The Age of Discovery as Reflected in Antique Maps

The Age of Discovery led to the broadening of human knowledge about the geography of the world we live in and landscapes and peoples in faraway regions in America and Asia. These discoveries are reflected in antique maps preserved in the National Library

This year marks the 500th anniversary of the death of the famous explorer Ferdinand Magellan. His voyages in the service of the Portuguese and Spanish crowns led to the discovery of sailing routes and parts of the world that were previously unknown in the West. It is possible to trace Magellan’s travels and discoveries as well as the knowledge accrued by other travelers and researchers during the Age of Discovery by studying the antique maps preserved in the Eran Laor Cartographic Collection at the National Library of Israel.

Gregor Reisch’s unique world map from 1503 is one such interesting example. The basic format of the map follows the famous Ptolemy world map, which includes the ancient world that was known to geographers before the Age of Discovery.

However, at the bottom of this map, on the land bridge linking Southeast Asia to Africa there is an inscription (marked in yellow): “Here there is no continent but a sea with islands that were not known to Ptolemy.” This is the first ever reference on a printed map hinting at Columbus’ discoveries and his belief that he had discovered islands off the coast of Asia.

This is also the first time that the winds are depicted as individualized, stylized faces (and not as cherubs as had been the practice until then); one of the winds is even wearing spectacles, the first printed representation of their use.

As everyone knows, one of the most significant finds of the Age of Discovery was Columbus’ discovery of America in 1492. In the first decades after Columbus’ voyage, the continent was referred to on maps as the “New World”:

A New Description of America the New World, 1570

This map of North and South America from 1596 titled “America the New World” includes the figures of explorers Columbus, Amerigo Vespucci, Magellan and Francisco Pizarro, along with the year of their voyages, as well as depictions of ships, an anchor, and navigation tools such as compasses and maps.

Ferdinand Magellan
Amerigo Vespucci after whom the continents of America are named

The Clover Map, 1585, presents the continents of the ancient world in the shape of three clover leaves, with “America the New World” in the lower left corner.

This map represents the old and the new. On the one hand, it presents the three continents of Europe, Asia and Africa as well as the religious motive behind the map’s creation, with Jerusalem at the center and the city of Rome – the seat of the Pope – also highlighted.  On the other hand, the map also features the “new” geographical reality – the discovery of the continent of America.  Although the book from which the map is taken deals with sacred literature, the author felt he could not ignore the new discovery and decided to include it in the map.

World atlas, 1585

The first map appearing in the atlas is a world map that includes America. A caption in the southwestern part of the map refers to Magellan’s discoveries.

The second map in the atlas is entitled “America the New World.”

This meticulously hand-painted pocket atlas makes use of gold leaf to give it an impressive, high-quality finish.

Map of America, circa 1610

The map features the captions Nova Francia, (today—most of the Quebec region in Canada) and Nova Hispania (today—the central United States and the countries of Central America). With the discovery of these new lands, the European powers were quick to take control of the territories and exploit them for their own needs.

The Europeans who came to South America viewed the indigenous peoples of the new continent with curiosity and they adorned the maps with illustrations depicting the daily lives of the natives. Here, indigenous people in Brazil make an alcoholic beverage from the manioc root (fermentation of the plant root involves a process of cooking, chewing and spitting).

Hunters and fishermen in boats:

This picturesque map includes both local and mythological fauna. In the sea, we can see a flying fish and a sea monster, and along the bottom frame, the map’s illustrator includes birds native to South America.

The explorers were not always able to accurately determine the nature of their discoveries in real time. An example of this is the representation of the Baja California Peninsula:

Map of North and Central America, 1669, with the incorrect identification of the Baja California Peninsula as an island.

One can see that the shoreline is mapped in relative detail, while the interior is mostly empty because the cartographers did not yet have the time to study it and map it accurately. Illustrations of animals typical of the area do appear on the map.

This world map from around 1580 includes an inscription referring to Columbus and the date of the discovery of America, 1492, as well as the inscription “America or New India.” This inscription matches Columbus’ belief that he had reached India (this is the origin of the term “Indians” for the indigenous people of this continent).

Map of the region of the Philippines, 1593 [Ferdinand Magellan discovered the Philippine islands during his voyage in 1521]

In the illustrations on the map in the south and the areas of the oceans, the indigenous peoples engaged in fishing and hunting using spears and bows are depicted half-naked. On land, in the north, most of the figures are clothed.

Map of the region of the Philippines, 1595, pointing south. The map features illustrations of animals and a European ship.

The areas of China on the map include beautiful illustrations of animals that contemporary Europeans were unaccustomed to seeing:

In 1519, Magellan’s ships passed from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean through what would later be named the Strait of Magellan.

Map of the Strait, 1638

Next to the strait is a pair of penguins standing in the territory of Chile.

A Portolan chart from Blaeu’s Atlas, 1663, includes markings of the sailing routes in the East Indies and Philippines and illustrations of European ships.

World Map with New Discoveries—Including Figures and Landscapes of Recently Discovered Lands, 1748

The illustration below shows an example of a newly discovered land in which farmers gather crops in the fields, packed goods await shipping, a hunter shoots an arrow from a bow, while ships sail in the background.

And here we see the deserts of Africa, and a figure with a lion.

Map of the region of Polynesia and Australia, 1790. The map includes markings of the sailing routes of explorers such as James Cook (who was the first European to reach Eastern Australia) and Abel Tasman (after whom Tasmania was named) who discovered New Zealand.

Australia is called Ulimaroa—the name given to it by a Swedish geographer, which remained in use in European maps for about four decades.

The northeast region of New Zealand with Cook’s and Tasman’s travel routes and the years of their journeys.

Map of the region of Australia and Polynesia, 1796, with the caption “New Holland” for Australia. This was the period when the Netherlands was one of the leading powers in maritime trade and shipping, and the area of Western Australia was under Dutch ​​control.

This map too, features the sailing routes of navigators and explorers, including their names and the dates of the voyages.

Magellan’s discoveries and the new findings of the Age of Discovery are reflected in these picturesque antique maps that offer evidence of a changing worldview in light of the new discoveries and the scientific innovation in the fields of navigation and cartography. The maps document not only the new continents, but also the landscapes that were so unique to the Western eye. Today they still offer the viewer an experience that is both aesthetic and educational.

You are welcome to continue browsing the Eran Laor Cartographic Collection– on the National Library of Israel website.

Rabbi Löw’s “Kiss” from Prison

101 years after it was written, "The Kiss" by preeminent Hungarian Rabbi Immánuel Löw has finally been translated into English

Rabbi Immánuel Löw as a young man (Hidvégi Collection, Budapest, Hungary)

Exactly 101 years ago, on Friday evening, April 23, 1920, the community members of the Neolog Jewish congregation in Szeged, Hungary waited for Chief Rabbi Immánuel Löw in vain in front of the city’s New Synagogue.

On that very day, he was imprisoned for fourteen months based on false accusations.

Construction of Szeged’s New Synagogue was initiated by Rabbi Löw, who also designed its stained glass windows and interior (Photo: Dóra Pataricza)


Rabbi’s Löw’s statement of defense, from the National Library of Israel collection. Wrongly convicted of defamation, he was released after a year in jail, following international intervention

While still in prison, he began writing his masterpiece, Die Flora der Juden (The Flora of the Jews), in which he describes the flora that appear in the Torah, the Talmud, and medieval Jewish literature. Another result of his imprisonment was that he expanded an earlier essay of his, written on the topic of the kiss. He wrote the first version of Der Kuß (The Kiss) — a significant work in folkloristics — in Hungarian in 1882 for the wedding of his friend, and published it in only thirty copies.

It describes the topic of kisses and the act of kissing in Jewish and non-Jewish literature.

A copy of the 1882 printing of “The Kiss”, with the inscription: “To Mrs. Ignác Goldziher with greetings from the author”. From the National Library of Israel collection

When Immánuel Löw was detained, his son, Lipót Löw (named after Immánuel’s father, who is regarded as perhaps the most important figure in Neolog Judaism) was allowed to send some of his father’s scholarly work to the prison.

Lipót recalled this moment in his unpublished memoir:

“When I was finally able to deliver materials for his scientific research to the prison cell for the Ministry of Justice, I first had to choose between the materials of two of his studies: Der Kuß (The Kiss) and Tränen (The Tears). I chose the first one. An outsider could not know what said content in the cell’s solitude could trigger in the prisoner.”

It was only due to his son’s decision that Löw was thus able to extend the essay he had written almost forty years previously to fifty-one pages and translate it into German. The editors at the Monatsschrift für Geschichte und Wissenschaft des Judentums (Monthly Magazine for Science and History of Judaism) even had to add the following sentence to the first part of the publication in 1921: “For special reasons, the author was unable to read the second proof of this article himself.”

Table of contents for The Kiss, as it was published in Monatsschrift für Geschichte und Wissenschaft des Judentums. Part I and Part II of the article are available online via the Löw Heritage Foundation

In The Kiss, Löw gives a comprehensive and multi-faceted overview of the cultural history of the kiss, written in an easy to understand and even enjoyable style. Löw describes the act of kiss as a motif and the phenomenon of kissing from linguistic, anthropologic, religious, historical, legal, folkloristic, eschatological and even poetical points of views. He used various sources from a variety of cultural contexts.

The knowledge that permeates his work is fascinating — especially knowing that the circumstances in which he worked on the extended version of The Kiss were anything but ideal.

Despite their historical, cultural and literary value, Löw’s works are almost non-existent in English. To fill this gap, and to preserve the work of this invaluable figure of Hungarian Jewish thought, in the autumn of 2019 we decided to translate The Kiss from German to English.

Throughout the translation process, we strove to create a text that would be easy for a 21st century reader to follow. The bulk of the translation was done during the first wave of COVID-19 and, without the option of physically accessing any of the relevant major libraries, we were forced to do all the necessary background research using only online, digitized collections and email correspondences. The first volume of 1824’s  Geist der pharisäischen Lehre (The Spirit of Pharisaic Teaching), for example, could only be accessed through the National Library of Israel’s Digital Collection.

Cover page of the National Library of Israel’s digitized edition of Geist der pharisäischen Lehre, which had been looted by the Nazis and held in Reich Institute for the History of New Germany’s library

Löw cited his references only in abbreviated form. The original edition lacks a bibliography and also a list of abbreviations — likely due to the circumstances in which he worked on the piece. Löw composed this work for the readership of Monatsschrift für Geschichte und Wissenschaft des Judentums where he often published articles on various topics. We therefore have to assume that at the time The Kiss was published, his audience was familiar with both the references and their system of citation. With backgrounds in Jewish studies, classical philology, history and the study of religions, and as a result of an extended research process, in most instances we were able to reconstruct which editions Löw would have used when writing this extended version of The Kiss.

Whenever Löw gave volume/page numbers, we looked for the exact edition in which the page number matches with the one mentioned by Löw. Librarians and fellow researchers will certainly be able to identify with our happiness and pride in successfully deciphering a number of these abbreviations, such as Ritter X 258, Goldziher Islam 253 (with the note that Ignaz Goldziher had several works containing the word Islam in the title) and Homil. 30. We plan on sharing the solutions to some of these riddles on our instagram account @szegedjewisharchives.

Though some of the volumes from Löw’s library survived and can now be found in the National Library of Israel collection, the library catalogue was lost following the tragic events of 1944–1945, making it impossible to confidently identify all of the works, sources or editions he referred to in the original text.

Rabbi Immanuel Löw and his wife Belle Breuning
Rabbi Immanuel Löw and his wife Breuning Bella, ca. 1944. From the National Library of Israel collection

Some thirty years after Löw’s 1944 death, a number of his writings, including The Kiss were republished by Alexander Scheiber in Studien zur jüdischen Folklore (Studies in Jewish Folklore). Löw officiated as chief rabbi of the Szeged Jewish community for 65 years and many documents relating to his time there and the community more broadly have recently been digitized and indexed, and are available online via the Szeged Jewish Archives.


This article has been published as part of Gesher L’Europa, the National Library of Israel’s initiative to connect with people, institutions and communities across Europe and beyond, through storytelling, knowledge sharing and community engagement.

The Immánuel Löw Archive is safeguarded among the National Library of Israel collections in Jerusalem.

Reporting the Holocaust Alongside Vacation Ads

In 1939, sickening accounts of impending genocide appeared on the same pages as cruise and resort promos

It was not uncommon for pre-war American Jewish newspapers to feature grisly stories of persecution alongside offers of sunshine and pleasure (Composite image: The aftermath of Kristallnacht, 10 November 1938 / Colorized ad from The Sentinel, 9 January 1939; from the NLI Digital Collection)

“The General Post Office of Vienna was in uproar. Important and less important officials were running to and fro; there was an air of mystery and consternation about the place. For something unusual had happened; among the big parcels sent by post was discovered a huge packet addressed to ‘The Fuehrer and Chancellor, Herr Adolf Hitler.’ The parcel was crudely wrapped up; the handwriting was big and almost childish. Surely there was something wrong about it. Was it a  bomb, sent by some Jew who wished to avenge his own and his people’s suffering on the Fuehrer? The matter had to be investigated.

And so the packet was opened and in it was found the dead little body of an infant a few days old, tenderly wrapped in a white shawl to which there was pinned a letter in the same big childish handwriting. The letter was also addressed to ‘The Fuehrer and Chancellor of Germany, Herr Adolf Hitler’ and read as follows:

I, Elisabeth Sultzer, Viennese, aged 32, am sending you herewith my firstborn infant which I have strangled with my own hands as a present to you for your treatment of myself and my family. Signed Elisabeth Sultzer.”

While trying to escape Austria, Sultzer’s husband had been murdered by the Nazis before her eyes, depriving her unborn child of a father and depriving Elisabeth of her sanity.

The grisly scene was reported by prominent London-based Jewish journalist William Zukerman. It was published in newspapers across the United States alongside ads for Caribbean party cruises, luxury hotels in Miami Beach and resort vacations in Hot Springs.

Tragically absurd in hindsight, this was certainly not uncommon in the pre-war American Jewish press.


In the January 5, 1939 issue of The Sentinel, Chicago’s leading Jewish newspaper, ads offering sunshine and pleasure far away from home appeared alongside the story of Elisabeth Sultzer, other reports of Jewish suffering in Europe and efforts to help refugees. From the National Library of Israel Digital Collection

Kristallnacht had taken place two months prior.

Interior view of the destroyed Fasanenstrasse Synagogue in Berlin, burned down on Kristallnacht, November 9-10, 1938
During the two day pogrom known as Kristallnacht, some 30,000 Jews – including those pictured here marching in columns – were arrested and subsequently deported to concentration camps (Bundesarchiv / CC-BY-SA 3.0)

At the end of the month in which Zukerman’s piece was published, Hitler publicly declared:

“Today I will be once more a prophet: if the international Jewish financiers in and outside Europe should succeed in plunging the nations once more into a world war, then the result will not be the Bolshevizing of the earth, and thus the victory of Jewry, but the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe!”

Zukerman would later share fellow reporter Henry Shapiro’s poetically chilling account following the liberation of Babi-Yar, outside of Kiev, where the Nazis and their collaborators had committed one of the Holocaust’s largest massacres, murdering nearly 35,000 Jews in just two days and more than 100,000 people total over two years:

“I stood by the pit and stirred the sand which covered the mass. Only a little stirring uncovered strands of bloodstained human skulls and other bones, children’s shoes. And then I stirred the memories of men who could testify of the mass murder that took place there.”

A Russian-born immigrant to the United States, Zukerman spent years reporting on European current events from London, refusing to shy away from exposing uncomfortable truths about what was being done to the Jews, as well as the widespread indifference to those truths.

The irony of this particular ad combination – published less than two months after Kristallnacht – could hardly have been lost on its readers. It also appeared in the January 5, 1939 issue of The Sentinel.

Beginning in the 1930s, he tried to draw readers’ attentions away from the lure of sun-splashed vacations and new household appliances to the unspeakable crimes being perpetrated against European Jewry, employing powerful and heartbreaking vignettes to do so.

A dead infant sent via post to Hitler.

A dozen middle-aged Jews beaten to death at the gates of the Sachsenhausen concentration camp; those who survived missing eyes. Mutilated. Unconscious.

Dr. Freilach, the last Jew left in the Sudeten town of Hohenstadt. Everyone else had fled following the Munich Agreement, which gave the Nazis control over Hohenstadt, where his family had lived for generations. Too old to start a new life elsewhere, he had decided to stay, looking after the synagogue, now his own personal house of prayer. The Nazis forced the elderly man to burn it to the ground with his own hands. Dr. Freilach went home and killed himself before his Nazi tormenters could.

“It is these particular tragedies, the pain and humiliation of the individual Jewish man, woman and child which matter most in the present holocaust,” Zukerman wrote to his international readership in January 1939.

“Jewry as a whole will certainly outlive Hitler and Nazism, but thousands of individual Jews are being done to death in circumstances which would shame the beasts of the jungle. It is about these that we must shout loudest.”


This article has been published as part of Gesher L’Europa, the National Library of Israel’s initiative to connect with people, institutions and communities across Europe and beyond, through storytelling, knowledge sharing and community engagement.

József “Csibi” Braun: The Tragic Story of a Jewish Soccer Star

József Braun was Footballer of the Year and top scorer in his native Hungary, but those that saw him star for the national team couldn't have guessed that his life would come to a tragic end in the Holocaust


Even those that knew him beforehand would have struggled to recognize the frail figure dressed in the uniform of a forced laborer – thin rags that did little to defend against the harsh weather conditions of the Russian front during the Second World War. But if they looked closely, or happened to hear his name, they likely would have known exactly who he was. Some might have even read the book he inspired: Csibi, written by one Bela Senesh (Szenes).

Senesh was none other than the father of Hannah Senesh, the iconic Hebrew paratrooper and poet who was captured and killed during a daring WWII mission behind enemy lines. Well before that, however, Bela Senesh was a fairly well-known playwright and journalist in Hungary, though Csibi became his most famous work. The book was extremely popular in Hungary during the 1920s, and in the 1950s it was translated into Hebrew by Avigdor HaMeiri.

Csibi by Bela Senesh (Szenes), published in Hebrew by Hakibutz Hameuchad Publishers

The plot tells of a fatherless boy, who grows up in a poor working-class neighborhood before being sent to a school where the children hail from more privileged backgrounds. At first, the other children tease him because of his poor upbringing. “Those poor people, they’re unclean by nature”, his classmates remark, while deciding to shun and ignore the boy, fearful that such a person “might suddenly draw a pocketknife and stab us in the back”. They also label him with the derogatory nickname “Csibi” – a word meaning “street urchin” in Hungarian.

Yet over the course of the book, the boy, Istvan Horovecz, displays his virtues and personal integrity, and eventually manages to win over his classmates with his talent on the football pitch. Bravely enduring his classmates’ various pranks and taunts, [SPOILER ALERT] Csibi finally helps his school win a prestigious tournament, and the epilogue tells of how he eventually becomes an international soccer star and later even a doctor. The book became an instant classic for young readers in Hungary.

Though the Jewish connection is not specifically mentioned in the book, the clues are sprinkled throughout. For example, on Csibi’s first day at school, his teacher pronounces his last name as Horovicz instead of Horovecz. The name “Horovecz” with an “e” was adopted by many Jewish families who sought to make their origins less obvious by choosing a more “Hungarian”-sounding name. Csibi’s assimilation into Hungarian society reflected Bela Senesh’s own beliefs regarding the importance of Jewish assimilation.


Bela Senesh, the Hannah Senesh Archive at the National Library of Israel

So who was the original “Csibi”? The inspiration for Bela Senesh’s book was József Braun, whose story is similar to that of quite a few European athletes of the period: They were Hungarians, Germans, Austrians and so on, but for many of their neighbors and acquaintances, they were Jews, first and foremost. In Hungary in particular, many Jews in the late 19th century and early 20th century began turning to a relatively new sport – football. Sports were a path that offered integration into society, a vision that appealed to the young József Braun.

Born to a middle class family in Budapest in 1901, Braun began playing soccer despite his father’s disapproval, and his talent shone even at a young age. At age 13 he was playing with older children and still managing to stand out. In 1916 Braun was invited to join MTK Budapest, one of the biggest clubs in the country, after the coach happened to see him playing in a local park. By coincidence, MTK was actually known as something of a “Jewish” team – aside from the club’s Jewish president, a number of prominent Jewish players also starred for the club, including Béla Guttmann, Gyula Mándi and Henrik Nadler.

József “Csibi” Braun

Braun, who was nicknamed “Csibi”, played on the right wing, and was an extremely impressive player. Israeli sports journalist Ronen Dorfan has described Braun as someone who was capable of carrying out all of his tasks on the pitch with perfect precision. He was incredibly quick, with excellent ball control skills as well as an eye for goal. Braun won nine Hungarian league titles with MTK as well as two Hungarian Cups. Aside from his achievements at club level, he also starred for the Hungarian national team, scoring eleven goals in twenty-seven international appearances. Dorfan explains that in the context of international soccer in the 1920s, this was a relatively high number of appearances. Braun began playing for Hungary at the age of 18, was Footballer of the Year in Hungary in 1919 and also participated in the 1924 Olympic Games.

József “Csibi” Braun (third from the right), with the Hungarian national team in 1924

Unfortunately, Csibi’s football career came to an end in early and abrupt fashion. At age 20, Braun had already suffered a difficult injury from which he was able to recover, but in 1926, when he was only 25, Braun was forced to hang up his boots after yet another major injury. While he did attempt a comeback in the late 1920s with two American teams (including the Jewish club Brooklyn Hakoah), Braun soon put a final stop to his brief and illustrious career, at an age when most soccer players are in their prime.

During the 1930s, Csibi tried his hand at coaching, spending a few years managing Slovakian club Slovan Bratislava. In 1938, however, with antisemitism on the rise, Braun was forced to return to his native Hungary.

Soon came World War II, with Hungary entering the war in 1941 as a member of the Axis. Braun, who was around 40 at the time, was forced to join one of the Hungarian army’s labor battalions, like many of his fellow Jews. These were, in effect, forced labor organizations, with the prisoners, mainly Jews, required to dig trenches and build fortifications on the war front, while completely exposed to Soviet gunfire.

Braun was sent to the eastern front, and was not among those fortunate enough to survive. Csibi, the international soccer star, died of hunger and exhaustion after two years of forced manual labor in subhuman conditions.

Today József Braun’s name is nearly forgotten in Hungary. Something does remain though – the children’s book which bears his name, as well as the author’s hope of assimilation into Hungarian society through football and sport. Unfortunately, we are all too aware of what became of that hope, as well as the tragic fate of Bela Senesh’s daughter.

In late 2020, Hannah Senesh’s complete archive was deposited at the National Library of Israel. A part of it is devoted to the life’s work of her father Bela. We warmly encourage our readers to explore this wonderful archive both online and at the National Library of Israel building itself.