This vivacious map of an independent and unified Poland was created after the end of The Great War. For the first time in more than a century, Poland was again a whole and autonomous nation. This map is a celebration of that freedom, and of the historical process that lead to it.

Polska W Trzech Zaborach W Granicach Przedrozbiorowych W 1770 R. Oraz W Innych Wazniejszych Okresach Historycznych

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SKU: NL-01020 Category:
Cartographer(s): Józef Michal Bazewicz
Date: ca. 1922
Place: Warsaw
Dimensions: 91.5 x 65 cm (36 x 25.5 in)
Condition Rating: VG
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This exuberant early 20th century map of Poland and her historical development is a salutation to the independence that Poland won after the First World War. It was compiled by Józef Michał Bazewicz, a respected bookseller and cartographer based in Warsaw, and was meant as a celebration of Polish national honor and pride. 

Measuring an imposing 36 x 25.5 inches (91×65 cm), this color lithograph does not just show the outline of the country, it also charts the historical development of Poland’s extent and boundaries from its establishment as an autonomous principality in the 9th century until the ‘Fourth Partition’ in 1815. In doing so, it tells the story of Poland’s progression from medieval kingdom to modern democratic republic. The effect is achieved by overlaying a schematic of Poland’s historical evolution over an up-to-date topographical map of the country. It is further underlined by including a wealth of both historical and modern information, including no less than four inset maps, each of which depict Poland during crucial time periods. Geographically, the map extends from the Gulf of Riga in the north, down to the shores of the Black Sea in the south, and from Magdeburg in western Germany, to Tula in the Russian east. The large scope makes sense, however, as Poland’s borders have changed considerably over time. 

Key points in Poland’s historical expansion and abatement are shown in the four inset maps. The upper one shows the Kingdom of Lithuania between 1562-1660. This represents a decisive period in Polish history, often referred to as Poland’s Golden Age. With Union of Lublin in 1569, the King of Poland and the Grand Duke of Lithuania joined forces in a so-called ‘realunion.’ In essence, this meant a merger of the two large Baltic states and an agreement that the ruler would be both King of Poland and Grand Duke of Livonia. The union was hugely successful and Poland remained one of the most stable regions in Europe during the Middle Ages. It was really only with religious conflicts of the Thirty-Year War (1618-48) and a rampaging Swedish warrior king that the great union began to buckle. 

At the bottom of the map we find three maps documenting another important expansion and contraction process in Polish history. This time, it is associated with the Napoleonic Wars. Moving from right to left, the largest of the bottom trio shows the Polish kingdom under Saxon rulership in the 18th century and the subsequent First Partition (rozbiory) of the kingdom between Russia, the Austro-Hungarians, and Prussia. The central map encapsulates the first sense of reunification, which comes in the wake of the Napoleon’s war machine. After the victory at Austerlitz, Bonaparte re-established the the Grand Duchy of Warsaw in 1807, and shortly after Prussia and Russia also allowed their Polish dependencies – in particular the Duchy of Poznan and the Republic of Krakow – a greater degree of autonomy. 

At the far left, things have changed again. In 1815, European powers came together in Vienna to discuss the political reconfiguration of Europe following Napoleon’s defeat and abdication the year before. The primary brief of the Vienna Congress was to reestablish geo-political balance in Europe. The model was one of Europe before the French Revolution, but this soon proved impossible to realize. Most of the participating nations were more concerned with ensuring their current holdings and making sure that that France was not in a position to engage in new conquests any time soon. During the talks, Poland became a major bone of contention, as both the Russians and the Prussians claimed large parts of the semi-autonomous Polish confederacy as belonging to them. Tensions ran high for a while, but in the end an agreement was reached to dissolve the Grand Duchy of Warsaw and force the Polish aristocracy to relinquish their lands. Most of Sachsen went to Prussia, whereas Russia re-annexed the east.

The great powers of Europe had once again forced Poland to bend the knee. It had not always been this way. Until its dissolution in the 18th century, the Kingdom of Poland had constituted an important Central European power. The long history of Polish kingdoms is in many ways impressive. Being squeezed between the ever ambitious Germans, the wealthy Habsburgs and the vastness of Russia, Poland could rarely avoid becoming involved when war broke out in Europe. It was simply a matter of geographic reality. The map illustrates just how extensive and dynamic the Kingdom of Poland was. Among the modern nations that have once been partly or fully subsumed under a Polish king we find countries like the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Germany, Romania, Moldova, Ukraine, Belarus, Russia, Latvia, and Lithuania. At one time, Poland stretched from the shores of the Baltic and all the way to the Black Sea. On the map itself, there are further historical subdivisions to be explored. These are found in the thick dotted lines that delineate different areas, which at some point were subject to a Polish King. Within each of the delineations we are provided with dates for their affiliation.

The vivacious color coding of the map is meant to show which parts of a now reunited Poland once were controlled by which foreign powers. The new administrative organization of the country into voivodeships, or województwa in Polish, is also clearly shown on the map. This system of setting up a national administration reflects a Slavic tradition of military governors that stretches all the way back to the early Middle Ages. To this day, Poland remains subdivided into sixteen administrative voivodeships. 

The Voivodeships and major cities of Poland are not just shown on the map itself, but also represented through heraldic coats of arms, which form a border around the map itself. In addition to these, we also find the flags of the Polish fleet.

Even though the map is full of history, at the end of the day, the event being celebrated in this map was Poland’s independence after the First World War. Like Czechoslovakia and Hungary, this was the first time that one could speak of a Polish nation in the modern sense of the word. But the nationalism that drove all three countries to achieve the goal of national independence had been a powerful undercurrent in society for more than a century. 

Due to the historical timing, and because the mapmaker, Józef Bazewicz, was a respected cultural figure and part of the Warsaw intelligentsia, this map became hugely popular as a symbol of national pride. Today, it stands as one of the most iconic images of Poland’s parturition as a free and independent nation.


Józef Michal Bazewicz

Józef Michal Bazewicz (1867-1929) was a cartographer, writer, and bookseller, based in Warsaw during the early 20th century. He was a leading figure among the city’s intelligentsia and cultural elite, and an open supporter of Poland’s right to independence from the great powers in Europe. 

Bazewicz issued several cartographic publications for which he gained some renown. In 1916, before Polish independence, he published a national historical atlas of Poland, in Polish (Atlas historyczny Polski). In 1921, he published a book which dealt with Polish political history from the Middle Ages until the First Partition. This included a large folding map of Europe – and Poland prominent place in it – during the 14th and 15th centuries. But the epitome of his cartographic career came the following year, when Basewicz published a large national chart that both depicted the new Polish nation in all its glory, but also incorporated the country’s long history, as a means of historical legitimizing it. This map, Polska W Trzech Zaborach W Granicach Przedrozbiorowych W 1770 R. Oraz W Innych Wazniejszych Okresach Historycznych, is still considered one of the most important modern maps of Poland ever produced.

Condition Description

Minor wear and splits at some folds, remnant of hanging tape on verso.


University of Wrocław Library, 10111-IV.C; OCLC: 867936346.