Russian Atlas consisting of forty-three maps and dividing the Empire into forty-one governorates

    Russian Atlas consisting of forty-three maps and dividing the Empire into forty-one governorates

    Russia, St. Petersburg


    Wilbrecht, Alexander

    Paper, leather; cutting, etching, watercolors

    51.3 х 35.5 х 5.5 cm


    Atlas of the Russian Empire of 1800 is considered one of the masterpieces of the Russian cartography. Once its main purpose was to assist administrators to take correct managerial decisions. Besides, the Atlas was available only for upper classes and let the ruling elite study their country (and not only the spatial position of its parts but also some aspects of the economic life of governorates, their nature and history).

    The Atlas of 1800 was based on the Atlas of 1792 г. The reason for compiling the new Atlas was the administrative reform of Emperor Paul I (1796-1801), introduced right after his enthronement. Paul had negative attitude to the activities of his mother Catherine II (1762-1796), and he changed the administrative-territorial structure of the Empire strengthening separate administrative units (territories), and restoring old “pre-Catherine” borders in some of them. At the same time, he strived to unite the governorates, which were, in his judgement, populated by the same nationality and had a similar social structure. Thus, he created the Lithuania Governorate, restored the Sloboda Ukraine Governorate and included the colonized the Black Sea lands into the New Russia Governorate. The administrative reform conducted by Paul I was the reason to stop publishing the Atlas of 1792 and compile the new atlas that had to glorify the actions of the Emperor himself and not the deceased Empress. This work was entrusted to А.М. Wilbrecht (the author of the Atlas of 1792), continued for over two years and included recompilation and re-engraving of the maps. Due to this fact about half of the maps of the Atlas of 1800 were printed from copper plates which were used to print the corresponding maps of 1792, but with the inclusions of serious or slight amendments (engravers А.D. Savinkov, Е.М. Khudyakov, I. Leonov, Т.Mikhailov, D.Petrov, К.Ushakov, G.Т. Kharitonov, I.I. Kolpakov, G.Meshkov, I.К. Nabgolts).

    The maps of the Atlas of 1800 feature not only the borders of the governorate changed due to the reform but also new state borders of the Russian Empire established after the division of Poland. In addition, the title list presents the image of the new state coat-of-arms of the Empire approved by the supreme order of Paul I as of 10 August 1799; it features the two-headed Imperial Eagle with Imperial crowns and a plate on its chest with Moscow coat-of-arms laid over the Maltese cross.

    Big cabinet-type reference atlas with full leather binding and gold press gilding at the back. It consists of the title list, maps register, 42 maps of Russian governorates and one folding General map of the Russian Empire.

    The atlas includes maps of the governorates of: Saint-Petersburg, Vyborg, Estonia, Livonia, Courland, Byelorussia, Pskov, Novgorod, Archangelgorod, Vologda, Yaroslavl, Kostroma, Tver, Moscow, Smolensk, Lithuania, Volhynia, Minsk, Little Russia, Kursk, Oryol, Kaluga, Tula, Ryazan, Vladimir, Nizhny Novgorod, Kazan, Vyatka, Perm, Orenburg, Simbirsk, Saratov, Tambov, Voronezh, Sloboda Ukraine, Astrakhan, Novorossiysk, Kiev, Podolsk, Tobolsk and Irkutsk [on two pages]. Each map has indications of administrative-territorial borders of the governorate with the neighboring territories, settlements and topographic specifics of the area, including vegetation. The title of each map is put in the narrative cartouche made in classicism style that characterizes the territory presented in the map in the economic, political and historic aspects. The scale of the maps included in the atlas is different and varies from 11 to 250 versts for inch that is related to the desire to put the borders of the governorate into the page naturally.

    The General map of the Russian Empire shows “A part of the western coast of America from Alaska peninsula to Nootka Bay according to the latest discoveries made by Russian and English sailors in 1784, 1786 and 1787”. Compiled in the conic conformal projection with two standard parallels the map includes indications of the state and administrative-territorial borders of the Empire, land forms, adjacent territories of the neighboring countries. The aim of the decorated cartouche of the General Map is to show the political system, social welfare, the power of the country, its military victories and achievements in science. The scale of the map – 170 versts per inch.

    The subscriptions and inscriptions on all maps of the Atlas are given in the Russian language.

    Ref.: Bulatov V.E. Russian Atlas consisting of forty-three maps and dividing the Empire into forty-one governorates (1800). М., 2008.