Michael von Aitzing

(1530 - 1598)

Aitzing was an Austrian nobleman who served three Holy Roman Emperors: Francis I, Maximillian II and Rudolph II. From 1567 he lived in the Low Countries, and witnessed the Netherlands’ struggle for independence from the Hapsburg Empire. He was inspired to become an historian of the Dutch Revolt (1567-1648), or the Eighty Years War, chronicling the events from the Spanish and Catholic point-of-view, in spite of his self-avowed neutrality: “you will find everything more truthful and acceptable since we personally observed and verified all the facts on both sides…”. However, he is most famous for his “Leo Belgicus” map, depicting the 17 Provinces of the Low Countries in the form of a lion. It appeared in several editions of his De Leone Belgico, first published in Latin in 1583. The “Leo Belgicus” map was extremely influential and widely imitated by many cartographers in later Dutch histories and atlases.

From 1581, Aitzing settled in Cologne and published a bi-annual Messberichte or Messrelationen, a factual chronicle of the current events of the previous six months. It was issued at the spring and autumn trade fairs in Leipzig and Frankfurt am Main, and occasionally for the Peter and Paul Market in Naumburg. It is now recognized as a forerunner of the modern newspaper.