Chromolithograph, dissected into 16 sections and mounted upon original linen, folding into original plain red card covers (Good, light even toning, some areas of minor foxing mainly to peripheral areas, some discreet contemporary manuscript additions in pencil, covers worn), 80 x 59 cm (31.5 x 23 inches).
This very rare and attractive map, printed in St. Petersburg, depicts the Russian Empire as it appeared in the mid-1860s, during a critical period in the country’s history. The composition consists of two principal parts: the upper two thirds is dominated by Карта Европейской Россіи 1866, a Map of European Russia, 1866; while the lower third features a map of Asiatic Russia and Russian America (Alaska), Карта Азіятской Россіи Россійско-Американскихъ Владѣнй.
The entire national overview, extending through both main maps, shows the empire divided into the various oblasts and guberniyas, each distinguished by their own colours, with their capital cities marked in bold.
European Russian embraces Finland, the Baltic countries and much of Poland and extends south beyond the Caucuses to embrace Azerbaijan. Interestingly, it grants a very fine overview of the empire’s rapidly expanding railway system. Lines marked in bold lines are routes already completed, while chequered lines are routes under construction, while intermittent lines are planned routes. The anchor of the network was the St. Petersburg-Moscow Railway, built between 1842 and 1851. The next major project was the St. Petersburg-Warsaw Railway, completed between 1851 and 1862, which, in turn was linked to Vienna by 1866, the year that this map was issued. Important lines then under construction included the line from Moscow to Kiev, while planned lines were intended to extend the network’s reach down to the Black Sea. Other important planned routes variously traversed the Urals and the Caucuses.
Below, the map of Asiatic Russia and Russian America shows the empire as extending eastward halfway around the globe. Evident in the southwestern part of Asiatic Russia are the newly-acquired regions of the Primorsky Krai and Sakhalin Island, ceded to Russia by China, with the great Pacific port of Vladivostok (founded in 1860). Russian America (Alaska) is shown as still being a part of the empire, just a year before the territory was sold to the United States. The composition is completed by the fine inset city plans of St. Petersburg and Moscow.
The present map was issued during a critical time in the history of Russia. The reign of Czar Alexander II (ruled 1855-81) saw momentous change. Coming out of Russia’s defeat in the Crimean War (1853-6), Russia experienced a railway and mining boom that fueled economic growth and urbanization. The czar liberated the serfs, in a process that commenced in 1861, ushering in a momentous social transformation. At the Treaty of Nanking (1860), Russia managed to acquire vast lands in the Far East that gave it ice-free harbours along the Pacific, making it a true Trans-Eurasian power, while shortly thereafter ridding itself of Alaska, its expensive and troublesome American territory.
The present map is very rare – we have not been able to locate another example. It was issued in St. Petersburg by a boutique printer, A. Elbek, of whom little is known. Judging by his name, he appears to be of Danish origin (the city then had a large Scandinavian population). The quality of the lithography is quite high, indicative of the fact that the printing industry in the Russian capital had reached a high level of sophistication by this time.