Sign In

- Or use -
Forgot Password Create Account

Second State of the First Modern Survey of Lebanon -- Updated To Show Railroads

Rare separately published example of the single most important map in the history of Lebanon, being not only the first scientific map of country, predicated on surveys conducted by French military topographers during their Lebanon-Syria Expedition (1860-1), but also the document that literally defined the notion of 'Greater Lebanon', the basis for the creation of modern Lebanon in the wake of the 1919 Paris Peace Conference.

This excellent separately issued, large-format map is inarguably the most important single map in the history of Lebanon, essentially the first ever published map to establish what would become the modern nation.  The present example, issued in 1904, has been slightly modified and now includes all of the railroads then operating in Lebanon, as well as an expanded town plan for Beirut.  

The railroad details include both the railroad lines and the location of each of the stations along the routes, showing lines between:

  • Beirut and Ghazir
  • Beirut and Damascus via Riyaq
  • Beirut and Ras Baalbek via Riyaq (likely to Homs)

The map embraces all of what is today Lebanon, extending slightly into the adjacent parts of modern Israel and Syria; while additionally showing the road to Damascus and the city itself. The portrayal is extremely accurate, as careful hachuring expresses the extreme gradations in elevation of the Mount Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon ranges, along with the numerous interceding valleys, while major points of elevation are expressed in meter; and the seas, bodies of water and rivers are expressed in blue.

As described in the 'Signes Conventionnels', in the lower right, the map employs red symbols to identify cities, towns, villages, Christian monasteries, mosques, fortified places, windmills, aqueducts, as well as intermittent black lines to demarcate the limits of districts, which are likewise labelled with their names. Additionally, lettered 'Abréviations', are employed to identify the locations of ruins, springs, well, tombs, and mills, among other facilities. Major roads are likewise marked (railways had not yet been constricted in the region), while some towns feature both their names transliterated from Arabic, plus their former Biblical or Classical names.

Importantly, while the present map does not precisely demarcate boundaries for Lebanon, it clearly suggests expansive, extended boundaries for what would become known as the 'Greater Lebanon' model, a factor that was to make the map into a highly important, even transformational, document nearly 60 years after its creation. The table in the lower right, the "Tableau statistique indiquant la population des districts du Liban", gives the demographic statistics of Lebanon. It notes the populations of Greek Orthodox, Greek Catholics, Druze, Shiite Muslims, Sunni Muslims, Jews and Maronites. The total population is recorded as 487,600, of which Maronites accounted for 208,180.

The concept of modern Lebanon arose out of the Ottoman Emirate of Mount Lebanon, a jurisdiction which existed between 1516 and 1841, and which consisted only of the territory of today's central Lebanon, as its boundaries ended just to the north of Sidon and just south of Tripoli, and extended inland only as far as the heights of the Mount Lebanon range.

In 1858, a revolt of Maronite peasants exacerbating tensions between the Druze, on one side, and Maronite Catholics, Greek Catholics and Greek Orthodox, on the other. In what became known as the Mount Lebanon Civil War, from March to July 1860, the Druze massacred 10,000 Christians in Lebanon, while from July 9-18 of the same year, Sunnis in Damascus torched the Christian Quarter of the Syrian capital, killing many of its residents.

France was, by both tradition and treaty, was the official 'protector' of Christians in the Ottoman Empire. France was then ruled by Emperor Napoleon III (reigned 1852-70), who, like his uncle Napoleon Bonaparte, has an endless appetite for grandiose foreign adventures. While Napoleon Bonaparte's campaigns in the Levant had ended in failure, Napoleon III desired to redeem the glory of France in the region and to defend the right of the Christianity in this territory so close to the Holy Land.

Napoleon III organized an expedition to Lebanon and Damascus, with the reluctant consent of the Ottoman Sultan, whose forces had completely lost control over much of the region. On August 16, 1860, a French force of 6,000 landed at Beirut under the command of General Charles Marie Napoléon de Beaufort d'Hautpoul (1804-1890), a seasoned veteran of conflict in the Arab world.

Beaufort's mission was to contain the Druze, stabilize the region, and to create an enduring political arrangement under which the Christians could live safely under some form of autonomy. True to Napoleonic tradition this was not only to a military expedition, but also an enlightened, civilizing endeavor, as the French army was to be accompanied by scientists, archaeologists and cartographers, who were to collectively create a comprehensive academic appraisal of the land and it natural and human attributes.

The cartographic aspect of the mission was headed by Captain Charles Gélis, who led teams that made advanced systematic, trigonometric surveys of the countryside, representing the first time that Lebanon had ever been accurately topographically mapped. The French benefitted from the fact that they could employ the coast as reliable baselines for their surveys, as the littoral had been precisely surveyed for the British Admiralty in the wake of the Napoleonic Wars. The French ingenieurs-geographers were perhaps the best in the world as this sort of rapid, but highly accurate, surveying, employing the most advanced equipment and most innovative techniques. In addition to the present map, their contemporary mapping in locales as diverse as Mexico, Algeria and Vietnam are testament to their masterly skills.

States of the Map

  • State 1:  1862
  • State 2:  1904 (with railroads added and a prix of 5 francs noted at the bottom left.


Both states are extremely rare on the market.

Condition Description
Segmented and laid on linen, as issued.
Description liberally copied and excerpted from the work of Alex Johnson & Dasa Pahor, Catalog for London Map far 2017, Item 9.