In the next part of our exhibition series, presenting the map collection of the Library founder, we have selected from his military maps. If we take into consideration only those maps which depict certain fortresses, sieges, battles or operations, we still have 133 independent (79 print and 54 manuscript) maps and a further amount of 487 units in 11 atlases, i.e. we can talk about 631 maps altogether. If we add general maps, presenting countries and parts of countries published in order to show the wider general public the “theater” of war, we will get a significantly greater number.
No wonder, since the history of mankind is, at the same time, the history of wars. This is especially true for the period (16th to 18th centuries) presented here. In Ferenc Széchényi’s collection, we can find maps, presenting every important war and/or event of war, made since the initial period of the history of modern maps, starting with the Europe of the Count’s age and ending with the Napoleonic wars which had burnt down half of the world.
When we started compiling material for the exhibition, our concept was to choose from those maps of Library founder Ferenc Széchényi, which were related, in one way or another, to the military history of Hungary and which gave an outline of the military history of the Hungarian nation, both in the Hungarian and European theaters of war.
The composition of the Count’s map collection does not necessarily reflect this concept but to understand this, we have to be aware of two reasons. The most obvious one is that Hungarian map-making and publishing had come into existence only in the second half of the 18th century, consequently, Hungary-related works had practically all been made in Western Europe, provided there was interest in them. It was not by chance that the majority of maps on the market depicted Western wars and partial events of these wars. No wonder that hardly any map was made, for example, about Rákóczi’s War of Independence. The simultaneously ongoing Spanish War of Succession (1701-1714) and the so-called Northern War (1701-1721) had completely stolen the show.
The other reason, not independently from the previous one, which every Hungarian map collector had to face, was that it had been much easier to acquire a map of the Rhine region than that of Hungary. On top of that, Széchényi had built not necessarily a hungarica collection but much more a cosmographical collection intended to contain and present the entire world. In such a collection, it had not had a special significance whether the content of the given work was Hungary-related or not.
In the first part of the exhibition, you can see works originating from the period of Turkish occupation in Hungary, lasting from mid-16th century until the war of 1716-1718 which brought about complete freedom for the country. And let us not forget about period feudal movements, the peek of which was Rákóczi’s War of Independence.
The second part of our exhibition is about the wars fought, in alliance with the Russians, against the Turks in the 18th century. These wars originally started with the aim of gaining territories in the Balkans but they ended with an ignominious failure.
In the third part of the exhibition, we have selected from maps showing the role played by the Hungarian soldiers in the international arena. Regardless what nationality they had belonged to, the Hungarian soldiers were members of the army of the Habsburg Empire and, as such, they were everywhere where the interests of the empire or, more importantly, the interests of the imperial crown had to be defended. Our soldiers had coped with all the hardship in a most courageous manner, although this could not be figured out from the content of the maps or from the end results of battles.