incorporated into the newly created Czechoslovak Academy of Science, first as the Department of Cartography, later as a part of the AS Geographic Institute. Prof. Karel Kuchař, one of the most famous historical cartographers, worked here all the way up to 1974. At the time of his departure, the collection may have had 2 employees, but it had deteriorated significantly and was not receiving sufficient funding to manage and conserve the collection or expand it. The Geographic Institute of the ČSAV (Czechoslovak Academy of Science) was disbanded in 1993 and the Map Collection returned to its original owner, the Charles University Faculty of Science, considerably worse for the wear.

The collection includes originals and copies of cartographic works from the eighth century to the present from various locations of the world. Perhaps the most beautiful cartography is in the atlases from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries bearing the names of mapping giants Mercator, Ortelius, Blaeu, Delisle, Sanson, Homann, and Seutter, as well as maps of the Czech lands created by Müller. Older cartography was dominated by artistic elements, ornamental framing of the title or map legend, allegorical depictions of the Earth, states, crafts, trade, perspective views of prominent places, often seats (cartouche, parergas, vistas). Particularly eye-catching are the beautiful, colored copper engravings.  Other attractive exhibits include the globes. The collection has also been enhanced with contemporary works (paper and digital), especially maps and atlases.

PhDr. et Mgr. Eva Novotná - director of the Map Collection


Map Collection in 1931



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