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Russian Maps and Atlases

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. Prime mention should be made of the first printed Russian-language atlas A Studious Description of the River Don or Tanais..., published in Amsterdam in 1703-04. This atlas was produced on the basis of hydrographic surveys undertaken on the initiative of Peter I, in which the Tsar himself participated.

By Peter's decree, too, Vasily Kiprianov's Civil Printshop, the first enterprise in the country to specialize in text books, manuals and maps, was established in Moscow in the early eighteenth century. Some of Kiprianov's maps are now in the department. The stocks also include the first Russian educational atlas of the world, the Atlas for the Benefit and Use of Young Persons. Printed in the St Petersburg Academy of Sciences in 1737, this served as an aid to the study of geography for almost 50 years. There is one of the three surviving copies of Ivan Kirilov's Atlas of the Russian Empire based on the results of the first state survey.

Academic cartography is represented by several versions of the celebrated Russian Atlas of 1745 whose compilers took into account many Russian explorations and astronomical methods of reckoning used for the first time. Russian naval expeditions led by such men as Ivan Krusenstern, Yury Lisianovsky, Faddei Bellingshausen and Mikhail Lazarev resulted in the appearance of some remarkable maps and atlases in the eighteenth century and the first half of the nineteenth. In this period, too, the Military Topographic Depot compiled the first state topographic map, the Detailed Map of the Russian Empire of 1801-05. This was the publication used by the army in the Patriotic War of 1812. A little later came the first climatic, pedological, geological and socio-economic maps and atlases, town-plans and other pioneering works. Among them was what is justly considered one of the finest publications of its kind: the Detailed Atlas of All Parts of the World created by Russia's leading civilian enterprise in this field: "A. Ilyin's Cartographic Establishment". The famous atlas produced by Adolf Marx's publishing house remains to this day an indispensable reference work for the study of nineteenth-century Russian geography.

A special place is occupied by the collection of Russian and foreign plans of St Petersburg-Petrograd, with more than 800 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.

The remarkable two-volume Great Soviet Atlas of the World (Moscow, 1937-39) represented the work of the country's finest specialists and is deservedly considered a landmark in world cartography. In the post-war years several fundamental world atlases were created and work got underway to produce multidisciplinary atlases of different regions of the country. Soviet cartographers were involved in the publication of international maps on different themes in many countries abroad. A substantial contribution to the study of the Earth was the Atlas of the Antarctic, the first multidisciplinary atlas of the southern continent and its surrounding ocean. The maritime charts and atlases created at different times also received international accolades.

The publications of recent years have reflected the latest advances of science and technology which facilitate the study of the Earth and other planets from space. We can take as examples the Atlas of the Dark Side of the Moon, based on the first photographs taken of it, and the Atlas of Venus which is a genuine state-of-the-art achievement.

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