The Vistula, Queen of Polish Rivers

Temporary exhibitions

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  • Tuesday, March 29, 2022 - Sunday, September 4, 2022

The exhibition presents 39 historic books and 34 maps, plans, and atlases dating from the mid-16th to the late 19th centuries.  

In geographical, historical, legal, and economic works, as well as in literary and journalistic publications, we find fragments, chapters, paragraphs, and verses concerning the Vistula. These are often accompanied by illustrations of the course of the river in plans and maps, as well as by views of the river itself or of the landscape of its banks and plans and panoramas of the towns and cities located along it. These are in a variety of techniques including woodcuts, copper plate engravings, lithographs, and drawings.

Views of Kraków, Warsaw, Toruń, and Gdańsk showing the Vistula make reference to a variety of events intertwined with the history of Poland, from the times of king Sigismund August through the period of the Swedish invasion of 1655-1660 known as the Deluge to the War of Polish Succession in the early 18th century. A set of spectacular multi-page Warsaw city plans dating from 1822 and 1838 portray the Vistula as it was in the early 19th century, which as a result of the Partitions of Poland then stretched across the domains of three separate national entities.

From the Middle Ages to the end of the 18th century, the Vistula was the primary avenue of transport in Poland, a backbone uniting a vast collection of lands diverse in social and economic terms. This situation was changed by the Partitions of 1772, 1793, and 1795, which brought the lands of the former Republic of Poland under the control of Prussia, Russia, and Austria, three quite different states with different political and economic priorities. In spite of  this, the Vistula and its tributaries as a single riverine system remained inextricably linked with the Polish lands and continued to play a significant role in the history of the Polish nation, a role which was at once economic, social, and cultural.

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