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ISTANBUL, TURKEY: Plan Général de la Ville de Constantinople. Feuille 1. Stamboul.


This large and highly detailed work is one of the finest Early 20th Century maps of Central Istanbul, made during the French Occupation of that part of city (1918-23), during a great historical turning point, on the eve of the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the birth of the Republic of Turkey.


This large and attractive map features central Istanbul (the Fatih District), which contemporary Europeans referred to as ‘Stamboul’, and which occupies the peninsula between the Sea of Marmara, to the south; the Golden Horn, to the north; the Bosporus, to the east; and the Theodosian Walls, to the west.  In large scale, the city’s numerous great monuments, public buildings, palaces and mosques (notably the Topkapi Palace, Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque) are outlined in bright red, rising out of the elaborate web of ancient streets (the largest of which are labelled), and which weave over the city’s famous seven hills.  Additionally, tramlines, railroads and stations are carefully labelled.  The waters on three sides of the city feature the routes of the ferries, which connected Fatih to Pera-Galata and Üsküdar.


The map features three detailed indexes: ‘I. Catalogue des Rues et Places Principlaes de Stamboul’, being a list of the main streets and squares; ‘II. Liste de Quartiers’, a list of neighbourhoods; and ‘III. Liste des Monuments et Bâtiments’, being a list of monuments and major edifices. 


An interesting detail of the map are the areas labelled ‘quartier incedié’, located in the Sultanahmet area (near the Blue Mosque) and in the central and south central parts of the city.  These refer to the large areas that were burned during two great accidental fires, in 1911 and 1912.  The city, with its narrow streets and buildings largely made of wood, was exceptionally vulnerable to such tragedies, with the blazes only being stopped by the great stone walls that surrounded important buildings.  These fires left over 100,000 people homeless.  The latterly famous Swiss architect, who witnessed the 1911 fire, remarked that “Stamboul was burning like a demonic offering”.  That being said, the tragedies eventually allowed for much of the city to be modernized.


The present map was issued in 1922, during a critical juncture in the history of Istanbul and Turkey, in general.  Following the end of World War I, during which the Ottoman Empire was utterly defeated, European Allied troops occupied Istanbul, starting in November 1918.  France was to occupy Stamboul; Britain was to hold Üsküdar; and Italy was to occupy Pera-Galata.  Istanbul became a den of political intrigue and tension.  Meanwhile, the Treaty of Sèvres (1920) imposed the most severe terms upon the Ottoman Empire; which was to lose all of its foreign territories, while much of Anatolia was to be awarded to Armenia, Kurdistan, French Syria and Greece; while Istanbul was to become a demilitarized zone under Allied protection.  This would leave the former empire as a pathetic rump state. 


This spectre drummed up support for Kemal Mustafa, a brilliant Turkish general, who was the hero of the great Ottoman victory at Gallipoli (1915).  During what became known as the Turkish War of Independence (1919-1923), Mustafa Kemal’s forces gradually reconquered parts of Turkey from the Allies and their affiliates.  During the so-called ‘Chanak Crisis’ of September 1922, it became clear that Kemal’s forces would eventually drive the Allies out of Turkey altogether, and so the Allies sued for peace.  The last Ottoman Sultan (an puppet of the Allies) abdicated in November 1922, and negations led to the Treaty of Lausanne (July 24, 1923).  This accord ensured the territorial integrity of Turkey proper and the creation of a new republic.  Kemal’s Turkish army assumed control of Istanbul on October 6, 1923 and, later that month, the Republic of Turkey was created, under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal, who assumed the name of Atatürk.


The present map is predicated on recent French military surveys and was created at the behest of the Société Anonyme Ottomane D’Études et D’Enterprises Urbaines, a short-lived committee that planned for the renovation of Central Istanbul, backed by the French occupation administration.  The map was issued in Istanbul by the printing house of Guédik-Pacha (Rue Théatre No. 25), as part of a three map set (the other two maps are not included here, but depict Skutari (Üsküdar) and Pera-Galata).


Interestingly, Guédik-Pacha seemed to be very concerned about copyright issues and piracy, as the note which appears on the map: ‘Ces cartes sont mise en ventes…Tous droits reservés’, notes that the blindstamp license (which is located in the upper-left corner of the map) must be present, as should it be not, the map would be counterfeit and libel to seizure by the authorities.


References: OCLC: 756618432.


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