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Re: Oldest Map To Name Alaska

  • Subject: Re: Oldest Map To Name Alaska
  • From: Derek Hayes <derek@derekhayes.ca>
  • Date: Mon, 11 Apr 2005 14:56:37 -0700

The large island named Alaschka on the Von Stahlin map of 1774 was probably 
intended to apply to what became to be realized was the mainland. The area 
to which it is applied first appeared on the Gerhard Muller map of 1754 as 
a peninsula, a confusion, it seems, of the mainland with the Aleutians, and 
Muller's interpretation of the maps from the Bering and Chirikov voyages. 
The geography shown in the von Stahlin map first appeared in a Russian map 
the year before, ie 1773, but Von Stahlin appears to have been the first to 
apply a name, Alaschka, to it.

On the Henry Roberts/William Faden 1784 General Chart exhibiting the 
discoveries made by Capt. James Cook, the name Alaska only appears on the 
Alaska Peninsula, not on the body of the mainland, which really suggests an 
application to the same locale as von Stahlin. The German and English 
editions of Von Stahlin's book would have, I think, been considered 
generally available to the public when it was published in 1774, despite 
being relatively rare today. I guess it didn't sell very well!

The name is not on the first edition (1753) of the Braddock Mead (John 
Green) map.

The English version of the Krenitsyn and Levashev map of their 1764-69 
voyage was published in 1780 in William Coxe's An Account of the Russian 
Discoveries, and does show an island in the right place named Alaxa I. So 
presumably their Russian version showed the same thing but in Russian. So 
this could be the first map to name Alaska. It seems to all depend on how 
close the name has got to be to the modern name in order to qualify!

Derek Hayes

At 11:33 AM 4/11/2005, Daniel Crouch wrote:
>I have been following this with some interest as we have recently bought a 
>small collection of early 'Alaskan' material and have several maps that 
>help. So, putting on my map-geek anorak, here goes...
>The earliest western map to name an 'Alaska' ('Alaschka' on the map) that 
>I can find is Sayer and Bennett's March 2nd 1775 version of Braddock 
>Mead's 'Chart of North and South America...'. Unfortunately, I haven't yet 
>had time to check whether Jefferys' 1753 first state (or any of the 
>intermediate states), also ascribe this name to an island in the Bering 
>Straits. I know of 1763 and 1768 states of the map, but haven't seen them.
>However, we need to be a little bit careful about the entity that is being 
>named: The word 'Alaska' is based on an Aleut word 'alaxsxaq' literally 
>meaning 'object toward which the action of the sea is directed', 'great 
>continent' or, simply, 'the mainland'. One therefore needs to look at 
>matters from a Russian perspective (I will pause here so that American 
>readers of this can get an atlas...)
>The first large island out from mainland Kamschatka is Unimak Island. In 
>1762, Bechevin, a Siberian merchant, spent the winter in Isonatski Strait 
>near Unimak Island and the peninsula. He regarded the western end of the 
>peninsula as an island called 'Alaksu' or 'Alakshak', and called it such 
>in his journals. He did not, however, map it. In 1768, Krenitsyn and 
>Levashev - two Russian naval officers - wrote of a large island called 
>"Alaxa" northeast of Unimak Island and proceeded to survey and map the 
>region, including the island of 'Unalaska'. There is, apparently, a map, 
>all be it in cyrillic (Bagrow Castner p.228, footnote 106), produced in 
>1768-9. This, I suggest, may well be the first map to name 'Alaska' 
>(incidentally, this causes problems for Mr McGuirk's 1775 'Oonalaschka' 
>as, strictly speaking, it is a different word (and place!)).
>Cook, in 1778, spotted the problem of the many 'Alaskas', and wrote: 'I 
>have already observed that the American continent is here called by the 
>Russians, as well as the islands, Alaschka, which name, though it properly 
>belongs only to the country adjoining to Onnemak [Unimak Island], is used 
>by them when speaking of the American continent in general, which they 
>know perfectly well to be a great land.' Thereafter, the name was 
>generally applied to the peninsula, the first appearance of which is on 
>Lieut. Roberts' chart for Cook, first readily available to the map-buying 
>public in Faden's 1784 chart.
>Daniel Crouch
>Shapero Gallery, 32 Saint George Street, London, W1S 2EA
>T: +44 (0)20 7493 0876 M: +44 (0)7766 751 391 F: +44 (0)20 7229 7860
>E: daniel@shapero.com W: www.shapero.com
>Barry Ruderman wrote:
>>Thanks Don...I've gotten a few other off line comments that support
>>Derek's dating theory, directly or otherwise.
>>>     Within some later editions of the Buffon/Leclerc "Histoire Naturelle"
>>>is a map
>>>entitled "Carte des declinations et inclinations de l'Aiguille Aimantee
>>>which shows the Northwest coast of Asia, and a small part of Alaska named
>>>Oonalaschka. One state of this map dated 1775 has this name on it. I do
>>>know if any earlier additions of this work and map, with or without a
>>>also have this name on them.
>>>Don McGuirk
>>>>The earliest printed map I believe was that of Jacob von Stalin: A Map
>>>>of  the New
>>>>Northern Archipelago Discovered by the Russians, published in his  book
>>>>in 1774.
>>>>This was the one James Cook carried with him in 1778 and  recorded
>>>>remarks about, not surprisingly, for it showed  Alaschka I. as an
>>>>Derek Hayes
>>>>At 03:20 PM 4/4/2005, Barry Ruderman wrote:
>>>>>Question:  What is the first map to name Alaska?
>>>>>Please hit reply all--this should be an interesting topic.
>>>>>Barry Ruderman
>>>>>1298 Prospect, Suite 2C
>>>>>La Jolla, CA  92037
>>>>>(858) 551-8500
>>>>>(858) 551-8593 (fax)
>>>>Derek Hayes
>>>>Vancouver, BC Canada
>>>>Phone 604 541 7850
>>>>Fax   604 541 7811
>>>>Historical Atlas of British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest (1999)
>>>>Atlas of the Pacific Northwest (US edition, 1999)
>>>>First Crossing: Alexander Mackenzie, His Expedition Across North
>>>>America,  and the
>>>>Opening of a Continent (2001)
>>>>Historical Atlas of the North Pacific Ocean (2001)
>>>>Historical Atlas of Canada: Canada's History Illustrated with Original
>>>>Historical Atlas of the Arctic (2003)
>>>>Canada An Illustrated History (October 2004)
>>>>America Discovered: A Historical Atlas of North American Exploration

Derek Hayes

Vancouver, BC Canada



Phone 604 541 7850
Fax   604 541 7811

Historical Atlas of British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest (1999)
Historical Atlas of the Pacific Northwest (US edition, 1999)
First Crossing: Alexander Mackenzie, His Expedition Across North America, 
and the Opening of a Continent (2001)
Historical Atlas of the North Pacific Ocean (2001)
Historical Atlas of Canada: Canada's History Illustrated with Original Maps 
Historical Atlas of the Arctic (2003)
Canada An Illustrated History (October 2004)
America Discovered: A Historical Atlas of North American Exploration 
(November 2004) 

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