The University Library's Special Collections has a large map collection. Some of the maps are over 400 years old, while others, like the topic maps in the Natural Sciences Library, are new and up to date.
In the infancy of cartography, maps often had the embellishing function of art paintings - they hung on the wall as decorations. The distinction between maps and art was by no means clear. Many of the maps from this period give the illusion of three-dimensionality. Buildings, ships, animals and people were sometimes portrayed with great creative enthusiasm. Such maps tend to convey a visual message, often about what is produced in and otherwise distinguishes the place that is depicted.
Bergen in Norway
The map that hangs in the main room in the HF library is a copy of an original from the 1740s, which is deposited in the University Museum. The copy is from the early 1900's. The map shows the City Center as it was in the 1700s. The mountainsides and Gyllenpris are almost entirely without buildings; the houses are huddled together around the bay, Vågen. The buildings are made in bird's-eye view, and landmarks like the Cathedral and Håkonshallen tower over the smaller houses. The shape of the fjord is highlighted with thick contours that mark the transitions between land and water. The cartographer has drawn a number of sailing ships going in and out of the harbor. Vågen points downwards: the map is oriented more or less towards the east, not north, as we're used to. If it was, Vågen would have been tilted upward in the picture. The cartographer has thus prioritized aesthetics and simplicity, and presented Vågen at its best. The vessels show Bergen’s status as a town of shipping and trade.
NORA SØRENSEN VAAGE