Antique maps in the museum Collection exposition

With summer not yet here, holiday and travel time still ahead, we're planning our holidays and can still choose an interesting route for our next trip – it is high time to immerse yourself in the world of vintage maps from the 17th and 18th centuries.

The basis of the museum cartographic collection is constituted by the engraved and lithographed maps of the territory of the Caucasus dating from the end of the 18th century to the early 20th century. Diverse in their contents - general geographic maps, defined in the terminology of the time as "military-topographic" maps, political-administrative maps, maps of transport routes, topographic maps, and plans of segregated territories and ethnic regions - the maps enable the history of the Caucasus to be traced in graphic rather than textual terms.

When looking at maps from the 17th and 18th centuries, it is important to note close interconnection between science and art. Scientific depictions of the earth's surface were supplemented by a variety of graphic elements (for example, mythological or allegorical characters) or cartouche – an ornately shaped frame with surrounding it garlands of flowers, leaves, fruits, military trophies or genre scenes, often carrying a semantic meaning, with a text located in the frame.

A striking example of the science alliance with art is  "Russian Atlas consisting of forty-three maps and divided into forty-one provinces of the Empire", compiled by A.M. Wildbrecht in 1800. Each of the maps in the Atlas is decorated with a narrative cartouche describing the territory represented in economic, political and historical terms. The maps weave together a moment of history, political interests, and the level of scientific knowledge and understanding of the universe. Engraved by prominent artisans and published by renowned publishers, they can say especially much about their time and its perceptions.

A photo album with the images of sheets of "Russian Atlas consisting of forty three maps and divided into forty one provinces of the Empire..." is posted in the museum Collection Photo Gallery.

We invite you to examine ancient maps of the 17th-18th centuries in the collection section "Maps". The biographies of compilers and publishers of the first maps - Martin Waldseemüller (1470-1520), Johann Christoph Weigel (1654-1725), Joachim Ottens (1663-1719), Johann Baptiste Homann (1664-1724), Alexander Mikhailovich Wilbrecht (1757-1823) and Conrad Malte-Brun (1775-1826) are in the section "Authors". You can be acquainted with the history of Russian cartography in the section "Reviews" – the article "History of the Russian cartography: the key points”.

Welcome to the world of maps!

On the cover: Medallion with plan of Saint Petersburg. Russian Empire, Saint Petersburg. 1790. Illustrated by Deybel. Engraver Johann Christian Nabholz