Water management

Afbeeldinge van Rhynlands waterstaat (ca. 1740), Kaart: Ackersdijck 96

For centuries, water management has played an integral role in the history of the Netherlands. This rich tradition has left a considerable legacy of early and rare hydrology publications.

There is a particular focus on hydrology in the maps in the collection of the mathematician, physicist and astronomer Gerrit Moll (1785-1838) from Utrecht, which was left to the library after his death. It includes many ‘resolution maps’ (maps included as appendices to the resolutions passed by the States of Holland and West Friesland), which were used when diverting rivers, for example. The collection’s higher water board atlases and outline maps are also worthy of mention.

In 1908, the Geographical Institute was established, marking the start of active management of the map collection. The professors of the time J.W.K. Oestreich and J.F. Niermeyer had a relatively large budget to spend on establishing a geography library. An expert in the field of historical cartography, Niermeyer in particular allocated a large amount of the budget to acquiring early maps and atlases, many of which were related to hydrology.

From 1968, the later professor of cartography C. Koeman also proved to be a great promoter of the growing collection. Thanks to a specially earmarked budget, he had great success at a Beijers auction in 1979, when the complete collection of the KIVI NIRIA (Royal Institute of Engineers in the Netherlands) went under the hammer. The acquisitions included several beautiful atlases with large-scale river maps, with a scale of 1:10,000.

All in all, the Utrecht University Library has a large collection of early printed works, atlases and maps, which paint a telling picture of the Netherlands – often difficult – relationship with water. Many of these maps are digitized and georeferenced, to be consulted in the digital exhibition Water management maps (1600-1825).

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