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Gigantic Wall Map of Istanbul



Circa 185 x 130 cm (72 x 50 inches), lithograph in colour, printed from two originally joined plates, originally mounted on linen with wooden rollers. With contemporary annotations in pencil and pen.


A rare gigantic wall map of Fatih in the European Part of Istanbul is the first official survey project of the city, made in the newly founded Republic of Turkey.



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This gigantic map of Fatih, today a part of Istanbul famous for its historical monuments, was made as a part of the first official survey of the city. It was issued as a part of a set of three maps, each one representing one part of Istanbul. The maps were made for the offices in various parts of the city and were only rarely used together. Our example is annotated with contemporary plans for modernization after the great fire.

The map concentrates on urban and topographic details of the city. Marked are the names of every street, public buildings, mosques, green spaces, roads, steps, walls, water surfaces, distances and elevation. Each square or the grid represents 100 m in length and 100 m in with, so 1 hectare, and each contour line 2 meters of elevation. The distances were according to the legend measured from the Galata Tower, the highest point on the city, overlooking all three parts of Istanbul.

A large part of Fatih is left unmarked and with only improvised street lines, as the area was still largely destroyed by the fire of 1912. The manuscript annotations on our map, show plans for larger streets and expose the elevations of larger hills in the area.
According to the imprint the maps were commissioned by the City of Istanbul and published by the Turkish Development and Construction Inc. Due to their enormous impractical size and technical details they were almost certainly mostly used in the governmental institutions.

In 1922, the same firm issued similar maps of more practical format in French language, possibly intended for the foreign firms, insurance companies and other non-Ottoman speaking people of Istanbul. They lack the technical details of the slightly latter Ottoman maps and mostly concentrate on the practical details.

These French maps were as our larger Ottoman versions printed on three sheets (please ckick here for one example housed in the David Rumsey Map Collection: Plan Général De La Ville De Constantinople. Feuille 1. Stamboul – David Rumsey Historical Map Collection), but there was also a one-sheet version made (Harvard Image ).
The map is not dated, but was published between late 1923 and 1928. At least two details help dating the map. The publisher Keşfiyat ve İnşaat Türk Anonim Şirketi (Turkish Development and Construction Inc.), signed on our maps was only renamed from Keşfiyat ve İnşaat Osmanli Anonim Şirketleri (Ottoman Development and Construction Inc.) in the late 1923, after the declaration of the Turkish Republic on October 1923.

Also the part south of Hagia Sofia, which is on the map of 1922 by the same publisher still shown as demolished by the fire, is almost entirely rebuilt on our map.
The upper date, when the maps could be published is 1928, after which Turkey changed the script to Latin characters. In the same year Turkish Development and Construction Inc. was transferred to Ahmet Ari Firm.

Survey of Istanbul in the 1920s and Triangulation from the Galata Tower
After WWI, Istanbul desperately needed a new survey. Part of the city was still destroyed in the fire, people and new investors were immigrating massively in and out of the metropole and infrastructure desperately needed modernization.

Especially groundbreaking was the year 1923, when Turkey became an independent republic and moved the capital to Ankara. Many state offices were moved and governmental buildings needed to be rearranged.

Major factors, which were also calling for the reorganization of the infrastructure of Istanbul were secularization of the state, which changed the purpose of many Islamic buildings, and major demographic shifts, bringing new inhabitants, especially from parts of post-Revolution Russia.

The contemporary maps, such as the 15 sheet detailed tourist map of Necip Bey, printed in 1918, but only published in 1924 by Ahmed Ishan, was useless from the urban point of view, as it failed to show the topography of Istanbul with its hills and exceedingly steep streets.

These maps tried to show various aspects of Istanbul, important for further urban planning. They joined the information of previous and contemporary maps, older surveying of streets for insurance maps, 1918-1919 German surveys of Istanbul streets, which were issued on gigantic sheets, today called Alman mavileri (German

Blueprints often wrongly translated as German Blues) and the latest topographic measurements of Istanbul, made with triangulation from the highest point in the city – the Galata Tower.

The first triangulations from the Galata Tower were made by French in 1911 and were followed by Germans during WWI. The data on the legends of our maps states, that the distances for the maps have been measured from this tall monument.
All these details, showcasing the complex geographical and urban structure on the three parts of Istanbul, make these 1920s maps by the Turkish Development and Construction Inc. unique and most probably one of the most detailed wall maps of this magnificent city.

Note on Rarity

The survival rate of these maps is exceedingly low, as they were made in the mid 1920s, on the eve, when in 1928, Turkish Republic changed the official script to Latin characters, making them legally unusable for the governmental offices.

Underappreciated for their size and Ottoman language, which was often frowned upon in the next decades, they would be soon thrown away or would only survive rolled away for decades in dusty corners and attics. They only appear on the market sporadically, usually in a bad condition.

The complete set of the three maps is difficult to find, as they were probably also originally rarely acquired together, as an office of one part of the large city would not need a map of another part.

References: Cf. Hicran Topçu, A Historic-Contextual Approach for the Identification of Built Heritage in Historic Urban Areas: Case of Galata District in Istanbul a Thesis Submitted to the Graduate School of Natural and Applied Sciences of Middle East Technical University, 2004 (page_i.DOC (metu.edu.tr)); İrfan Dağdelen, Alman mavileri, 1913-1914. 1. Dünya Savaşı öncesi İstanbul haritaları, 2016.

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