LH reader kattullus sent me a link to this post at strange maps: it reproduces an amazing 18th-century map by Gottfried Hensel (the post says 1730, but other sources say 1741) that shows Europe divided into linguistic areas, with the beginning of the Lord’s Prayer in each. It doesn’t reflect the situation at any one period, but in general it’s antiquarian (England is shown with Anglo-Saxon and the south of Spain with Arabic); “Russica” is actually a variant of the Church Slavic version (which you can see correctly written here), and above it is one of the strangest features of the map, an area labeled “Nova Zemblicæ” (‘Nova Zemblan’) with a different variant of Church Slavic. If anyone knows what’s going on there, I’d love to hear about it.
The map is one of a set of four, the other three showing Asia, the Americas, and Africa; you can see them all at this page (in Ukrainian), but the first two aren’t available in quite as much detail (and Africa isn’t enlarged at all)—enough, though, to see that the ugly Chinese characters were written by someone with no idea of how to do it! (Also, what the heck are those squiggles in Japan?) I would love to see a thorough analysis of all four maps, and I find it hard to believe there’s never been one. The comments at strange maps discuss the differences between the texts on the map and those in use today, which is handy.

While I’m sending you to strange maps, check out the previous post on a map that “render[s] each country in a size corresponding to the number of languages spoken in it.”


  1. “an area labeled “Nova Zemblicæ” (‘Nova Zemblan’)”
    Har har. Cool map, though.

  2. The Tamil looks pretty accurate.

  3. The famous Ryhiner Collection in Berne has a copy of those maps. Online with zooming here.

  4. The Chinese is almost legible/readable. As for the Japanese, the comment on the map (if I can make it out correctly) says that the script is thought to be related to one of the “brahminical” scripts. Which, well, no, but I could see why, given the way it’s represented.
    Some of the squiggles could almost be kana in an old handwriting style (if I squint, I can just about read one of them as “ni”), but the spirals are pretty much nonsense in any way of writing I know.

  5. Lapponica and Finnonica both display variations of Finnish with very minor differences in spelling. The idea that Lapps and Finns are pretty much the same is of course an old and influential one.
    But what the author of the map seems to have been really keen on are the Nordic languages — two variants of Swedish (one in runic script!), a curious dialect of Norwegian, Danish, Icelandic and Gothic (Gothicismus, anyone?)!
    Not giving a single example of a Baltic language, though.

  6. Dan Milton says

    Friulian (“Foro-Juliana”) somehow appears where you’d expect Provencal.

  7. mart,
    Not giving a single example of a Baltic language, though.
    Um, it’s right where it should be, right above Polish: “LYTHVANICA (or is it LITHVANICA?) Tewe musu kursey esi danguy. Szweskis wardas tawo.” More info on this particular version of the Lord’s prayer in Lithuanian here.

  8. Interesting. The ‘correct’ Church Slavic version you link to, hat, is something like ‘standard’ Church Slavic. But the Church Slavic versions on this map differ slightly: both have “u nebesich” instead of “na nebesich” (“in heaven”) and both have a perfective verb – “posvetise” – instead of the periphrastic “da se sveti” (“hallowed be”). To me, this sounds like a late Ukrainian recension of Church Slavic with a bunch of colloquialisms.

  9. both have “u nebesich”
    My bad, only RVSSICA does. So two different recensions then?

  10. Anyone have access to late 17th – early 18th century pater noster collections for comparison, like those of Thomas Luedecke or Andreas Müller (who also published the Chinese separately)? I cannot find them scanned online in the usual places. (There’s a later edition for sale online, but the dollar is so weak against the euro right now.)
    My earliest is from a century later: Lindsay‘s, which does all the non-Roman scripts by hand in an appendix; the Chinese there is Morrison‘s, matching p. 106 of his biography and not the one on the map.

  11. The maps appear in Hensel’s book Synopsis universae philologiae. There are no copies in US libraries listed. A dealer in Saudi Arabia has one for sale on ABE.
    A set of the maps sold in Germany 10/06 for €300. Just the Asia one was apparently listed on eBay last November under Homann heirs.

  12. The alphabets around the map are just as curious as the map itself. ‘Characteri Ruthenicae linguae’ are for some reason separated from Cyrillic letters.
    Does anybody know what are the signs marked as ‘Litterae Scythicae’? Some of them look as if they are borrowed from Jewish.

  13. ‘Nova Zemblan’ is Новая Земля, ‘Novaya Zemlya’, literally ‘New Land’, the archipelago of two large islands and some small, located to the north of Russia. The situation of New Land at the map is almost correct, except that it’s not a part of the continent. Maybe this mistake is due to ices covering Barents Sea and Kara Sea around the archipelago during most part of the year.

  14. The Hebrew isn’t right. There’s a mistake that makes the whole thing almost senseless.

  15. ‘Nova Zemblan’ is Новая Земля, ‘Novaya Zemlya’, literally ‘New Land’, the archipelago of two large islands and some small, located to the north of Russia.
    Yes, I knew that, but nobody lives there (or did then, at any rate), and it certainly didn’t have its own Slavic language!

  16. Does it bear any resemblance to the language that Charles Kinbote gives us samples of in “Pale Fire”?

  17. There are no copies in US libraries listed.
    Snippet view! From 1741?

  18. That’s insane. I can’t begin to tell you how much I hate snippet view.

  19. I was hoping it’d explain the wacky “Bontiorum Characteres in Iaponia” (‘Bonzees’, I presume) in the text somewhere.

  20. Why exactly are the “Lit. Iberi-Georgicæ” named so? They’re clearly Georgian, but why drag Iberia into it?

  21. Iberia was the classical name.

  22. From MMcM’s link:
    “Keywords: funt, nomen, effe, quam, litera, accentus, feil, indicat, syllaba, altem, faltem, liters, literas, ideam, efle”
    I’m sorry, but I just find that hilarious.

  23. >I was hoping it’d explain the wacky “Bontiorum Characteres in Iaponia” (‘Bonzees’, I presume) in the text somewhere.
    wikipedia: Bonji

  24. Eimear Ní Mhéalóid says

    The commenters on Strange Maps point out that the languages seem to be all taken from Oratio Dominica. That webpage includes a note saying that the language described as “Waldensis” is Irish but in fact the book includes separate Irish (“Hibernica”) and Manx (“Monensis”) versions. “Waldensis” must be Scottish Gaelic.

  25. Interesting—but there’s no “Nova Zemblicæ” there.

  26. I took the gen. pl. to mean that this was somebodies’ characters. Or are you just saying that the bonji script is the characters of the bonze‘s, at least to Hensel’s source? Can you make out a resemblance? Is the Japanese form more cursive than the Indian Siddhamātṛkā?
    Brown has a disclaimer instead of Japanese text. This is also true in the 1736 edition in Google Books (which I missed earlier because of character set issues in the title). Perhaps it came from the 1715 edition in Amsterdam with John Chamberlayne’s name? That’d give the Continental connection I was looking for above. That edition apparently added Thai script.
    I think I read a genealogy of all these collections from around this time up through Adelung’s Mithridates. I should track down where that was.

  27. I haven’t seen the Indian version of Siddham. The Japanese version is very curly, like the script on Japan on the map and unlike kana, though I haven’t tried to match individual characters.
    What does it say under Japan? I’m guessing “Scribunt haec secundum methodum Brachmanianam” which seems to indicate Indic script.
    Bonze and bonji use completely different kanji, but since they both refer to Buddhism, a European would assume them to be cognates.

  28. Why does furlan (“foro-juliana lingua”)
    appear where you’d expect Occitan?
    I can perhaps explain this “mistery”.
    There were two “Forum Iulii”: one in Italy (now Cividale del Friuli), another in southern France (now Frejus). From the name of the “italian” Forum Iulii comes the name of the region of “Friuli”, in which is spoken furlan, a Romance language belonging to the Rhaetian family. Perhaps Hensel, seeing the text of Brown (1713) or other sources, thought to the “french” Forum Iulii, and assumed that it was an example of Occitan language.

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