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Hans Jakob Haag:

Probably the oldest known Hebrew woodcut map of the Holy Land (c. 1560). Israel's exodus from Egypt according to Rashi

Cartographica Helvetica 4 (1991) 23–26


The earliest known attempts by rabbinical scholars to map out the territories of Israel have come down to us by way of Hebrew manuscripts from the 12th and 13th centuries. These are simple schematic sketches which are supposed to illustrate geographical and topographical facts from the Bible, the Mishna, and the Talmud.

In the collection of the Zürich Central Library there is an illustrated woodcut map of a similar type which was unknown amongst scholars until recently. It depicts the events of the exodus and the borders of Canaan according to the Biblical commentary by the Jewish exegete Rashi (1040–1105).

The architecture of the fortified cities together with the view of Venice and the depiction of a gondola in the lower left-hand corner all indicate that the map originated in Italy. On the basis of the names mentioned in the accompanying text and concealed in the verse from the Book of Psalms above the seven-branched candelabrum, it may be surmised that the map was made in Mantua around 1560; thus, it would be the oldest known printed Hebrew map of the Holy Land.

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