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Rare Russian map of Alaska, published at the height of Russian influence on the West Coast of North America.

This important map, published in St. Petersburg in 1826, depicts Russian America at the very height of its extent and influence. It is one of the first maps to show Russian Alaska's newly defined boundaries with British North America, as defined by the Treaty of St. Petersburg (1825). As shown on the map, the Russians were given the coastline as far down as 54"40', whereupon their territory hugged the coast up to the 141st meridian West, whereuopn it carried due north to the Arctic. Ambiguities in this treaty insured that portions of this boundary remain in dispute between the U.S. and Canada even up to the present day.

Piadychev based the map on a variety of Russian and British sources, The map depticts the coastal areas of southern Alaska and adjacent regions, including the Aleutians, with considerable accuracy, as well as the shores of the Bering Strait, on both the American and Asian sides. Various Russian forts are noted, ranging from Sitka (founded 1806), the capital of Russian America to Petropavlovsk in Kamchatka. Conspicuously, almost all of the the interior and the Northern Slope of Alaska, remains a complete enigma, having not yet been explored, let alone mapped.

Interestingly, the large inset embraces the coastline of California, extending from Cape Mendocino down as far as Santa Barbara. This encapsulates the contemporary Russian ambitions in California, which were centered at Fort Ross (located in modern Mendocino County), which the Russian American Company maintained between 1812 and 1841. The present map was made not long after the expedition of Otto von Kotzebue (1815-8), visited both California and Alaska, stengthening Russian's territorial claims.

The map exhibits some of the most significant progress along the Northernmost coastline of Alaska, where the progress in mapping the coastline is perhaps most profound. There have clearly been significant improvements in the understanding of the coastline from the time of Wilbrecht's monumental map of 1802, as shown here: /gallery/detail/24404

The map was later included in Vasilii Petrovich Piadychev's atlas of the Russian Empire, Geograficeskij Atlas Rossijskoj Imperii, carstva Poljskago i velikago knjazestva Finlandskago raspolozennyi po gubernijam na dvuch jazykach s oznaceniem v onych gorodov, mesterek, sel Pjadysevym 1823 goda. - Atlas géographique de l'Empire de Russie, du Royaume de Pologne et du Grand Duché de Finlande. . ., published in 1828, which featured maps issued between 1823 and 1827. In order to appeal to an audience beyond Russia, the map is jointly incribed in French. The title of the present map, transliterated title in Russian, is " General'naâ karta Cukotskoj zemli, Aleutskih" ostrovov" i severo-zapadnago berega Ameriki socinena po novejsim" svedenìâm".

The map is extremely rare on the market, this being the first example we have ever seen offered for sale at auction or in a dealer catalogue.

Vasilii Petrovich Piadyshev Biography

Piadyshev was the cartographer at the Military-Topographical Depot of His Imperial Majesty's General Staff, during the production of the first systematic survey or Russia, with maps published between 1820 and 1827.

Piadyshev's Geograficheskii atlas Rossiiskoi imperii, tsarstva Pol'skogo i velikogo kniazhestva Finliandskogo (Geographical Atlas of the Russian Empire, the Kingdom of Poland, and the Grand Duchy of Finland . . . ) was the first atlas of its kind - both comprehensive and accurate - depicting an empire that stretched from the Vistula River to the Pacific Ocean. It is credited to Col. Vasilii Petrovich Piadyshev (1768-1835), who served with distinction in the Military-Topographical Depot of His Majesty's General Staff. The sheets were published between 1820 and 1827; the work underwent revision in 1828-1829 and was reprinted in 1834. The atlas is composed of 60 maps, including a general map of the empire.

Curiously, the atlas is not constructed on a consistent scale and does not use the same projection on all maps. Each sheet describes administrative boundaries, rivers, roads, urban and rural settlements, and a variety of other details. Distances are in versts (1 verst = 1.07 kilometer). On each sheet, placenames are rendered in Russian and in French transliteration.

The atlas reflects the detailed mapping carried out by Russian military cartographers in the first quarter of the 19th century. The map shows population centers (five gradations by size), fortresses, redoubts, roads (four types), provincial and district borders, plants, and factories. Distances are shown in versts, a Russian measure, now no longer used, equal to 1.07 kilometers. Legends and place-names are in Russian and French.  

The atlas underwent revision in 1828-1829, and was reprinted in 1834.