This rare, separately issued map of the Russian Empire was printed by Renier and Josua Ottens c. 1730, but the map is based on the work of Philipp Johann von Strahlenberg. It is that mapmaker's first map of Russia and Siberia, stolen from him in 1715. Strahlenberg (1677 - 1747) would rebound to produce his superb 1730 Tattariae Magnae
, one of the largest, most groundbreaking, and unique maps of Russia to appear in the first half of the 18th century. This beautiful engraving represents the first complete expression of Strahlenberg's efforts at his seminal mapping of Siberia and the Russian Arctic.
A Closer Look
The map is significant in its support of the viability of a Northeast Passage, and prefigures Vitus Bering's (1681 - 1741) mapping of the Strait which would bear his name. As well, the map, in this edition, presents those areas claimed by the Russian Empire c. 1725 at the death of Tsar Peter the Great. It records Russian territories from Moscow to Japan and Kamchatka, including parts or all of adjacent northern China, Mongolia, Persia, India, Tibet, Japan, Korea, and Turkestan - and is among the earliest maps to show Russian Alaska based on actual report.
The Remotest Denizens of Tsar Peter's Empire
Printed after 1725 death of Peter the Great, the map presents the empire as the life's achievement of the famous, innovative, and too-young monarch. Its magnificent cartouche presents Tsar Peter in a hagiographic light. A banner about him reads hic nimis angustus tantae virtuti orbis
, or 'This world is too small for such virtue.' The Tsar sits amidst the clouds, flanked by a fur-bedecked Siberian with a club, and a spear-and-shield wielding Athena. Along the slopes below this lofty perch, representatives of the many tributaries of Russia, in their traditional garb, gaze on adoringly while offering treasures of silk, spice, fur, and livestock.
These various peoples are not only represented in the cartouche, but are noted in detail in the map itself, including their tributary relationships. The main source of information for many of these notes is Abu al-Ghazi Bahadur's (1603 - 1663) Genealogical History of the Turkmens
, a seventeenth century manuscript which Strahlenberg acquired and translated.
Potala is noted as the residence of the Dalai Lama, who held sway over Tibet and Tangut. Within its bounds are the camps of Zinghis Khan and Dalay Khan, who are described as tributaries of the Dalai Lama. The cities of Turphan and Chamill, it is noted, have been taken by the Chinese.
The area north of the Great Wall of China is well-detailed, showing trade routes between China and Siberia, and the domains of various Tatar Khans - some under Chinese protection. The camp of Khutuktu (Kutugta) is noted in particular, situated near a lake in central Mongolia. This corresponds with the domain, in Dolon Nor, of the Jebtsundamba Khutukhtu: spiritual head of Tibetan Buddhism in Mongolia. North of the Korean Peninsula, at the mouth of the Amur River and other rivers down the coast, the map notes that fish and pearls are to be found. (Korea itself is devoid of detail, barring a Fungma
island.) Also on the upper Amur River is Albazin (Албазин), the first Russian settlement on the Amur. It is here described as having been destroyed by the Chinese and Mongols, as it had been around 1686.
The Chukchi Peninsula
The northeast extreme of the map differs sharply from the mapping that Strahlenberg would adopt 15 years later. While the peninsula is shown pictorially, its best detail is in its tribal population. Again, drawing from al-Ghazi's account, the map notes the domain of the Tzuktschi
(fierce and warlike foes of the Russians, who if captured kill themselves) and the Tzchalatski
, (allies of the Tzuktschi, also fierce). The peninsula ends in a Cap Suetoinus
(probably 'Cape Swetoi Nos' or the 'Holy Head') and an archipelago, through which it is said 'The Russians, coming from the Lena and other rivers east of the Lena pass by here with their buildings to negotiate with the Kamchatkans.' This report appears to agree with those of the Cossack Semen Ivanovich Dezhnev (1605 - 1673), in 1648. Dezhnev, along with a total seven ships sailed from the mouth the Kolyma River, along the Siberian Arctic, to the Anadyr River north of Kamchatka, and in doing so became the first Europeans to sail through the Bering Strait some 80 years before Vitus Bering. Dezhnev described rounding a large mountainous promontory identified as Chukchi, Tschuktschi, or Chukotka Peninsula.
The Mysterious Island of Puchochotski
This map is among the first that represents Puchochotski Island - the crescent shaped island at the easternmost extreme of this map. This island is mapped on only a few obscure Russian manuscripts of the same period - probably Strahlenberg's sources - and Johann Baptiste Homann's (1664 - 1724) map of Kamchatka published in 1725, which itself is probably derived from a further map (see below). Strahlenberg's own sources are probably related to the discoveries of Petr Popov, who was sent from Anadyrsk to the Chukchi Peninsula in 1711 to reconnoiter and negotiate with the Chukchi Tribes. Popov returned with indigenous reports of a large island one day's voyage east of the Peninsula - without question representing Chukchi knowledge of the Behring Strait and Alaska - marking this as one of the earliest published maps to illustrate Alaska based upon experiential knowledge. Further, the map describes the inhabitants of the island as tributaries of Russia, paying in furs and beaver's oil.
How the Map Was Made
This map originates with the Great Northern War (1700 - 1721). Strahlenberg, a Swedish officer, was taken by Russian forces following the 1709 Battle of Poltava. He was sent to Tobolsk, Siberia, along with other Swedish prisoners-of-war. As a noble prisoner, Strahlenberg initially dedicated himself to the study of languages, an activity well documented in his book Das Nord- und Ostliche Theil von Europa und Asia
, which includes tables on several Siberian languages including Mongolian. It was during his enforced tenure in Tobolsk that Strahlenberg acquired the manuscript of Abu al-Ghazi Bahadur's 1659 Genealogy of the Turkmens
which he translated, probably into French. Strahlenberg's map may have begun as a simple sketch intended to supplement his linguistic work, but in time developing the map grew to become his primary obsession.
Lacking training as a cartographic draftsman, Strahlenberg turned to fellow Swedish prisoner of war, Johan Anton Matérn (1683 - 1767), who had mastered mapmaking in Poland, Samogitia, and Lithuania. Matérn assisted Strahlenberg in taking astronomical readings as they traveled together around Siberia - apparently with no plans to escape the Russian captivity. In addition, Strahlenberg would ask military officers and travelers passing through Tobolsk to annotate his map with lands they had passed through. He also canvased his fellow prisoners, many of whom were sent out on work details to various parts of Siberia, for reports on the lands through which they traveled. These notes, reinforced with descriptions from al-Ghazi, appear throughout the map.
The Mapmaker's Misfortunes
By 1715, Strahlenberg had completed a map of Siberia, as well as his translations of al-Ghazi. A fire broke out in Tobolsk, and Strahlenberg hastily gathered his treasures into a trunk and threw them out the window to save them from the fire.
No sooner had it hit the ground than the trunk was stolen.
Strahlenberg heroically bent himself to create a new map, but in 1717 the Russian Prince Matvey Petrovich Gagarin - governor of Tobolsk - confiscated the map and mapmaking tools, and forbade Strahlenberg from making maps under pain of being sent even further
north. (The Prince may have been motivated in hiding his hobby of raiding grave mounds for gold and silver.) Undaunted, Strahlenberg had preserved a spare copy of his notes and was able to recreate the map, which he forwarded to the Swedish ambassador in Moscow, Josias Cederhielm (1673 - 1729). This was transmitted, at least in part, to Homann who used it for his 1725 map of Kamchatka. This gives us our sole glimpse of Strahlenberg's 1718 work, which would appear to have resembled Strahlenberg's 1730 work more than this earlier, lost piece, which Homann's 1725 work does not at all resemble.
Losing the Race with an Anonymous Plagiarist
The Great Northern War between Russia and Sweden ended in 1721, and news of the peace reached Siberia in 1722. Strahlenberg began his long voyage back to Sweden in May of that year, arriving in Stockholm in August of 1723. He began in earnest to find a publisher for his map, but was unable to fund the printing until 1730. In the meantime, Leiden publisher Kallewier in 1726 printed the first, French edition of Abu al-Ghazi Bahadur's Histoire genéalogique des Tatars
. The Histoire
contained two small-format maps: Carte Nouvelle de l'Asie Septentrionale
and Carte de l'Asie Septentrionale.
The relationship between both of these and the present map is unmistakable.
The Ottens Map
It is not at all clear precisely when the present map was engraved. It has been catalogued with wildly conflicting dates and its occasional inclusion in composite, made-to-order, atlases has led to its being attributed erroneously to various mapmakers including Jaillot, Mortier, Danckerts, or even Visscher. No date any earlier than 1625 for the engraving of this plate can be taken seriously, given the explicit reference to the death of Tsar Peter the Great in its title, but its nature as a separate issue deprives us of the information that usually comes down to us from formal atlases. Bagrow cites a 1727 reference to a map with this title, described as possessing the portrait of Peter the Great with its attendant motto: hic nimis angustus tantae virtuti orbis
. This map can only have been engraved after Peter the Great's February 1725 death, but prior to 1727. The earliest possible year for the first state of this map is 1725. A further difficulty lies in the absence, on the first state of the map, of a printer's imprint. Despite the presence on the map of an Amsterdam publisher's privilege, the identity of the actual engraver is obscure. The execution of the map (particularly the engraver's treatment of mountains) and the future ownership of the copperplate lead us to attribute the work to Renier Ottens.
The present example is a second state of the map, the only change between the two being the presence of the imprint of Amsterdam map publishers Renier and Josua Ottens. Again, the Ottens family did not produce a regular atlas, and their maps were separate issues sometimes included in made-to-order atlases from as early as the 1720s on into the 1760s. Consensus tends to put this map at c. 1730, and absent better information we will follow suit.
A Note on the Academic Significance of this Map
Up to this moment, this map has not been formally associated with Strahlenberg. While the maps associated with the 1726 al-Ghazi are sometimes connected with the Swedish cartographer and linguist, Strahlenberg's laurels have all been placed on the 1730 work that he himself would publish. Leo Bagrow in Imago Mundi
would write of the later map:
It is to be regretted that Strahlenberg's map has so far not been studied to any large extent. After Remezov, it is the second most important source of historical geographical information about Siberia. Yet it did not have a great influence on maps of the following period and, in a way, stands apart.
The British cartographer James Rennell, writing in 1793, felt Strahlenberg was similarly underappreciated:
Strahlenberg's map is certainly a composition of great merit for the time in which it appeared, 1730, and proves that he had taken a great deal of pains to collect materials for the tract lying between the Russian borders and those of India and Persia. Through the want of observations of longitude, his distances are often very faulty; but I am of opinion that his ideas were too much slighted by some geographers who came after him; and who have given the preference to matter of much less value, than that which he has exhibited.
Other scholars, such as Raymond H. Fisher, praised Strahlenberg's map as a considerable advancement over all previous cartography of Siberia.
The present work must be re-assessed in the context of the development of Strahlenberg's work overall, and in its own right represents an essential document in the mapping not only of the Russian Empire, but in the Tatar Empire that preceded it.
Publication History and Census
This map is scarce, having been a separate publication, only found in made-to-order composite atlases. OCLC listings are a pig's breakfast. 27 examples representing both states appear, with poor dating and in some cases ludicrous attributions (Nicolas Visscher, for example, would have had great difficulty producing this map, having died prior to the birth of the monarch named in the title of the map).
Very good condition. Reinforced with Japanese paper, but no mends. Fine original color.
OCLC 71575134. Bagrow, Leo, A history of the cartography of Russia up to 1800.