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ARMENIAN WORLD ATLAS / ‘ARMENIAN NATIONAL AWAKENING’: Ատլաս կամ աշխարհացոյց տախտակք Ի պէտս ազգային դպրոցաց / Յօրինեաց եւ ծրագրեաց Հ. Աստուածատուր Վ. Աւագեան ի Մխիթարեան Ուխտէն.

9,500.00

Extremely rare – one of the great milestones of Armenian language cartography, being the first Armenian school atlas and the second ever Armenian world atlas, created by Astvatsatur Avakian, a monk at the Mekhitarist Monastery in Vienna, a beautifully produced work of 21 maps, importantly including one of the earliest maps to depict a proposed future independent state of ‘Armenia’ cleaved out of the Ottoman Empire, a politically incendiary notion and powerful rhetorical device of the ‘Armenian National Awakening’; the maps printed by an extraordinary technique clearly inspired by the Vienna cartographer Franz Raffelsperger.

 

4° (27.5 x 20.5 cm): [2 ff. half title and title, bound in plano], 21 maps lithographed in blue with added black letter punch text and original outline hand colour, all bound in plano (thus all double-page sized); original brown marbled boards with maroon cloth spine (Very Good, internally crisp, half title and title with spotting, maps with resplendent original colours and areas of light spotting; binding with shelf-wear and surface abrasions to covers).

1 in stock

Description

[Atlas or World Map for the National Schools / Devised and Created by Astvatsatur V. Avakian of the Mekhitarist Monastery].

 

This is an important milestone in the history of Armenian language cartography, being the first Armenian school atlas and the second ever Armenian world atlas.  It was created by Astvatsatur V. Avakian, a monk at the Mekhitarist Monastery in Vienna, one of the world’s most important Armenian Catholic missions, and was printed by the monastery’s press.  It is the most comprehensive Armenian atlas made prior to the 20th Century, featuring 21 beautifully rendered maps, including maps of the continents (Europe, Asia, Africa, North America, South America and Australia/Oceania); individual European countries and regions; and, reflecting the particular interests of the Armenian people, a map of ‘Armenia’; two maps of the Ottoman Empire (in Europe and Asia); Persia; and India and Mainland Southeast Asia (curiously it does not, and never did include a World map).  Several of these maps are the earliest, or amongst the earliest, Armenian language maps of the subjects depicted.  The maps are rendered of an artistic style and made by an extraordinary printing technique that shows the strong influence, if not the direct involvement, of the brilliantly original Vienna cartographer Franz Raffelsperger.

Special attention should be given the ‘Armenia’ map, which shows a proposed future independent Armenian state carved out of the territories of the Ottoman Empire and Persia.  The ‘country’ is clearly labelled, with well-defined boundaries outlined in pink watercolour, taking in the heartland of the former Armenian states of ancient times.  This politically incendiary map is a powerful manifestation of the ‘Armenian National Awakening’, the movement which arose in the mid-19th century that sought self-determination for the Armenian people.  Importantly, the map is one of the earliest cartographic works to depict the revival of an independent Armenian state in modern times.

The Mekhitarist Order of Vienna was an organization of the Armenian Catholic Church, that in the 1770s split off from the eponymous order based in Venice.  Its mandate was education, and the well-funded order spent vast resources writing, drafting and translating religious, literary and scientific texts for the intellectual betterment of Armenian children and adults, both in Ottoman Empire and throughout the large Armenian global diaspora.  The monastery assembled one of the finest Armenian libraries in the world, and since 1812 operated a printing press in Vienna to issue its own works (including the present atlas).  The breadth and quality of the press’s production was stellar and the books played a major role in the development and preservation of Armenian culture worldwide, as the transfer of Western European knowledge to the Armenian people.

The present atlas was one of the most technically sophisticated works ever published by the Mekhitarist Monastery of Vienna and was intended to educate Armenian high school students on world geography.  While such knowledge was important to youth of all nationalities, it had partial resonance for Armenians, a people who no longer ruled their homeland (which was then divided under Ottoman, Russian and Persian control), and many of whom lived in diaspora communities all across the world.  It was critical for young Armenians to see where they lived in relation to their ancestral homeland and, given the presence of the ‘Armenia’ map, holding out hope of someday reclaiming their lost country.

The maps within the present atlas, all bound in plano (each measuring 27 x 36 cm), are of a highly attractive artistic style and made by an extraordinary printing technique that is unmistakably inspired by the work of Franz Raffelsperger (1793 – 1861), an eccentric and brilliant boutique Vienna mapmaker.  The maps are made through a combination of lithography (in blue) with all text added in black letterpress, creating a work of elegant visual contrast.  This technique was perfected by Raffelsperger in the 1840s, and was exceedingly difficult to execute, requiring great care and precision.  The technique of combined lithograph-type punch is demanding and unusual, while the style of this technique employed for the maps in the present atlas is so similar to Raffelsperger’s, that it seems likely that the printers working at the Mekhitarist press in Vienna (Mess’rs Astvacacni and Tpagrovatian) were trained by, or worked with, Raffelsperger.  Moreover, the artistic style of the maps, especially the detailing of the blue lines that emphasize the coastlines, is a signature of Raffelsperger’s work.  Indeed, Raffelsperger, who died in 1861, was still very much active in Vienna in the mid-1850s, when the present maps were being prepared.  He is recorded as being highly interested in working with printing fonts of scripts other than Latin, although no such works are known to have been made by him.  The Raffelsperger-Mekhitarist connection is a subject worthy of future academic research.

Cartographically, the maps in the atlas are not based on original mapping; however, as best as we can tell, they are not verbatim copies of European maps, but seem to be adapted from them.  It seems that Avakian was influenced by the maps within the popular German school atlases by Stieler, Sydow and Perthes.

Importantly, the present 1860 edition of the atlas is the second, of two, editions.  The first edition was issued in 1857, and the two issues are identical, save for the alteration of the date of publication and minor amendments to the imprint lines on the lower margins of the maps.

Avakian’s atlas came on the heels of the first Armenian world atlas, which was issued in by the rival Venetian Mekhitarist Order, Hovhannes Amira Dadian’s Ատլաս Աշխարհացոյց պատկերաց, ըստ արքունի աշխարհագրաց Գաղղիոյ, Անգղիոյ, Գերմանիոյ եւ Ռուսաց [Atlas of Geographical Maps The World According to the Old and New Geographies of France, England, Germany and Russia] (Venice, 1849).  While the Dadian atlas was much more grand, being a large folio work, it only included ten maps.  An example of the Dadian atlas sold at auction at Swann Galleries (New York) for $37,500!

The Avakian atlas proved to be a pathfinder, in that it inspired the creation of future Armenian school atlases and geography textbooks, although it would be many years before another Armenian work was produced that featured so many maps.

The author of the atlas, Astvatsatur V. Avakian (Աստուածատուր Վ. Աւագեան), was a monk at the Mekhitarist Monastery in Vienna, active in the 1850s and ‘60s, although not much is known about his biography.  He was evidently a gifted translator and editor, and in addition to the atlas, he is recorded as the author of Զուարճալիք բնապատմութեան [Exploring Natural History] (Vienna, 1854), a textbook for children, and Սկովտիայի Սթուարթեան թագաւորաց եւ առանձինն Մարիամ Սթուարթ թագուհւոյն պատմութիւնը [The Story of the Stuart Kings of Scotland and Queen Mary Stuart] (Vienna, 1861), an entertaining work of popular history.

 

List of Contents (21 Maps):

 

  1. ԵՒՐՈՊԱ. [Europe].

Europe was during the 19th Century a great centre of Armenian culture, fuelled by prosperous diaspora communities and home to many monasteries and printing presses that produced the majority of Armenian books.

 

  1. ԱՍԻԱ. [Asia].

The great majority of Armenians lived in Asia; their homeland was the Armenian Highlands of Eastern Anatolia, while diaspora communities existed in most countries, including Persia, China, Philippines, Singapore and India.

 

  1. ԱՓՐԻԿԷ. [Africa].

A fascinating and detailed map of Africa depicting the continent prior to the ‘Scramble for Africa’; colour coding identifies the various zones of colonial influence of the various European powers.  Egypt was home to thriving Armenian diaspora communities.

 

  1. ՀՅՈՒՍԻՍԱՅԻՆ ԱՄԵՐԻԿԱ. [North America].

This fine map of North America depicts a continent that was to become one of the most important locations of the Armenian diaspora.  The first Armenian to arrive in America was a tobacco trader in 1618, and over the next three hundred years a few small Armenian communities flourished there.  However, the Armenian-American population remained small until after the mass immigration that occurred in the wake of the Armenian Genocide (1915-23).  Today as many as 1.5 million Americans claim Armenian ancestry.  Th map labels the U.S. and Mexican states, as well as the British colonies and the districts of the Hudson’s Bay Company.

 

  1. ՀԱՐԱՎԱՅԻՆ ԱՄԵՐԻԿԱ. [South America].

Armenians had immigrated to South America throughout the colonial times, and eventually formed large communities in Brazil.

 

  1. ԱՒՍՏՐԱԼԻԱ. [Australia].

This attractive and interesting map of Australia, New Zealand and Oceania labels all the Australian colonies and employs colour-coding to identify the areas controlled by the various European powers.  In the 20th Century, Australia would see significant Armenian immigration.

 

  1. ՖՈՐԹՈՒԿԱԼ եւ ՍՊԱՆԻԱ. [Portugal and Spain].

 

  1. ԳԱՂՂԻԱ. [France].

France was an important intellectual centre for the Armenian diaspora, with key communities in Paris and Marseille.  In the late 19th Century, the French Armenian diaspora became a hotbed of the ‘Armenian National Awakening’ and after the Armenian Genocide, Western Europe’s leading Armenian centre.

 

  1. ԱՆԳՂԻԱ. [England].

Britain had a small, but very influential Armenian communities that were critical in providing support for Armenian activities worldwide.

 

10 ԻՏԱԼԻԱ. [Italy].

Italy was long one of the leading centres of Armenian intellectual life, the Armenian Catholic Church was in communion with the Vatican and the Mekhitarist Monastery in Venice was, during the Enlightenment era, the single most important source of Armenian print culture in the world.

 

  1. ԳԵՐՄԱՆԻԱ. [Germany].

While the Armenian communities in the German states were traditionally small, Armenians had strong academic and business ties to German cities and universities.

 

  1. ԱՒՍՏՐԻԱԿԱՆ ՊԵՏՈՒԹԻԻՆ [Austrian Empire].

In the late 18th century the Austrian Empire became one of the leading centres of Armenian culture, due to the foundation of a new branch of the Mekhitarist Order, in Trieste, and then in Vienna.  The Armenians were enthusiastically welcomed by the Habsburgs and the country proved to be an excellent place to raise funds and work on creating educational tools for Armenians worldwide.  It is also notable that Lvov, Galicia (today, Lviv, Ukraine), which during this time a part of the Austrian Empire, was long home to major Armenian community.

 

  1. ԲՐՈՒՍԻԱ. [Prussia].

 

  1. ԲԵՂԳԻԱ, ՀՈԼԼԱՆՏԱ… [Belgium, Holland and the Northwestern German States).

Amsterdam was one of the great centres of Armenian commercial and intellectual life, many books and the first major Armenian language printed map were issued there.

 

  1. ՌՈՒՍԻԱ ԵԻՐՈՊԻԱՅ. [Russia in Europe].

The Russian and the Armenian peoples have very deep cultural connections, and Russia was home to many large, longstanding Armenian diaspora communities.  Most Armenians were also members of the Armenian Orthodox Church, which was closely connected to the main Russian faith.  The Lazarev Institute of Oriental Languages, founded in Moscow, in 1815, was one of the most important global centres of Armenian intellectual discovery, while from 1828 Russia ruled a part of the traditional Armenian homeland (the region around Yerevan), having conquered it from Persia.  During the 19th century and up to World War I, Russia generally supported the Armenian cause within the Ottoman Empire.  The Russian-held Armenian lands became the Armenian SSR in 1920, territory which formed the sovereign Republic of Armenia in 1991.

 

  1. ՅՈՒՆԱՍՏԱՆ եւ ՅՈՒՆԱԿԱՆ ԿՔ. [Greece and the Greek Islands].

Armenians and Greeks had ancient and strong cultural connections, sharing the Christian faith and as well as long histories of struggle for national reawakening against the Ottoman state.  Over 80,000 Armenians sought refuge in Greece in the wake of the Armenian Genocide.

 

  1. ՕՍՄԱՆԵԱՆ ՊԵՏՈՒԹԻԻՆ ԵԻՐՈՊԻԱՅ. [Ottoman Empire in Europe].

This map showcases the Ottomans’ European territories, in the Southern Balkans, which were home to small but longstanding Armenian communities.

 

  1. ՕՍՄԱՆԵԱՆ ՊԵՏՈՒԹԻԻՆ ԱՍԻԱՅ. [Ottoman Empire in Asia].

This important map depicts the populous part of the Ottoman Empire in Asia (being Anatolia, the Levant and Iraq), and embraces almost all of the territories of the Armenian ancestral homeland.  The last independent Armenian state, the Kingdom of Cilia, fell to the Ottomans in 1375, and since then the Armenians lived under foreign rulers.  In the mid 19th century, the vast majority of Armenians lived in the Ottoman Empire.  Many Armenians in rural Eastern Anatolia lived in poverty and had difficult relations with their Turkish and Kurdish neighbours.  Conversely, many of the Armenian communities in the cities, especially in places such as Istanbul, Smyrna (Izmir), Beirut and Aleppo, were prosperous and relatively well integrated into the broader society.  Indeed, during the Tanzimat Era (1839-75), Armenians were accorded full legal rights and by the late 19th century, Armenians were serving at the highest levels of the Ottoman government.  Ironically, during the same period, the regime of Sultan Abdul Hamid II presided over the ‘Hamidian Massacres’ of 1894–96, during which hundreds of thousands of Armenians were murdered in Eastern Anatolia.  As we all know, during World War I, the Young Turk regime turned on the empire’s Armenian communities, enacting the Armenian Genocide (1915-23), which resulted in the deaths of 1.5 million Armenians.  The survivors fled abroad, greatly increasing the size of the of Armenian diaspora, while virtually no Armenians were left in the majority of their traditional homeland.  While the First Republic of Armenia (1918-20) briefly saw the revival of first independent Armenian state in almost 550 years, at the end of the chaos that followed the war, only the Yerevan region was left to the Armenians, forming the Armenian SSR in 1920, a part of the Soviet Union.

 

  1. ՀԱՅԱՍՏԱՆ. [Armenia].

This is the most important map in the atlas, as it is one of the very first maps to depict a proposed future Armenian state, superimposed over a current-day map of Eastern Anatolia and northwestern Persia.  In creating the map, Avakian was clearly inspired by the ‘Armenian National Awakening’, a movement that arose in the mid-19th century, whereby Armenians in the Ottoman Empire sought autonomy.  On a moderate level, the Awaking called for Armenians to be given full civil rights throughout the Ottoman Empire, while Armenians living in areas of a majority Armenian population (in Eastern Anatolia) were to be accorded local self-government within the empire.  During the Tanzimat Era (1839-75) the Sublime Porte enacted liberal reforms that accorded religious minorities (including Armenians) comprehensive civil rights, while playing lip service to granting Armenian communities local autonomy (although this was never enacted).  However, on more radical direction, some Armenians, particularly in the European diaspora, called for the complete succession of the Armenian Highlands of Eastern Anatolia from the Ottoman Empire, so as to create the first independent Armenian nation in almost 500 years.  The zealous elements led to the rise of Armenian militant groups that violently fought the Ottoman state with the view towards obtaining their ultimate objective.  The present map assumes a radical course, as it clearly showcases ‘Armenia’ as being a distinct political entity, carved out of the Ottoman Empire, in Eastern Anatolia and the extreme northwestern corner of Persia.  This ‘country’ features the printed name ՀԱՅԱՍՏԱՆ (‘Armenia’), running across the area, while the ‘national’ boundaries are demarcated in pink manuscript.  The country, roughly centred upon the city of Erzurum, extends down to take in Lake Van and eastwards to western slopes of Mount Ararat, the biblically famous volcanic massif that is the Armenian national symbol.  ‘Armenia’ is show here to take in all of the Ottoman Eyelet (province) of Erzurum and part of the Eyelet of Van.  Curiously, the map does not show ‘Armenia’ to include any of the traditionally Armenian territory that was then held by Russia, this is perhaps in deference to Russia’s support for the Armenian cause.  Covering the heartland of ancient Armenia, including many areas that then had a majority Armenian population, the map is a powerful rhetorical device advocating for the independent Armenian state ‘that could, and should be’.  This is a very different thing than many other maps that show historical Armenia states, in the context of the ancient world, as the present map, superimposed over contemporary space, is not retrospective, but rather forward looking, in a radical way.  Needless to say, while this map could be disseminated without concern in diaspora communities, it would have been considered politically subversive, perhaps even treasonous, in the Ottoman Empire.  One would have to be very careful handing this atlas out to school children in Istanbul or Erzurum, as this map could land one in serious trouble! 20. ՊԱՐՍԿԱՍՏԱՆ, ԱՖՂԱՆԻՍՏԱՆ եւ ՊԵԼՈԻՉԻՍՏԱՆ. [Iran, Afghanistan and Belochistan].

This especially interesting map depicts all of Qajar Persia, along with Afghanistan and the much of what is today Pakistan (then part of British India).  Armenian and Persian history is intimately intertwined, as Persia often ruled all or large portions of the Armenian homeland, at various times over the centuries.  For over 2,000 years large Armenian communities existed all across Persia, and Armenian traders played a major role the imperial economy.  In 1606, Shah Abbas I invited exiled Armenians to build their own city, New Julfa, by Isfahan; it retains its distinct character to the present day.  The Armenian publishing house, founded by Khachatur Kesaratsi, in New Julfa was the first printing press in Persia.

 

  1. ՀՆԴԿԱՍՏԱՆ. [India].

This fine map depicts all of the Indian Subcontinent, plus mainland Southeast Asia.  Armenians had been resident in India since ancient times, often prospering as traders with links to the Silk Road.  During the British colonial period, the Armenian communities of Calcutta, Bombay and Madras were culturally vibrant and commercially prosperous; several of the leading global patrons of the Armenian cause were Indo-Armenians.  In Southeast Asia, Armenians were also well established in centres such as Rangoon and Singapore.

 

A Note on Rarity

The present atlas is extremely rare, it was an expensive production that would have been produced in only a small print run, while school atlases, being exposed to use, have a very low survival rate.

We can definitively trace only 2 institutional examples of the present 1860 edition of the atlas, held by the Fundamental Scientific Library at the National Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Armenia (Yerevan) and the Charents Museum of Literature and Arts (Yerevan); additionally, there is surely an example held by the Mekhitarist Monastery Library in Vienna, although their catalogue in not available online.  The 1857 edition is similarly rare.  Moreover, we cannot trace any sales records for either edition of the atlas.

 

The Foundation of Armenian Culture and the Importance of the Written Word

The Armenians are an ancient people with their own distinct Indo-European language and rich cultural customs.  Their homeland is the Armenian Highlands in Eastern Anatolia, as well as the eastern Caucuses and northeastern Persia.  Historically, the Armenians formed a succession of national states, the first being the Kingdom of Urartu, founded in 860 BC.

Ancient Armenia reached its apogee under King Tigranes II ‘The Great’ (r. 95 -55 BC) of the Artaxiad Dynasty, who ruled a realm that extended from the Levant up to the Caspian, being the strongest power to the east of the Roman Empire.

In 305 AD, during the time of the Arsacid Kingdom, Armenia became the first nation in the world to adopt Christianity as the state region.  In 405 AD, the monk Mestrop Meshtots created the distinct Armenian alphabet.  Even since, Christianity and their language and alphabet have been the cornerstones of Armenians’ national identity.

Armenian national sovereignty was interrupted on several occasions by foreign invasions, variously by the Romans, Persians and Arabs, leading to the rise and fall of various Armenian states.  Even under foreign rule, the Armenians preserved their cultural identity.  As a people who lived off the Silk Road trade, Armenians proved remarkably adaptable to living in foreign lands, often far from home.

The last sovereign Armenian state was the Kingdom of Cilicia (1080 – 1375), which was located outside of the Armenian Highlands, along the coasts of southern Anatolia.  It prospered on maritime trade until it fell to the Ottomans.

Since the fall of Cilicia, most Armenians lived under Ottoman rule, under varying conditions.  At certain times, in some places, the Armenian communities lived in grinding poverty under violent oppression, while in other circumstances Armenians enjoyed great wealth and political influence.

Over the succeeding centuries, Armenian diaspora communities, often connected to the Silk Road, extended all across Eurasia from China to Portugal.  Armenians were often readily accepted in Christian European and its colonies, due to their Christian faith and the fact that that they were highly industrious, making a great contribution to their adopted countries.

 

The Rise and Proliferation of Armenian Printing

As a people whose identity was deeply rooted in Christianity and their own distinct language and alphabet, they treasured the written word, more so than most.  The monasteries of the Armenian Apostolic Church (Oriental Orthodox) and the Armenian Catholic Church (communing with Roman Catholicism), the two branches of Armenian Christianity, were the custodians of the language, developing a rich scriptorial tradition that translated and inscribed religious texts, and on occasion ventured into secular topics.

The first Armenian geographical text, the Աշխարհացոյց [World Mirror], was written between 591 and 610 AD, likely by the mathematician and geographer Anania Shirakatsi.  The churches maintained a vast archipelago of monasteries around the world, which was vital to keeping Armenian cultural alive, especially in the diaspora.

Armenian monks occasionally included maps in their manuscript works that tended to either show historical Armenia’s place in the world or its relationship to the Holy Land.  While these maps were highly stylized, and not particularly scientific, they were often artistically impressive productions.

The Armenian diaspora embraced printing at a fairly early stage, the first book published in Armenian script was the Ուրբաթագիրք [Book of Friday Prayers], issued in Venice in 1512.  Armenian printing houses were set up in Constantinople (1567), Rome (1584), Paris (1633), New Julfa (Isfahan, Persia, 1638), Amsterdam (1660), Izmir (1676), Leipzig (1680), London (1736), Vagharshapat (1771), Madras (1772), Trieste (1776), St. Petersburg (1781), Calcutta (1796), Bombay (1810), Vienna (1812), Moscow (1820), Tblisi (1828), Jerusalem (1833) and New York (1857).

The inclusion of maps published in the Armenian language was relatively slow to come, due to the complex nature of the engraving such complicated graphics.  However, the first such map came in with bang, in the form of Tovmas Vanandetsi‘s Համատարած աշխարհացոյցն [Universal Geography] (Amsterdam, 1695), a grand world map entirely engraved in Armenian characters, but otherwise conforming to Dutch Baroque style.

During the 18th century, Armenian printed cartographic production was confined to small, or folding, maps issued within books, highlights of which include the a World map (Venice, 1747); maps of historical Armenia issued in Venice (1751 and 1784) and Madras (1778); while maps of the continents and the Ottoman Empire appeared within serialized issues of geographical books published in Venice from 1784 to 1791.

 

The Mekhitarist Movement: Leading Armenian Printing and Cartography

At this point, it is important to discuss the Mekhitarist Monastic movement, which played a critical role in Armenian print culture.  As a young man, Mekhitar of Sebaste (1676 – 1749), a native of Sebaste (Sivas, Turkey), became deeply concerned with what he considered to be the backward state of education amongst the Armenian communities in the Ottoman Empire.  He believed the solution was to translate important religious texts, as well as the best and most recent Western books, and to impart the contained knowledge to the people.

Mekhitar was educated in Rome and was ordained an Armenian Catholic priest in 1696.  In 1700, he moved to Constantinople and founded his own monastic movement, attracting a small group of followers.  However, he encountered resistance within the city’s conservative Armenian community and in 1706, he and his followers moved the Morea, Greece where he founded the first ‘Mekhitarist’ monastery.  While not formally a part of the Benedictine Order, the Mekhitarists followed the Benedictine’s rules, and the order was formally recognized by the Vatican in 1712.  However, political upheaval in the region caused the Mekhitarists to, once again, pull up stakes.

In 1717, Mekhitar and his associates were welcomed in Venice, where they were given the island of San Lazzaro to build a new monastery, called the ‘San Lazzaro degli Armeni’.  It became the most important centre of Armenian learning outside of the Ottoman Empire, with the printing press issuing all kinds of magnificent Armenian language educational books.

In 1773, a group of monks at San Lazzaro had a falling out with the head of the order, Abbot Melkhonian.  They left Venice, forming their own independent ‘Mekhitarist’ order in Trieste, then a part of Austria.  Empress Maria Theresa was only too happy to welcome a group of Catholics whose mission was to educate people and promote industriousness.  In 1775, they set up their own press in Trieste, where they issued Armenian books of the high standard as was done in Venice.

In 1810, the Trieste Mekhitarists moved their headquarters to Vienna, the imperial Austrian capital.  Befitting their grand new home, the order became very well financed due to large donations from grandees of the Armenian diaspora.  The monks assembled one of the finest libraries of Armenian manuscripts and printed works in the world, as well a stellar numismatic collection.  In 1812, they established a printing press in Vienna that specialized in high quality educational works.

Meanwhile, the original Mekhitarist Monastery continued to operate in Venice, completely independent of the Vienna order.  Notably, it was the only monastery in Venice that was spared from being decommissioned during Napoleon’s occupation of the city, as the French emperor enormously appreciated its role in education.  The press at San Lazzaro was responsible for the next great leap in Armenian language cartographic printing, Hovhannes Amira Dadian’s Ատլաս Աշխարհացոյց պատկերաց, ըստ արքունի աշխարհագրաց Գաղղիոյ, Անգղիոյ, Գերմանիոյ եւ Ռուսաց [Atlas of Geographical Maps The World According to the Old and New Geographies of France, England, Germany and Russia] (Venice: Monastery of San Lazzaro, 1849).  Including ten large folio maps, this grand work had the distinction of being the first Armenian world atlas.

The next important achievement of cartography in the Armenian language was the present atlas authored by Astvatsatur Avakian and published for the Mekhitarist monastery in Vienna in two virtually identical editions, in 1857 and 1860.  Avakian’s work was the second Armenian world atlas and the first Armenian school atlas; it was also very comprehensive, featuring 21 maps.

The next important work was the Համատարած աշխարհագրութիւնը [General Geography], a school atlas issued in Venice, in 1862, containing 12 maps that were printed in Paris.  The period that followed, saw the proliferation of Armenian language printing, particularly in the Ottoman Empire, issued by popular commercial presses.  Istanbul printers, such as Arşag Agop Boyaciyan (1837 – 1914), became major players on the general Ottoman market and were able to produce large print runs of books with sophisticated graphics, including maps.  For the first time, the Armenian masses in both the Ottoman Empire and the diaspora had access to cartographic works, in the form of geographic textbooks, historical works, wall maps and atlases.

In the heady years leading up to World War I, when the Armenian National Awakening was in full swing, many patriotic maps depicting both historical and a future independent Armenia were made by the diaspora.

The tragedy of the Armenian Genocide (1915-1923), when over 1.5 million Armenians in the Ottoman Empire were killed, caused the majority of the survivors to flee into exile, creating large new diaspora communities in the Americas, Australia, France, the Levant, and Russia.  While the First Republic of Armenia (1918-20) briefly existed as the first sovereign Armenian state in almost 550 years, in the end the Armenians had to settle for the Armenian SSR, part of the Soviet Union, as their only homeland.  These developments led to a great increase in the quantity and diversity of Armenian language cartography, including stellar topographical, thematic and propagandist maps.

In July 2000, the Mekhitarist Orders of Vienna and Venice agreed to ‘bury the hatchet’ after 227 years of separation, merging into a single order.  Today, both the monasteries at San Lazzaro and Vienna remain in full operation, and the library of the Mekhitarist Monastery in Vienna boasts one of the largest and finest Armenian bibliographic collections in the world, with 2,800 manuscripts, 120,000 books and 70,000 volumes of magazines.

References: National Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Armenia (Yerevan) – Fundamental Scientific Library: AIV/19; Johannes DÖRFLINGER and Helga HÜHNEL, Atlantes Austriaci: Österreichische Atlanten, 1. Band: 1561-1918 (Vienna: Böhlau Verlag, 1995), Mech / Awa A 2 (pp. 703-4).

 

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