N.E. Kotelnikova1, L.K. Kildyushevskaya2

1 - Russian State Library

2 - Russian National Library


The government of Peter the First added a vivid page to the Russian history. Under Peter the Great the engraved maps became an integral part of the printed publications. The Northern war gave a considerable impetus to the development of the cartography. Every successful battle was accompanied by the publication of engravings and of plans put out by a field engraving establishment. The beginning of the Book of Mars or martial deeds creation took place in 1711 to 1712 with the first edition dating from 1713, although the book was to be filled up after 1713 too. For this reason all known copies of the atlas differed in the composition of the engravings and sometimes even in the text of the dispatches as they were put together separately and at various times up to 1766. Schliesselburg, Narva, Mitava, Kalisz, Dobry, Lesnaya, Poltava, Elbing, Vyborg, Riga, Dynamunde, Pernova, Kexholm, Arensburg, Reval were recurrent in all copies. Later the engravings of the battles in Hohlstein, at Toning, at Helsingfors were added, the engagement at Gangudd was to be reflected in the book too.

The interest in the Northern War and in Peters victory over the Swedes did not confine itself to the issue of printed atlases. A handwritten atlas described as Plans of Baltic fortresses was unearthed in the stock No 218 of the manuscript department of the Russian State Library. On the basis of tally documents we succeeded to find out that the atlas was bought in 1948 from a private person for 300 roubles. A perusal of its content showed the plans contained to conform to similar plans in the Book of Mars or martial deeds [dating back to 1766]. The handwritten atlas was a convolute bound in cardboard with a back of leather. The first map was a printed one, drawn by A. Goryainov. There followed 22 handwritten plans of battles made in Indian ink and painted in water colour. Judging by the watermark on the sheets it was dated from 1779 (the white date). A comparison of the handwritten plans to the printed Book of Mars or martial deeds rendered it possible to advance the assumption that they had been prepared on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the Russian victory at Poltava, which was to bring about a complete turn in the course of the war.

The plans under consideration were still shorn of mathematical elements, it was only sometimes that the plans contained depictions of lineal scales or the compass map. In this respect there was little difference between them and the 17th century works. Battles on the printed and hand-written plans were depicted in like manner. The draughtsman on the hand-written plans evinced consummate skill in spatially depicting the events, he contrived to reconstruct the least details on the engraving.

The battle at Poltava was the turning point of the Northern War. The given plan reiterated the picture from the printed plan in the Book of Mars, but it did that in a more colourful way.

The content of the plans included both general geographic and special military historical elements. Hydrography, roads, bridges and in some cases buildings in towns and in fortresses, abbeys and churches belonged to the general geographic elements. The deployment of forces, the situation of the command posts, defensive installations, artillery emplacements referred to the military historical elements. Indices in letters and in numbers were applied in no little way for the purpose of enriching and widening the content of the plans. All objects of the cartographic depiction were usually elucidated in the indices. The indices had come up to take the place of numerous explanatory notes entered directly into the cartographic depictions typical of the Russian 17th century drawings. Those indices could be looked upon as the rise of the first cartographic legends.

Two plans were missing from the hand-written atlas namely the capture of Reval and the naval engagement between the Russian fleet under the command of general-admiral count Apraksin and a Swedish squadron under the command of admiral Vatrang. As the numbering of the pages is broken (the 15th page is followed by the 17th page), the first plan seems to have been lost. The concluding 23rd plan may not have been drawn.

To wind up the report it must be noted that introduction of the hand-written atlas into the scientific practice will bring it within the reach of a broad circle of specialists with the given atlases being monuments immortalizing a glorious page in the Russian history.