This unusually attractive city plan showcases all of St. Peterburg and its environs in exacting detail as the city appeared in the mid-1880s, when its population approached 1 million. It was made by Alexey Ilyin’s Cartographic Establishment, Russia’s preeminent commercial mapmaker, from the best official surveys. With all text in Russian Cyrillic, the map employs bright colours, executed through award-winning techniques of lithograpy, to identify the built up areas, labeling all streets and canals; the metropolis’s grand edifices (ex. the Winter Palace, St. Issac’s Cathedral, the Admiralty Building, etc.); major industrial sites, railway stations and yards; the routes of the horse-drawn trams; parks; gardens; as well as special lands that were being leased by the imperial crown for private use; amongst other interesting features.
The map was very popular during its time and remains one of the best-known images of St. Petersburg from the era, with the example held by the National Library of Russia frequently cited and photographed in various historical works.
A Note on Rarity
The present map is rare, we can trace only 6 institutional examples, held by the National Library of Russia; Library of Congress; University of California – Berkeley; University of Amsterdam; National Library of Sweden; and the University of Central Asia Library (Naryn, Kyrgyzstan).
The Cartographic Establishment of A. Ilyin: Russia’s Premier Commercial Mapmaker
The publisher of the map, the Cartographic Establishment of A. Ilyin was founded in 1859 by the General Staff officers Alexey Afinogenovich Ilyin (1832-1889) and Vladimir Poltoratsky (1830-1886). The firm was originally known as the Chromolithography of Poltoratsky, Ilyin and Co., but after Poltoratsky’s departure in 1864, its name was changed to solely reflect Ilyin’s stewardship. Alexey Ilyin served as cartographer for the Military Topographic Depot of the General Staff and was eventually promoted to the rank of Lieutenant-General. He thus had privileged access to government map archives, granting him a great competitive edge over his rivals. The Ilyin firm published its first grand map of St. Peterburg in 1868, being the precursor of the present work.
After the death of Alexey Afinogenovich, one of his sons, Alexey Alexeevich Ilyin (1857-1942) assumed control over the firm. By 1882, the enterprise reached its zenith, producing up to 6 million impressions, accounting for around 90% of all civilian cartographic products published in Russia. The firms signature methods of colour lithography, as brilliantly exemplified by the present map, led the Ilyin firm to be awarded the Gold Medal of the Russian Academy of Sciences in 1893. The company prospered until it was nationalized following the Communist Revolution of 1917.
References: National Library of Russia: К 3-Пб 6/179; Library of Congress: G7064.S2 188-.I4; University of California – Berkeley: Earth Sci G7064.S2 1900.I4; OCLC: 5709396.