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RUSSIAN EMPIRE IN EUROPE – FIRST SCIENTIFIC GEOLOGICAL MAP: Геологическая Kарта Европейской Россіи изданная Геологическимъ Комитетомъ 1892. = Carte géologique de la Russie d’Europe éditée par le comité géologique 1892.


Alexander Petrovich KARPINSKY [Александр Петрович КАРПИНСКИЙ] (1847 – 1936). / Sergei Nikolaevich NIKITIN (1851 – 1909). / Feodosy Nikolayevich CHERNYSHEV (1856 1914). / Nikolai Alekseevich SOKOLOV (1856 – 1907). / Aleksander MICHALSKI (1855 1904) et al.

St. Peterburg: A. Ilyin’s Cartographic Establishment, 1892.


Colour lithograph printed on 6 sheets but here joined and mounted upon mid-20th century linen, with green edging and mid-20th century wooden rollers (Very Good, lovely colours, some small closed tears in upper and lower parts but with no loss), 167 x 140.5 cm (65.5 x 55.5 inches).


A great landmark in the history of geology, being the rare first edition of the first comprehensive scientific general geological map of European Russia, a colossal and resplendently coloured work predicated upon a composite of extremely high-quality regional surveys, edited and integrated by the preeminant Russian mining engineer and geologist Alexander Petrovich Karpinsky, under the auspices of the Russian Geological Committee, published in St. Petersburg by the leading firm of A. Ilyin’s Cartographic Establishment.

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This grand composition is the first general geological map of the European domains of the Russian Empire predated upon comprehensive scientific surveys.  It was compiled by the country’s premiant geologist, Alexander Petrovich Karpinsky, under the auspices of the Russian Геологический комитет [Geological Committee].  With bilingual (Russian-French) text, the map was published in St. Peterburg by Russia’s premier commercial map house, A. Ilyin’s Cartographic Establishment.


Employing vibrant hues, as explained in the Объясненіе Кпаскъ [Explanation of Colours], in the lower corners, the map identifies 45 geological zones, grouped into several geological periods (some archaic) such as Quaternary, Tertiary, Cretaceous, Jurassic, Triassic, Permian, Carboniferous, Devonian, Silurian.  The geological profile is especially complex and diverse in the Caucasus and the Ural Mountains, which divided Europe from Asia, the latter being then by far and away Russia’s greatest source of metals (platinum, gold, silver, copper, iron, etc.), and indeed one of the most important mining regions in the world.


The work is a composite map, being a carefully fitted collage of a series of high-quality regional scientific geological surveys, as revealed in the ‘Составители карты’ / ‘Auteurs de la Carte’ [Authors of the Map], lower left.  The editor/compiler of the map, Alexander Petrovich Karpinsky, was responsible for the geological mapping of St. Petersburg, Novgorod, Pskov, Estonia, Latvia, Courland, Kaunas, Vilnius, Minsk, Volhynia, the areas east of Urals below 60° North and the trans-Ural regions of Perm and Orenburg.


Sergei Nikolaevich Nikitin (1851 – 1909), who was, after Karpinsky, the leading Russian geologist, mapped Tver, Yaroslavl, Kostroma, Smolensk Moscow, Vladimir, Nizhny-Novgorod, Kazan, Kaluga, Tula, Ryazan, Orel, Kursk, Voronezh, Tambov, Saratov, Simbirsk, Penza, Samara, Ufa (southeastern part), Orenburg (eastern part), Astrakhan, Uralian Province, and the Don Province (northern part).


Feodosy Nikolayevich Chernyshev (1856 – 1914) geologically charted Northern European Russian (Archangel, Olonets, Vologda, Vyatka), Perm (eastern part), Ufa (east of the Urals and the Arctic part).  Nikolai Alekseevich Sokolov (1856 – 1907) mapped Podolia, Bessarabia, Mogilev, Chernigov, Kyiv, Poltava, Kherson, Kursk (southeastern part), Kharkiv, Dnipro, Crimea, Stavropol and Don Province (south and central parts).


Aleksander Michalski (1855 1904) and others geologically surveyed Poland, part of Astrakhan, the Caucuses, Finland, Urals (the parts between 60° and 65° North), the Coal Basin of the Donbas and Ovruch.


Alexander Petrovich Karpinsky [Александр Петрович Карпинский] (1847 – 1936) was a legendary figure the world of geology, with a career that spanned almost 70 years, covering the last 50 years of the Czarist period and continuing well into the Soviet era.


He was born into a family of mining engineers in Turyinskiye Rudniki, Perm Governorate, in the Ural Mountains.  Preparing to enter the ‘family business’, he studied at the Imperial Mining School in St. Petersburg, and then the Mineralogical Institute, and as something of a prodigy, he graduated in 1866 at the age of only 19.


After spending a few years as an engineer in the field in the Urals, Karpinsky was invited back to St. Petersburg, in 1869, whereupon he took up an appointment as an assistant professor at the Mining Initiate, rising to become a full professor in 1877, at only age 30.


In 1885, Karpinsky became the Imperial Director of Mining Research, remaining in that role until 1916.  Under the umbrella of the Geological Committee, he supervised the scientific mapping of all European Russian, personally leading the some of the seminal mapping expeditions.  He ended his career as the President of the Russian Academy of Sciences (later the Academy of Sciences of the USSR), from 1917 to 1936.


The 19th Century Geological Mapping of Russia


The road leading to the realization of the present work, the first scientific general geological map of European Russia, was long, and the story intriguing.  Russia is a vast land of profound geological diversity and complexity and astounding mineralogical wealth.  Given the immense challenge of distance and climate, the geological mapping of Russia started quite early, resulting in impressive achievements.


Most of the first strides in the geological mapping of Russia were accomplished by Western Europeans, as they were the only ones who then possessed the requisite specialized knowledge and experience.  The first scientifically serious geological survey in Russia was undertaken in 1821 by the British diplomat William Fox-Strangways, who executed a geological map of the environs of St. Petersburg.  While of little conscience economically, as the region possessed few mineralogical resources, it was of tremendous merit academically, while stoking interest in geology amongst the Russian elite, who were henceforth prepared to finance further endeavours.


In the 1830s, the focus of geological mapping was cast upon the Urals, due to its mineralogical riches.  Various French engineers made scientific geological surveys of specific mines and localities, while in 1840 the legendary British geologist Sir Roderick Impey Murchison conducted a more general geological mapping of the Urals, resulting in an important monograph, published in 1845.


Gathering intelligence from a variety of spotty scientific and speculative information, Jules Guillemin published the first decent general geological sketch map of European Russian, the Carte Geologique de la Russie d’Europe (Paris, 1859).  While the work represent a great achievement, in that it roughly defined the main geological zones of European Russia, it was still vague and not all that accurate in some places. 


The first major geological survey and study of the geology of Russia authored by a native of that country was Grigory Efimovich Shchurovsky’s excellent history of the geology of the Moscow Basin (1866-7).  This hailed the maturity of the Russian geological establishment, such that henceforth most major endeavours in the field were led by Russians, with foreigners assuming supporting roles.


A watershed moment came in 1882 with the establishment of the Геологический комитет [Geological Committee, today known as the Karpinsky Russian Geological Research Institute], Russia’s first formal geological society, which had a mandate to (someday) scientifically map the entire geological profile of all Russia.  Modelled upon the geological societies of Britain and France, the Committee and its work were soon regarded as being world class, helmed by brilliant engineers such as Karpinsky and Nikitin.


The Committee’s first grand opus was the endeavour to scientifically geologically survey all European Russian, resulting in hundreds of connecting sheets executed to the scale of 1:420,000.  These map sheets were issued serially from 1883, although the project would not be completed until 1928, as it was a herculean task.


Karpinsky, relying upon the wealth of high-quality mapping already accomplished, was able to complete the present map in 1892, only ten years after the establishment of the Geological Committee.


The present map remained the blueprint for geological discovery for decades, with a second edition issued in 1915.


A Note on Rarity


The present first edition of the map is rare; we can trace around dozen or so examples in Western institutions, for instance, held by the likes of the Bibliothèque nationale de France; Sorbonne; University of Chicago Library; University of Washington Libraries; University of California, Los Angeles; Columbia University; Universitätsbibliothek Basel; Marburg Universitätsbibliothek; Australian Museum Research Library (Sydney) and the Muséum national d’histoire naturelle (Paris).  Moreover, the map is very uncommon on the market, for we cannot trace any sales records outside of Russia for any other examples.


References: Bibliothèque nationale de France, département Cartes et plans, GE C-1825; OCLC: 705129658, 829565554, 912677737, 422134714, 494441539.