A remarkable allegorical atlas

Franz J.J. von Reilly, Bibliothek der Scherze mit einem satyrisch-allegorischen Atlasse. Erster [-Sechster] Band. Vienna: Reilly, 1801.
Six volumes, 8vo, all with engraved title, pp. xii, [ii], 284, engraved map; 364, engraved map; 334, engraved map; 282, engraved map; vi, 343, 3 engraved maps; 368, 3 engraved maps. 8 maps with full wash color, 1 with colored border, 1 uncolored. Early 20th-century full green crushed morocco, gilt.
$7,500

First edition of this extremely rare allegorical atlas, remarkable for its structure, intellectual cohesion and state of preservation.

The atlas consists of a suite of ten allegorical maps, here interspersed throughout a six-volume collection of anecdotes, jokes and amusing stories. The first volume includes a General Map of the Moral World, followed in succeeding volumes by what one might call “large-scale” maps of the various moral regions. In order, these are: the City of Self-Love, the Kingdom of Love, the Kingdom of Acquisition, the Kingdom of Honor, the Kingdom of Power, the Kingdom of Knowledge, the Kingdom of Idleness, the Kingdom of Speculation, and the Land of Repose. Nine of the ten maps bear old and attractive hand color and are in crisp and fresh condition.

The maps are quite detailed, with all featuring numerous topographical features with rich allegorical content. To give but one example: the Map of the Reign of Knowledge features the Islands of Philosophers, Scientists, Poets, Physicians, and Orators scattered in the Sea of Ignorance. Navigators who successfully skirt the Whirpool of Know-It-Alls and pass through the Straits of Doubt (or Skepticism?) can cast anchor in the Harbor of Humility and explore the Land of Enlightenment.

Taken individually the maps are clever and amusing, but the atlas as a whole is remarkably coherent, and its concept is executed with a level of thoroughness I have not encountered elsewhere in the genre of allegorical cartography. Not only does each regional map depict in detail an area shown on the small-scale Map of the Moral World, but there appears to be a rough developmental progression from baser and more material concerns such as Self-Love, Acquisition and Honor, to loftier states of Knowledge, Speculation and Repose. However the most remarkable feature of the atlas is its indexing. The border of each map features a graticule of sorts, with numbers 1-5 along the sides and a-e along the top and bottom, thus giving each location on the map a coordinate location (So for example, on Map of the Reign of Knowledge the Whirpool of Know-It-Alls is found at c-4.) An alphabetical index on pages 251-274 of Volume Six lists each individual location, the map on which it appears, and its coordinates. The indexing is thus identical and form and function to that of a modern atlas.

The maps were later published separately in 1802 under the title Atlas von der moralischen Welt in zehen Satyrisch-Allegorischen Landkarten mit ihrer Erklärung und Beschreibung’. Both works are extraordinarily rare: As of April 2016 OCLC records two sets of the Bibliothek der Scherze (Szeged University and Tel Aviv University) and a single example of the Atlas at Humboldt-Universität Berlin. Roderick Barron also locates two copies of the Atlas “in Austrian institutional collections” and another at the Newberry. None of the individual maps are recorded at Persuasive Maps: PJ Mode Map Collection. Other than that offered here, I find no record of a complete set of the Bibliothek offered at auction, while Barron notes that Hartung & Hartung (Munich) sold a copy of the Atlas in 1990.

The Austrian writer, cartographer and publisher Franz Johann Joseph von Reilly (1766-1820) was one of a number of well known and much praised mapmakers in Vienna in the second half of the 18th century. In 1794-96 he also published a Grosser deutscher Atlas, and for many years he concentrated on a massive atlas project, the Schauplatz der fünf Theile der Welt. Over 17 years he published one map per week, for a yield of more and 800 maps, though by that point the coverage still extended only to Europe!

Individual allegorical maps appear with some frequency on the market, but this is the first allegorical atlas I have encountered.

References
OCLC 637474664 (Tel Aviv University) and 906859664 et al (Szeged University). Goedecke VI, 557, 7; Hayn-Gotendorf I 360; Dorflinger, Die Österreichische Kartographie im 18. und 19. Jahrhunderts, vol. 1 pp. 207 and 268. Not in Phillips and LeGear, Atlases.

Condition

Text occasionally lightly foxed or browned, two maps with small tears, spines sunned. Withal, an attractive set in near-excellent condition.