This intriguing and highly unusual work epitomizes the Late Enlightenment obsession with eccentric intellectual theories about history and the contemporary state of the world, as Europe and many of its colonies were destabilized by the Napoleonic Wars. Written by the brilliant, yet mercurial, Prussian army officer and man of letters Johann Jakob Otto August Rühle von Lilienstern, the text takes the reader on a wonderfully weird journey through hieroglyphs, philosophy, science and historical vignettes to arrive at an understanding of the world. He lends curious insights into the state of relations between the great powers, particularly involving issues between Britain, India and France, during a time of extreme tension and uncertainty.
The highlight of the book is perhaps the large World map (58.5 x 71.5 cm), Beide Hemisphaeren der Erdoberflaeche auf einem Blatte dargestellt von R. v. L. / Dresden 1807 (printed in Berlin by C. Stein), engraved on thick paper and adorned with resplendent colours.
While the book spends a great deal of time explaining the map, it is often not present with the book, and was perhaps often issued separately (it was published in Berlin, while the book was issued in Dresden/Leipzig).
The map depicts the world on a very unusual oblique double-elliptical projection and showcases the political state of the world during the Napoleonic Wars. The lovely bright hues colour-code the parts of the world dominated by the various great powers during the era of the Napoleonic Wars. It is important to note that France is shown to rule much of continental Europe, while the former colonial empire of the Netherlands (ex. Indonesia, Suriname) is controlled by France and Britain (Cape Colony). The colour-coding is as follows: Spain (light grey); France (purple); Prussia (dark orange); Austria (yellow); Britain (reddish-brown); Russia (mid-orange); China (mid-grey); Persia (pink); Portugal (light orange); North America (i.e., the United States, steel grey); Sweden-Denmark (green); and No Man’s Land (light orange).
Johann Jakob Otto August von Lilienstern: Intellectual Soldier in the Age of the Napoleonic Wars
Johann Jakob Otto August Rühle von Lilienstern (1780 – 1847) was a senior Prussian army officer (eventually a Lieutenant General) and intellectual, of a mercurial and eccentric temperament. Born to a well-off military family in Berlin, he joined the Cadet Corps, but contemplated quitting the army as his personality was unsuited to military discipline. However, he soon came under the wing of generals von Geusau and Scharnhorst who recognized him as one who is “distinguished by ability, knowledge and diligence”, arranging for him to attend the Academy for Officers, in 1801, from which he graduated.
He was a stellar draftsman, and worked in the Royal Plan Chamber, making maps and elevations, and was given wide latitude by his superiors to study mathematics, natural sciences, philosophy, politics and the music.
In 1806, he joined the staff of the Duke of Hohenlohe, leading him to write an important record of the days before Berlin fell to Napoleon, Bericht eines Augenzeugen von dem Feldzuge der während den Monaten September und October 1806 unter dem Commando des Fürsten von Hohenlohe-Ingelfingen gestandenen Königl. preußischen und kurfürstl. sächsischen Truppen (Tübingen, 1807).
Waylaid after the defeat of Prussia, he lived in Dresden for a time, where he pursued his literary activities fulltime, resulting in the present work. There he befriended many important intellectuals, including the esteemed poet, dramatist and journalist Heinrich von Kleist. In Saxons, he aslo developed a friendship with the French General Count Bernadotte (later the King of Sweden).
Lilienstern later returned to active service, distinguishing himself as a member of the staff of the legendary Field Marshal von Blücher. Towards the end of the Napoleonic Wars, he became the Chief of the General Staff to the military governor of the Rhine Provinces. After the conflict, he moved to Berlin to work in military education, in 1835 promoted to Lieutenant General and becoming the Director of the General War School.
A Note on Editions and Rarity
The present example is of the first edition, published in 1809; a second edition was printed in 1811 by the same publisher.
Both editions of the work are very rare. We can trace 7 institutional examples of the present first edition, with only a single example outside of Germany. We cite holdings at the Bibliothèque nationale de France; Stadtbibliothek zu Berlin; Bayerische Staatsbibliothek; Universitäts- und Stadtbibliothek Köln; TU Darmstadt, Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek; Staatliche Bibliothek Ansbach; and the Bibliothek der Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München.
As for sales records, we can trace 3 examples (but only 2 complete with the map) as appearing on the market in the last 15 years.
References: Stadtbibliothek zu Berlin: 4″ Nq 13448; Bayerische Staatsbibliothek: 4 Pol.g. 119 m; Bibliothèque nationale de France: Z-6785; Universitäts- und Stadtbibliothek Köln: AB038; TU Darmstadt, Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek; Signatur: 31/2813; OCLC: 1144274397; Deutsche Biographie (online), ‘Rühle v. Lilienstern: Johann Jakob Otto August’: https://www.deutsche-biographie.de/sfz77324.html .