Historical Background of the Maps
Today many people forget that the Austrian Empire (from 1867, Austria-Hungary) was once a significant maritime power. For 800 years, it had window on the Mediterranean, possessing the port of Trieste, which occupied a uniquely advantageous position, being at the head of the Adriatic with close proximity the heart of Europe. Austria’s maritime position improved in the wake of the Napoleonic Wars, when it gained control of the entire coast so Dalmatia, Istria and the Veneto.
In 1833, Austrian Llyod (Der Österreichische Lloyd) was founded in Trieste and quickly rose to become one of the world’s best run and most successful shipping lines. Its advantage increased upon the completion of the Südbahn, which connected Trieste by rail to Europe’s major industrial centres.
The Imperial Austrian Navy also gained great global prestige when Admiral Wilhelm von Tegetthoff scored a resounding victory over the Italian Navy at the Battle of Lissa (Vis) on July 20, 1866.
The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, a project which was significantly backed by the Trieste tycoon Pasquale Revoltella, represented a great leap forward for Austrian Lloyd. Trieste and Fiume (today Rijeka, Croatia) became the major European ports with the best interface for traffic running through the Suez to the industrial heartland of Europe. A sharp increase in Asiatic trade flowed through these ports and Austrian Lloyd’s Trieste-Bombay route became one of the most important in the world.
With the realization of the Suez Canal, the Red Sea became one of the world’s most important shipping lanes. Yet, its waters were famously treacherous, full of hidden reefs, lethal currents and winds and complicated harbour approaches. International mariners had generally relied upon sailing directions and charts made by the Royal Navy; however, these sources, while high quality, naturally had a bias towards British priorities and had a few blind spots. However, Corvette Captain Wilhelm Kropp of the Imperial Austrian Navy was determined to fill-in some of blanks.
Captain Kropp had the opportunity to extensively explore the Red Sea as the commander of the Austrian navy cannon boast SMS Narenta, resulting in a article, published in 1872 in the German language as an article entitled ‘Beschriffung des rotten Meers’, within an The book was published in the Italian language for the benefit of the Dalmatian and Istrian sailors who made up the majority of Austro-Hungarian merchant mariner and naval personnel; it is labelled on the title as the ‘Versione italiana dall‘edizione originale tedesca’. It was published in Fiume for the local government maritime authority (then Hungary’s premier port, today Rijeka, Croatia) by the local print shop of the Stabilimento Tipo-Litografico Fiumano di Emidio Mohovich (Mohović).
The following uncoloured map is exceedingly similar to those published in the book, although not printed from the same plates. They were issued separately, possibly to be used on boats as functional maps, meant to be annotated or / and mounted in ships’ logs.
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