During the Italo-Turkish War (September 29, 1911 to October 18, 1912) Italy, as an aspiring, industrialized major power, sought to take advantage of the weakness of the Ottoman Empire, the ‘Sick Man of Europe’, by invading its last remaining African possession, Libya. The Italians employed the most modern technology (including airplanes and Guglielmo Marconi’s wireless device) and were able to seize Tripoli, Benghazi and Tobruk with relative ease. However, the Ottomans and local Arab and Berber peoples, most notably the Senussi, mounted an effective guerilla war that prevented the Italians from taking the countryside. Eventually, however, the Ottomans were forced to withdraw owing to their weak logistics. The Italians were thus given formal title to Libya; however, they always had difficulty controlling the countryside, a state of play that would continue until the fall of the their regime in World War II.
The present work is a grand patriotic extravaganza, made early in 1912, that seeks to ‘pump up’ Italian support for the war. It was made by the Societá editoriale milanese, and was sold alongside copies if the Settimana illustrata, a weekly news magazine. The beautiful map shows the landscape of the most populous, or northern /coastal, regions of Libya, being Tripolitania and Cyrenaica, noting cities and topographical features. The placement of the tricolore flags shows that the Italians had succeeded in taking many of the major coastal cities, with all the other places, marked by the banner of the Ottoman crescent, were still in Turkish hands. Above, surrounded by tricolore banners are portraits the seven top Italian commanders of the campaign, including Lieutenant General Carlo Caneva, the Governor of Tripoli. Straddling the portraits is a calendar for the year 1912.
Virgin examples of the map had an additional series of Italian flags in the right-hand margin that could be cut out and placed upon the map to mark ‘future Italian victories’, but here these flags have been trimmed away.
The map is a rare ephemeral piece; we can locate only a single institutional example, held by the Library of Congress.
References: Library of Congress: G8263.T33S1 1913 .N8; OCLC: 1008771819.