The National Library's collection of printed maps and atlases is one of the largest in the country, comprising more than 200,000 items printed in Russia and abroad from the sixteenth century to the present as well as over 4,500 electronic maps and atlases. It has no equal in Russia either in chronological coverage or in range of publications. The library has managed to create a uniquely full and varied collection of maps reflecting all the main stages in the development of cartography worldwide.
The library's collection of foreign cartographic publications has no equal in this country for range of authors, variety or value. The collection of Western European engraved atlases of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries alone includes over 450 volumes and is truly unique in size and completeness. It contains works by almost all well-known cartographers and the largest publishing companies of the world.
The earliest dated publications in the Cartographic Department is the set of maps which accompanied the 1508 edition of Ptolemy's Geography, it contains one of the first maps to depict the recently discovered American continent. The National Library of Russia possesses 30 different editions of Abraham Ortelius's atlas, the world's first printed atlas in the strict sense of the term. The stocks also include 25 publications by one of the founders of scientific cartography, Gerardus Mercator, the only in Russia and the CIS copy of the outstanding Gerard de Jode Atlas etc.
Sixteenth- and seventeenth-century maps printed from engraved copper plates were often illuminated by hand.
The foreign stocks of the Cartographic Department contain a significant quantity of British, German, French, Italian and other publications of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. There is a fairly comprehensive collection of nineteenth- and twentieth-century general geographical atlases of the world, with practically all major cartographic firms represented.
Besides all this, the library also has a small, but remarkable collection of reproduction of the earliest cartographic works, which gave a picture of hand-made maps from ancient times to the fifteenth century and of later, printed works missing from the library's stock. Among them is the first and very rare edition of the world Atlas do Visconde de Santarém – lithographic reproductions of medieval European maps and navigation charts; the atlas compiled from reproductions of old maps by the curator of the Department of Geography in the Paris National Library, Edme-François Jomard; two Nordenskiöld's Facsimile-Atlas to the Early History of Cartography (1889), containing reproductions of the most important maps of the 15th-16th centuries, and others.
The stock of Russian cartographic publications from the eighteenth century, when map-printing in this country began and came of age, is virtually without lacunae. The collection of pre-revolutionary Russian maps numbers some 1,000 items. Among them are maps and atlases dating from the era of Peter the Great, publications of the St Petersburg Academy of Sciences topographical maps drawn by military departments, and many others. A special place is occupied by the collection of Russian and foreign plans of the city of St. Petersburg, with more than 1000 items including the very earliest.
There is an exceptionally rich stock of cartographic publications issued since 1917. Distinctive monuments of a kind to that complex era are the leaflet maps of the Civil War period, the map for Lenin's great electrification scheme and other material. Some topographic maps and maps devoted to particular subjects published on CD-ROM's have recently became part of the Department's collection.
Many unique editions of the Maps Collection are available to users in the NLR Digital Library. These are the eighteenth-century Russian maps and atlases, plans of St. Petersburg dated between the 18th and 20th centuries, plans of cities and provinces of Russia, the 16th-17th century foreign maps of the world and Russia etc. Maps and atlases of Siberia, the North Pacific Ocean and Alaska trace the research and development of these regions from the late 18th to the early twentieth centuries. They include maps from the Atlas of Asiatic Russia, as well as charts of Northern Pacific voyages by famous Russian and foreign navigators, such as Vitus Bering, Aleksei Chirikov, Pyotr Krenitsyn, and James Cook. Of great interest is the collection of military topographic maps of Russia dated back the 19th century.
The Maps Department made a great contribution to the Russian-American project Meeting of Frontiers. As a result of the work, a joint bilingual English-Russian digital library was created. It tells the story of the exploration and settlement of Siberia and the Russian Far East, the parallel American exploration and settlement of the West, the parallel and the meeting of the Russian-American frontier in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest.
Description of the Collection