4° (30.5 x 24 cm / 12 x 9.5 inches): 59 pp. + 1 chromolithographed map, original white satin endpapers, bound in original navy blue cloth with blind-stamped designs and title and border debossed in gilt (Excellent condition, nearly mint).
Uebersichts-Karte des Theiss-Flusses vom Ursprung bis zur Mündung in die Donau mit der Darstellung des Standes Regulirungsarbeiten an diesem Flusse zu Ende des Jahres 1860.
Vienna: Reiffenstein & Rösch, 1861.
Chromolithographed map, dissected into 16 sections and mounted upon original linen (100 x 128 cm / 47 x 50.5 inches), folding into original navy blue cloth-covered slipcase with blind-stamped designs and title debossed in gilt, matching the binding of the accompanying text (Excellent condition, map clean and bright, only minor wear to extremities of slipcase).
This extremely attractive and fascinating presentation set focuses on the Tisza River
(Tisa, known in German as the Theiss Fluss), the Danube’s mightiest tributary, that for most of its course flows through eastern Hungary and the Vojvodina region of Serbia. Uniformly bound in fine gilt-blind-stamped cloth, this set was evidently intended for presentation to a VIP figure, perhaps a minister or a nobleman, as other known sets do not seem to be bound in such an exquisite manner. The set was made to showcase the first, and most critical, phase of the ‘Regulation of the Tisza’, an engineering mega-project which straightened the course of the river in order to ease flooding and aid navigation.
The set consists of a large, carefully drafted and finely coloured map of the Tisza and its major tributaries, accompanied by a written report on the Regulation project. All considered, the set forms the finest 19th Century work on the geography and hydrology of the Tisza, and indeed one of the most impressive works of its kind issued in all of Europe during the same period.
The fascinating text volume, written by Florian Ritter von Pasetti, on behalf of the Tisza Regulatory Company, is described as an ‘Extract from a report’ to the Imperial Minister of Public Works, Josef Lasser von Zollheim. The work is a masterpeice of hydrological engieering litterature, giving a detailed, yet easy to read, insiders’ account of one of the grandest projects of its kind ever undertaken in Europe. At the end of the work is a beautiful, colourful map of the Tisza watershed, highlighting it major tributary basins, ‘Croquis der Thiess’, made by the same draftsman as of the large map.
The large map, created by Stephan Weiss, a master draftsman of the Austrian Public Works Ministry, is predicated on the best official surveys and blueprints. While entitled in German, it generally uses the local Hungarian nomenclature for place names, and provides a meticulous and precise scientific rendering of the Tisza and its major tributaries. Although technical in nature, the map’s fine design and tasteful colouration gives it an elegant appearance. Farmland, forests and swamps are distinguished by colour, railway lines are demarcated, and a bold blue line marks the new (regulated) course of the river, cutting out the old superfluous oxbows and doldrums. Together, the grand map and written volume allow one to understand the new nature of one of Europe’s great rivers in an unprecedented fashion.
The Regulation of the Tisza
The Tisza is a mightily river, with a length of 965 km (600 mi), draining a basin of 156,087 km2 (60,266 sq mi), making it the Danube’s greatest tributary. For centuries, it played a major role in the history, economy and culture of south-central Europe. Traditionally called “the most Hungarian river”, as most of its length flowed within the bounds of the historic Kingdom of Hungary, today it runs thorough four countries. It has it source near Rakhiv, in the Carpathian Mountains of western Ukraine, before marking the Ukraine-Romania boundary, and then flowing through Hungary for a long stretch, until it enters the Vojvodina Region of Serbia, where it meets the Danube.
During the mid-19th Century the entire course of the river fell within the bounds of the Austrian Habsburg Empire. Historically a winding, slow-moving river, the Tisza was prone to severe and frequent flooding. During the 19th Century, the region underwent rapid and mass development with respect to transportation, agriculture and urbanization. The frequent floods were undermining the best-laid projects; destroying roads, buildings, farms, and obstructing steamship navigation, while and threatening ting to make the proposed railroad lines unviable. Imperial government planners were left with a simple choice: control the flooding or see the Tisza Basin left behind in the economic dark ages. Small-scale local projects all failed to significantly ameliorate the situation, such that an ambitious grand scheme was necessary.
The solution was a mega-project called the ‘Regulation of the Tisza’ (Hungarian: a Tisza szabályozása), which sought to straighten and deepened the main channel of the river, alleviating water pressure, so reducing flooding and making the river more easily navigable for steamboats. The programme was initiated in 1846 upon the foundation of the Tisza Regulatory Company. It received a vital early boost of support from the legendary Hungarian statesman Count István Széchenyi (1791 - 1860) during his brief, yet consequential, tenure as the Imperial Minister of Public Works in 1848. The project was to last for 34 years, being concluded only in 1880, although the first critical phase, showcased here, was completed in 1860. During much of the first phase, the project was overseen by the Austrian hydrological engineer Florian Ritter von Pasetti, the author of the present report, who was also renown for his work on regulating the Danube.
Once the entire ‘Regulation’ project was complete, it reduced the course of the length of the river by about a third. While it did not completely eliminate flooding along the Tisza, the inundations that did occur were generally less severe and frequent, being tolerable to the region’s development schemes. The project left the river with a more consistent water level, permitting sophisticated irrigation of the surrounding plains, greatly increasing agricultural production, while the Tisza’s deeper main channel supported larger steamships, forming a vital transport corridor. The project was hailed a momentous success and one of the most impressive engineering projects of 19th Century Europe.
A Note on Rarity
The complete set with the grand map and written volume is very rare; we can trace only 6 examples in institutional collections. Moreover, the present example of the set is superior, and possibly unique, being exquisitely bound for presentation.
References: Jahrbuch der Geologischen Reichsanstalt, Volume 12 (1861), p. 544; Mittheilungen aus Justus Perthes' Geographischer Anstalt, vol. 11 (1865), p. 461; Sitzungsberichte der Kaiserlichen Akademie der Wissenschaften ..., vol. 46 (1863), p. 300.