Military Topographic Department of the Caucasus Military District
Дорожная Карта Кавказскаго Края Составлена и Литографирована въ
Военно-Топографическомъ Отдѣлѣ Кавказскаго Военнагоокруга.
[Road Map of the Caucasus Region Compiled and Lithographed by the Military Topographic Department of the Caucasus Military District].
Tiflis [Tbilisi, Georgia]: Military Topographic Department of the Caucasus Military District 1883 [date in the lower margin] – 1885 [date under cartouche].
Colour lithography 132 x 152 cm (52 x 59.8 inches), originally dissected in 24 segments and mounted on linen, original printed label with a title verso and hand-written annotation in pencil above it (“Donné à Tiflis par le G.al Stebnitsky”), housed in contemporary brown and yellow marbled paper wrappers and slipcase (minor age-toning and staining, old, probably contemporary Russian stamp visible under the linen, linen with very light foxing and staining, slipcase cracked in corners with one narrow side missing, but overall in a good condition).
A large, detailed wall map in Russian language, showcases Caucasus Krai, an administrative division of the Russian Empire, established in 1844, and embraces territories of today’s Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Russia, north-east Turkey and north-west Iran. The decorative cartouche contains somehow overblown view of the capital Tiflis, where this map was printed.
The detailed chart in the left-hand lower corner lists sizes and populations of various gubernias (governorates), based on the 1884 survey, and the key below the cartouche explains signs for all the important locations, borders and railway stations.
Military Topographic Department of the Caucasus Military District and Hieronymus Stebnitsky
The present map is a product of a decades-long map surveying of the region, made by the Military Office in Tiflis.
The first, rather general wall-map of the Caucasus Region with the title Map of the Caucasus Region (Карта Кавказского края) was published in 1834, by the General Staff in Tiflis in a format 128 x 135 cm (50.4 x 53.1 inches). In 1847, a detailed monumental map on 17 sheets was issued under the same title (click here for scans: Карта Кавказского края (М 1:420 000) | Геопортал Русского географического общества (rgo.ru)).
In 1851, the older General Staff Office in Tiflis was replaced by the Military Topographic Department of the Caucasus Military District, which was also specialized in topographical, botanical, geographical and glaciological researches. In 1853 (the first state we could trace), the institution issued a detailed Road Map of the Caucasus, which was the predecessor of the present map.
The map was re-issued at least seven times in updated versions: in 1858 (click here for the image: Road map of the Caucasus region 1858 – Old maps of Russia (southklad.ru)), 1864, 1869, 1870 (click here for the image from the David Rumsey Map Collection: (Caucasus Mountains) Дорожная Карта Кавказскаго Края Составлена и Литографирована въ Военно-Топографическомъ Отдѣлѣ Кавказскаго Военнагоокруга [Road Map of the Caucasus Region Compiled and Lithographed by the Military Topographic Department of the Caucasus Military District] – David Rumsey Historical Map Collection), 1883, 1885 (our version) and 1903.
Each edition of this map was enriched with new details and represented new borders. The present map showcases borders of the Kars Oblast, which was annexed into the Russian Empire in 1879.
This map of the Caucasus also served as a basis for an Ethnographic Map of the Caucasus (Этнографическая карта Кавказского края), published by the same institution in at least two editions, in 1880 and 1903.
In 1860, the Military Topographic Department of the Caucasus Military District became one of the leading surveying institutions in Russia under the leadership of an esteemed prolific surveyor and engineer Hieronymus Stebnitsky (Иерони́м Ива́нович Стебницкий, also Hieronim Stebnicki (1832—1897)), who was responsible for execution of several important maps of the region and its neighbouring areas.
Stebnitsky participated in the triangulation of the North Caucasus and travelled Caucasus, Persia, Turkey and the Transcaspian region, to conduct astronomical researches and to draft maps of these territories. A 19th century writer on Russia, Charles Marvin (1854–1890), wrote in his work The Russian Advance Towards India, Conversations with Skobeleff, Ignatieff, and Other Distinguished Russian Generals and Statesmen, on the Central Asian Question, in 1882, that “Stebnitsky , at Tiflis , has the reputation of being the best-informed man in Russia in regard to the Perso-Turcoman region” (p. 28).
The map comes from the estate of the family Chasseloup-Laubat and contains a hand-written inscription “Donné à Tiflis par le G.al Stebnitsky” (given in Tiflis by General
Stebinsky), suggesting that the map was presented personally by Hieronymus Stebnitsky. It was probably given to Gaston, Count de Chasseloup-Laubat (1867–1903), a son of late politician, Prosper, Marquis de Chasseloup-Laubat (1805-1873), the French Colonial & Navy Minister.
The visit of Count Chasseloupe-Laubat to Tiflis is mentioned in the article Correspondances from the Caucasus (Correspondance de Caucase) from July 15, 1890, published in Revue française de l’étranger et des colonies et l’exploration (French Magazine of Foreign Countries and the Colonies and the Exploration). After the death of Prosper, Marquis de Chasseloup-Laubat in 1873, only his son Gaston bore the title of a count.
After Gaston’s death the map probably came to possession of his brother Armand Eugène Prosper, Marquis de Chasseloup-Laubat (1863-1954) who married Marie Louise Fanny Clémentine Thérèse, a daughter of an intellectual and book collector Ernesta Stern (born Maria Ernesta Hierschel de Minerbi, 1854 – 1926). A part of their library was sold at an auction in 2023.
A Note on Rarity
All the maps by the Military Topographic Department of the Caucasus Military District were published for internal use and are exceedingly rare today. They were probably often discarded after the information was not up to date and replaced with new ones.
Although this map was published in at least 7 variations we could only find one or two examples of each variant in institutions and on-line sources. In Western institutions we could trace the 1858 version in the National Library of Poland (OCLC 1241593725), the 1870 issue in the David Rumsey Map Collection and Leiden University Libraries (OCLC 71544304) and the 1903 version in the Library of Congress and University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee (OCLC 20757814).
We could not find any examples of the 1885 issue in Western libraries.