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Featured Item: Perspective view of Brocken Mountain (1749)

By Laura McElfresh

Perspectivische vorstellung des berühmten Blocken

What is the item?

This hand-colored view shows Brocken Mountain, the highest mountain in northern Germany, viewed from the northeast. The map covers the area that can be seen from the top of the mountain.

What BTAA Library submitted the item?

University of Michigan

Hand colored view of Brocken Mountain

Hand colored view of Brocken Mountain in comparison to smaller mountains
map detail: “Bructerus Herciniae montes supereminet omnes” -- Brocken towers above all mountains

Interesting tidbits:

  • According to popular legend, Brocken Mountain is the site of the Walpurgis Night Witches’ Sabbath.
  • Accordingly, the map shows witches flying in the sky above the mountain on brooms, pitchforks, and goats, and has two people dancing on top of the mountain.
  • The (mythical?) bird holding the middle of the decorative cartouche is not quite an owl, flanked by two not-quite-peacocks on the ends.
  • The “Brocken” scene from Goethe’s opera Faust is set on Brocken Mountain.
  • June 23rd is Saint John’s Eve, the night that inspired Modest Mussorgsky’s Night on Bald Mountain! In fact, its original title was St. John’s Night on the Bare Mountain. Mussorgsky's musical Witches’ Sabbath takes place on a different mountain, Lysaya Gora (“Лысая гора”); but this map captures some of that same feeling.

Cartouche featuring owl and peacocks
Map detail: cartouche featuring owl and peacocks

Where can I find out more?

Map location on Google Maps

Have questions about this item, the BTAA geoportal, or maps and geospatial data in general? Please don’t hesitate to contact our project team!

Laura Kane McElfresh is the Cartographic Metadata Librarian at the University of Minnesota.