Braun was a German geographer, printer and cleric. He spent most of his life as canon and then dean at the church of St Maria ad Gradus in Cologne. His great work was the Civitates orbis terrarum, a magisterial survey of of cities around the world, which took him forty-five years to complete. He oversaw every aspect of the work, from writing the text to hiring artists to engraving the views. As well as producing original material, Braun also drew on the cartography of Jacob van Deventer for cities in the Netherlands, Sebastian Münster for Germany, and Heinrich van Rantzau for Scandinavia.
The first volume of the Civitates was published in Cologne in 1572, and the sixth and final volume appeared in 1617. At Braun’s death, he was the only survivor from the original team behind the Civitates to witness the publication of the sixth volume. The maps in the Civitates were more than just accurate portrayals of each city; they were generally decorated with people in local costume or views of landmarks, making the book more accessible than a standard atlas. Braun also hinted that he believed that inserting these figures into the maps would prevent them from being used by the Ottoman Empire to gather strategic information, as Islam forbade the portrayal of the human form.