The Ulm edition of Ptolemy in 1482 (27 TA + 5 TM) can be regarded as a benchmark of modern cartography north of the Alps, just having pushed the change from "Tabulae antiquae" to "Tabulae modernae". The picture of Germany contained in the 1482 Ptolemy still mirrored the image of Antiquity showing rivers, mountains and tribes of that time, but not topographic elements of the 15th century.
Nevertheless, by the spirit of the Renaissance obviously there had been created modern cartographic images already before 1482 which the printed maps of Central Europe published in 1491 respectively about 1492 and related to Nicolaus Cusanus respectively Francesco Roselli give evidence about. The common sources of both maps probably can be traced back to about 1437/39. Unlike Ptolemy's pictures, the maps linked with Cusanus and Roselli contain the first contemporary urban settlements in the Brandenburg area, even if only a few of them: we can find eight towns in the Cusanus map and additional two towns in the map of Roselli. Except one, all towns are situated at or rather close to one of the major rivers as Elbe, Havel or Oder which seem to reflect relations to the images of Germany contained in the Catalan Atlas dated 1375 and the portulan of Angelo Dalorto of 1339.
Although both maps very probably are based on a set of common source elements the respective positions of the settlements as well as the hydrographic lines considerably differ from each other. Compared to the Cusanus map the toponyms of the Roselli map increased numerically, but decreased in spelling, whereas the hydrography of the Roselli map was clearly improved by leaving out a huge phantom river which the Cusanus map presented only.
These maps were taken as models for copies up to the midth of the 16th century, in particular by Italian publishing houses which added a lot of spelling mistakes and changed several toponyms beyond recognition.
The second stage of cartography in this period was dominated by the maps of Erhard Etzlaub, a Nurembergian cartographer and technician. His activities were focused on pilgrim maps containing the routes from Germany to Rome where the "Holy Year" was celebrated and attracted many people. The first edition of Etzlaub's guide map with dotted routes was sold just before 1500 and showed 14 Brandenburgian towns - among them for the first time Berlin. In 1501 a second edition had been published which has to be regarded as a totally new map: 9 urban settlements in Brandenburg were added and the positions of all settlements were improved. Both editions of the Etzlaub map had been developped without taking the Cusanus or the Roselli maps as models. Unlike Cusanus and Roselli who had very probably collected the basic data of their maps by correspondence, Etzlaub used reports of travelling people on their way via Nuremberg as the main sources for his spatial presentations.
Compared to the Cusanus-Roselli corpus the Etzlaub map-type had been copied in a much higher frequency and in general had coined quantitatively the map production of the 16th century as far as Germany is concerned. The most popular cartographers having taken over Etzlaub's image had been Martin Waldseemüller and Sebastian Münster.
The chronological sequence of original map publications showing Germany respectively Europe was continued - after a break of about 50 years - by Heinrich Zell (1550), Gerhard Mercator (Europe 1554), Tileman Stella (1560) and Christian Sgrooten (1565). These cartographers belonged to the third stage of this period and created rather different contributions to the spatial image of Brandenburg.
First of all Heinrich Zell combined topographic elements from the Cusanus-Roselli and Etzlaub's maps; due to these main sources Zell could complete the urban settlements in Brandenburg by a few towns only. Perhaps Zell's most remarkable contribution to the cartographic image of Brandenburg was the interchange of two regional terms belonging to the most western and the most eastern parts of Brandenburg - Altmark and Neumark. This error had been taken over by Mercator (Europe 1554) and Sgrooten (1565).
Although the map of Europe published by Mercator in 1554 contained 12 additional urban settlements in Brandenburg and a better hydrography compared to the Zell map, we can realize a rather considerable incertitude and weekness of reliable sources with regard to Brandenburg also in the study of Mercator at that time. Similar to Zell, first of all Mercator had taken data - among them avoidable errors - from Roselli and Etzlaub for the blueprint of Brandenburg.
The third cartographer belonging to this stage of transition between the early 16th century and the map of Brandenburg and Pomerania published in 1585 by Mercator had been Christian Sgrooten. In 1565 his great wall map of Germany saw the light of day and - at first sight - seemed to present a lot of new details. The second time one looks at it the Brandenburg area reveals a great number of mole-hills to camouflage gaps in the topography. A map analysis rapidly shows that first of all Sgrooten had compiled data in a rather uncritical way.
Contrary to Zell, Mercator - at that time - and Sgrooten the cartographic work of Tilemann Stella can be characterized as an outstanding one. His map of Germany dated 1560 considerably improved the image of Brandenburg by an increased accuracy of settlements' positions, a better reliability of toponyms' spellings and a hydrography which was drawn very close to reality. Due to these features Tilemann Stella can be regarded as a fellow to the later Gerhard Mercator, the leading cartographer of the late 16th century.
Within the first map series of his "Atlas sive cosmographicć meditationes " in 1585 Mercator published "Marca Brandenbvrgensis & Pomerania" as the first autonomous cartographic picture of these German regions. As the main source of this map Mercator mentioned Elias Camerarius, up to his death in 1581 mathematician and professor at Frankfurt/Oder university. With about 250 settlements, reliable toponyms' spellings and a realistic hydrography this map far exceeded all predecessors and should coin the image of Brandenburg for more than half a century.
Three general remarks will summarize this part:
(i) First of all we can clearly see that this period had been a heteronomous one with regard to the Brandenburg area. The scholars' cartography from outside the territory totally dominated and except Mercator's mentioning of Camerarius we can only suspect how the data were collected.
The autochthonous cartographic results of this period consisted of plans of Brandenburgian fortresses which had been built up first of all by Italian architects and bricklayers.
(ii) Most of the cartographers mentioned for the 15th and 16th centuries did not care primarily for correct topographic positions and spellings because a cartographic tradition in the sense of later modern centuries did not exist at that time.
(iii) If one compares the autonomous cartographic publications of German territories during the 16th century it is plainly to see that the regions of eonomic and political importance primarily were of cartographic interest and that maps of them had been published since the early 16th century whereas peripheral and contemporarily underdevelopped regions like Brandenburg were cartographically opened up with a clear delay.