Manuscript Maps

Cartographic materials are important parts of the Manuscripts holdings. Most of these materials are to be found in the Manuscript Maps Collection. The collection has grown steadily since the Manuscripts Department's foundation in 1805, and today the Department continues to acquire cartographic items. At present, Manuscript Maps of the Library's holdings range from the tenth century to the twentieth.

The Manuscript Map Collection includes separate maps and plans, as well as cartographic illustrations contained in handwritten books. Among the latter is the world map from the late tenth- or early eleventh-century edition of a book by Ambrosius Macrobius, an Roman author of the fifth century. This medieval copy of Roman cartography is the oldest manuscript map in possession of the National Library of Russia. The ancient parchment map of the spherical earth is marked with climatic zones. On the Macrobian map four continents are surrounded by the global ocean and seas.

Western Manuscripts also have five brilliant examples of marine cartography, including portolan charts, the earliest item of which is the Portolan Atlas by Battista Agnese of 1546.

The Manuscript Map Collection comprises maps and atlases of all parts of the world, but it is especially strong in mapping of Russia and different regions.

General land surveys of the Russian Empire, carried out in the late eighteenth- and the early ninteenth-century, resulted in the appearance of cadastral maps, which shows the boundaries and subdivisions of land. These plats are distinguished by their historical and geographical interest, but they also provided valuable statistical and economic data; most of them record ownership and rights in land. General plans of the principal administrative units of the empire, as well as atlases containing plans of towns and maps of districts, also were produced on the basis of land survey works. There is topographic description of Tambov, Tula and Ryazan provinces on a hand-drawn fan-map, which, perhaps, represents the unique presentation copy intended for Empress Catherine II. The presence of remarkable cartographic materials of 1783-1803, covering territory of Tver region, is particularly noteworthy.

A special place is occupied by maps and plans of Saint Petersburg illustrating the history and the development of the city over the course of two centuries. They include the unique axonometric plans of all parts of the city, created in the 1770s, and the early nineteenth-century plan of the Peter and Paul Fortress with the earliest view of St. Michael's Castle, also called the Mikhailovsky Castle.