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ATLAS – MISSIONS IN AFRICA AND CHINA: Karten über das Arbeitsfeld der Berliner Mission.



A very rare atlas made by the Berlin Missionary Society, one of the most important missionary organizations in Africa and China during the 19th and early 20th Centuries, featuring 16 original maps made by missionary cartographers, including important figures such as Alexander Merensky and Bernhard Struck, containing 14 maps of South and East Africa and 2 maps of China; plus, this example extra-illustrated with 2 additional maps; an ephemeral post-WWI work published around 1921 in Berlin.


1 in stock


4° Atlas (31.5 x 23.5 cm / 12.5 x 9.25 inches): 12 pp. featuring 16 monochrome maps, plus 1 additional map lightly affixed to the inside of back cover and 1 additional map inserted loose-leaf; in original printed grey card wrappers, stapled; 6 of the maps with contemporary manuscript additions (Very Good, internally clean, some marginal spots to covers, slightly worn at spine).



This is a very rare atlas depicting locations in South Africa, East Africa and China, concerning the field operations of the Berliner Missionsgesellschaft (BMG) [Berlin Missionary Society], one of the most important Protestant organizations in these lands.  The atlas proper features sixteen maps, of which fourteen concern Africa, and of which several of the maps were drafted by important figures such as Alexander Merensky, a leading cartographer of the Transvaal, and Bernhard Struck, a famous ethnographer and anthropologist.  Many of the maps are highly detailed and future information available nowhere else.


The present atlas was published for the BMG in the wake of World War I, when the society was still very much active in Africa and China, but had to swim against the currents caused by Germany’s loss during World War I.  While the content of the maps are stellar, the atlas is printed in a cheap manner, with simple printing on basic paper, owing to the difficult post-war conditions in Berlin; this gives the work a curious ephemeral feel.


While the atlas and its cartography have never been researched, it seems that most of the maps featured in the atlas were originally printed as separately issued maps, to be inserted into missionaries’ diaries.  The Extra Additional Map B (described following), inserted in the present example of the atlas, is an original 1910 edition of the same map that was re-issued within the atlas just over a decade later (as Map no. 14 below). 


The BMG Archive in Berlin features collections of the very rare separately issued versions of the maps that appear with the atlas.  It seems that the present atlas was issued as an anthology of the BMG’s regional operational maps, preserving this valuable cartographic record during a difficult time for the society.


A Note on Rarity


The present atlas seems to have been issued in only a very small print run during the difficult post-WWI period in Berlin.  We can trace only 3 examples of the atlas in institutions (2 in Germany; 1 in South Africa).


The Berlin Missionary Society: Playing a Transformative Role in the History of South and East Africa


Missionaries, especially in frontier regions of Africa, Asia and the Americas, had long played an outsized role in cartography.   As people often possessing a scientific education who visited places that others either feared or thought not economically or politically advantageous to visit, missionaries were often on the forefront of surveying and reconnaissance.  Notably, the Jesuits’ contribution to the mapping of South America, Canada, China, amongst other reams, was transformative, creating many of the base maps used for generations.  More recently, the most famous explorer/cartographer of Central Africa, David Livingstone, was a missionary, as were many of the people who created the first modern maps of other key regions of the continent.

The Berliner Missionsgesellschaft (BMG), known in English as the Berlin Missionary Society, was formed in 1824, and followed a long line of Lutheran Pietist missionary organizations that operated overseas.  Lavishly funded by Prussian aristocrats, the BMG had lofty ambitions to convert hundreds of thousands of people in Africa, and later China, to Christianity.  Their goal was to spread the gospel in native languages, and this required their missionaries to master different tongues and to publish pioneering works in various African and Chinese dialects.  True to their Germanic roots, the BMG missionaries also maintained a keen interest in scientific discovery and cartography.


The BMG first trained missionaries for overseas service in 1829.  The organization initially decided to focus upon South Africa, as they had close ties to other Protestant societies already established there, such as the London Missionary Society.  Many BMG members also had close links to Afrikaner communities (a significant percentage of Afrikaners were German). 

The first BMG members arrived in South Africa in 1833.  Over the next generation, the Society progressively established missions in the frontier regions of the Cape Colony and the Orange Free State.  Its operations intensified after 1859, benefitting from the active support of the Boer republics.  By the 1860s the BMG was the most important non-governmental agency in many areas of the interior of South Africa, providing schooling, healthcare and shelter to thousands of students and converts. 


The Society’s membership consisted of many scientists and cartographers of note.  The missionary Alexander Merensky (1837-1918), who arrived in the Transvaal in 1860, was a world class cartographer, who created some of the era’s finest maps of the region, such as the Original Map of the Transvaal or South-African Republic (Berlin, 1875) and Original Map of South Africa: containing all South African Colonies and Native Territories (Berlin, 1884).

The BMG was placed in a difficult situation by both of the Anglo-Boer Wars (1880-1; 1999-1902), as many of its members sympathized with the Afrikaners, yet had to be careful not to offend the ultimately victorious British regime. 


The BMG continued to expand its activities in South Africa until 1914, upon the advent of World War I.  While the British did not expel the German missionaries (as they did vital work, and showed no outward signs of aiding the German cause), the Society had to maintain a ‘low profile’.  In the wake of the war, they continued their activities, but with somewhat less vigour. 

Meanwhile, in 1869, the BMG commenced operations in China, making the Canton region (Guangdong), a popular theatre for proselytization activities.  In 1896, Germany declared the Qingdao region, in eastern Shandong province, a German sphere of interest, and soon the area became a major BMG base.

From 1903, the Society expanded its operations into German East Africa (Tanganyika).  In the wake of World War I, the British, who had taken over Tanganyika, discouraged German missionary activities in the colony, and their operations declined, before being entirely shut down during World War II.

In South Africa, the BMG managed to weather World War II, with Afrikaner support, and continued their operations under the Apartheid regime that assumed power in 1948.  However, the BMG’s close ties to the Afrikaners and their muted criticism of their racist policies, naturally discredited the Society in the eyes of their largely Black parishioners.  The BMG waned until it ceased operations in South Africa in 1972.

The BMG still survives to the present day as part of the Evangelical Church Berlin-Brandenburg-Silesian Upper Lusatia (Evangelische Kirche Berlin-Brandenburg-schlesische Oberlausitz – EKBO).  Its supports overseas charitable activities, while its stellar archive (including innumerable maps) remains well preserved as a treasure trove for scholars.


The Atlas’s Maps in Focus



Alexander MERENSKY (1837 – 1918).


Die Stationen der Berliner Missionsgesellschaft in Südafrika.


Full Page, with contemporary manuscript additions in crayon and pencil.


This map features all of South Africa noting the numerous locations of the Berlin Missionary Society’s missions.  The map was made by Alexander Merensky, a BMG missionary, who was one of the most esteemed cartographers of the Transvaal.  The map features copious contemporary manuscript additions, likely added by a member of the Society, noting the various synods of the BMG.




Gebeit der Berliner Mission in der Kap-Kolonie und Kafferland.

No date, Full page.


This is a detailed map of the Cape Colony that showcases the locations of the various BMG missions and outposts.





Die Stationen im südwestlichen Kapland.

No date, Half-page.


This half-page map of the Cape Colony shows the locations of the missions of other societies affiliated with the BMG, including the Rhenish Missionary Society and the Brüdergemeine society.




Die Missionsstationen in Kafferland und Natal.

No date, Half-page.


This half-page map depicts the BMG missions in the Eastern Cape and south-western Natal.




Gebeit der Berliner Mission in der engl. Kolonie Natal.

No date, Full page.


This is a detailed map of Natal, featuring the locations of BMG missions and outposts.




Gebeit der Berliner Mission in dem Oranje Freistaat und auf dem Diamant Felde.

No date, Full page.


This detailed map of the Orange Free State and the Vaal River borderland of the Cape Colony, including the legendary Diamond fields and the city of Kimberly, reveals the locations of the Society’s missions and outposts.  The BMG was a powerful element of society in the Orange Free State, enthusiastically backed by the Afrikaner community.




Die Missionsstationen in Oranje-Freistaat.

No date, Half-page.


This half-page map focuses on the BMG stations in the Orange Free State.




Stationen in Transvaal.

No date, Half-page, with contemporary manuscript underlining in crayon.


This map depicts the BMG stations in the Transvaal.




Gebeit der Berliner Mission in Süd-Transvaal mit Waterberg.

No date, Full page.


This highly detailed map, likely after Alexander Merensky’s cartography, showcases the southern Transvaal, including the vital Witwatersrand area with Johannesburg and Pretoria, and depicts the locations of BMG missions and outposts.




Gebeit der Berliner Mission in Nord-Transvaal.

No date, Full page.


This map, also likely after Alexander Merensky’s cartography, depicts the northern part of the Transvaal, with its BMG missions and outposts.





Die farbigen Volksstämme in Süd-Afrika.

No date, Half-page.


This is an intriguing ethnographic map of South Africa made by Pastor Eduard Kittlaus, a senior BMG administrator, who played a key role in the Society’s publishing activities.  It provides a great amount of detail with respect to the ethno-linguistic groups, or tribes, in eastern South Africa, while curiously referring to the people in the Western Cape as ‘Bastards’, a politically incorrect alternative name for the ‘Hottentots’.



Bernhard STRUCK (1888 – 1971).


Die Berliner Mission in Njassaland (Konde-und Hehe-Synoden).

March 1910.

Half-page, details contemporarily underlined in crayon.


This interesting map showcases what was then German Nyassaland, located at the head of Lake Malawi, today comprising the Mbeya and Njombe regions of Tanzania.  In great detail, it depicts the locations of the numerous BMG missions in the region.  The map was drafted by Bernhard Struck, then a graduate student, who would later became one of Germany’s preeminent ethnographers sand anthropologists.  While never a member of the BMG, he travelled in the same academic circles in Berlin as many of the Society’s principals.



Bernhard STRUCK (1888 – 1971).


Die Berliner Mission in Usaramo.

July 1909.

Third of a page, details contemporarily underlined in crayon.


This small map, drafted by Bernhard Struck, depicts the BMG missions in the Dar-es-Salaam area of German East Africa (Tanzania).



Bernhard STRUCK (1888 – 1971).


Missionskärtchen des Südlichen Ostafrika zur Uebersicht der Arbiet der Berliner Missionsgesellschaft

April 1910.

Two-thirds of a page, some details contemporarily underlined in crayon.


This map, by Bernhard Struck, depicts most of East Africa (today’s Tanzania, Malawi, Northern Mozambique, Southern Kenya, Rwanda and Burundi, etc.), and details the locations of all the mission of the various Protestant societies operating in the region, including all the German and British organizations.





Die Stationen der Berliner Mission in Süd-China.


Full page, details contemporarily underlined in crayon.


This map, drafted in 1921 by Eduard Kittlaus, in the wake of World War I, depicts the central part of Guangdong province of China, with Guangzhou and the Pearl Delta, plus Hong Kong and Macau.  It depicts the various missions and outposts of the BMG, which had been established in the region since 1869.





Die Missionsfeld der Berliner Mission in Ost-Shantung.


Map, 20 x 26 cm (8 x 10 inches).


This map, by Eduard Kittlaus, drafted on the eve of World War I, depicts the region around the city of Tsingtao (Qingdao), in Shandong Province, that from 1898 to 1914 was de facto German colony.  The map depicts the locations of all the Christian missions in the region.


Extra Additional Maps Added to the Atlas:



[Untitled German Map of China].

No date, Full page, loosely pasted down to inside of back cover of atlas.


This map is an addition to the atlas that is not called for; it is loosely pasted down to the inside of the back cover.  It depicts all of the Chinese Empire seemingly shortly before World War I.



Bernhard STRUCK (1888 – 1971).


Missionskärtchen des Südlichen Ostafrika zur Uebersicht der Arbiet der Berliner Missionsgesellschaft

April 1910.

Map, printed on thin, dull orange paper, 22.5 x 15.5 cm (9 x 6 inches).


This map, loosely inserted into the atlas by the back cover, is the original separately issued version of Map. No. 14 above, but here printed on thin, dull orange paper.  It seems that most of the maps in the present atlas were first printed this way in the period before World War I, before being reissued as a part of the atlas around 1921. 


References: Zentralbibliothek der Landeskirche der Evangelischen Kirche Berlin-Brandenburg-schlesische Oberlausitz (EKBO) und Bibliothek des Berliner Missionswerkes (BMG): M3 2019/123; Kirchliche Hochschule Bethel (Bielefeld, Germany): Fb 321; University of South Africa (Muckenleuk Campus, Pretoria): 266.410233 BERL; J.W. HOFMEYR, History of the Church in Southern Africa: A Select Bibliography of Published Material to 1980, vol. I (Pretoria: University of South Africa, 1986), p. 565.


Additional information


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