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TYROL GEOLOGICAL MAP: Geognostische Karte Tirols aufgenommen und herausgegeben auf Kosten des geognost[ischen]: montanist[ischen]: Vereins von Tirol u: Vorarlberg. 1849. Zoom

TYROL GEOLOGICAL MAP: Geognostische Karte Tirols aufgenommen und herausgegeben auf Kosten des geognost[ischen]: montanist[ischen]: Vereins von Tirol u: Vorarlberg. 1849.


Rare – a monumental wall map that represents the first scientific geological map of Tyrol, as well as an advanced economic and mineralogical map, being one of the most impressive works of thematic cartography of its era.

Place and Year: Munich: Sebastian Minsinger, 1849 [but actually printed 1851].
Code: 65231

Lithograph, Complete: 10 Sheets printed on 9 pieces of paper (2 plates printed on a single sheet, being half the size of the other 8 sheets), un-joined and uncut with wide blank margins (Very Good, strong printing quality on lovely untrimmed sheets with wide blank margins, overall clean, just some light toning to outer blank margins and a few very small tears in blank margins, since closed, with some small loss to upper left corner of blank margin of Sheet I), each piece of paper (full-sized sheet): 95.5 x 66 cm (37.5 x 26 inches), if joined, maximum irregular dimensions: 210 x 225 cm (82.5 x 88.5 inches). 


This colossal map is one of the most impressive thematic maps of its era, not only being the first scientific geological survey of Tyrol, but also being an advanced economic and mineralogical map of the region.  Tyrol is a historic duchy that until the end of World War I was a part of the Hapsburg Empire, but since that time has been divided between Austria an Italy.  Lying entirely within the Alps, Tyrol was an affluent region, due to mining and its place along major north-south trade routes.  Yet, its radical mountain topography, also ensured that Tyrol was exceptionally challenging to survey, making the present map all the more impressive.

The present map was based on surveys privately sponsored by the Geognostisch-Montanistischen Verein von Tirol und Vorarlberg [Geognostic-Mountaineering Association of Tyrol & Vorarlberg], founded in 1836, which was the world’s third-oldest geological society.  Its initiative came some years before there was any organized state funding for geological surveys in the Hapsburg Empire.

The map is built upon the template of a highly advanced trigonometric survey conducted by the Austrian Military in the wake of the Napoleonic Wars, here capturing the great complexity of the Alpine peaks and valleys through high quality lithography.  The present map is done to the large scale of 1: 112,500.  Sheet VIII (lower right of joined map) features the ‘Erklärung der Faben’ [Legend of Characters] that explains the symbols and types of shading used to identify 36 rock types and stratigraphic zones, such that while this particular example of the map is uncoloured, the geological information is still comprehensible.  The level of sophistication of the geological information, especially considering the rugged and complex nature of Tyrol’s topography, is exceptionally advanced for the time.

Also on Sheet VIII is the ‘Erklärung der Zeichen’ [Legend of Symbols], which details the various symbols used to identify cities, market towns, villages, castles, rural abbeys, as well as post roads, local roads and bridges.  Also noted are ‘Trigonometriche Punkte’, being the trigonometric points used by the Austrian military surveyors as they made the underlying topographical survey.

Making the work an advanced mineralogical map, it labels the locations of dozens of different types of mineral deposits.  Also being a sophisticated economic map, it labels the locations of mines (gold, copper iron, etc.), as well as foundries, sawmills, chemical works and spas.

Sheets IV & VII feature charts which detail the types of earth and mineral encountered in 1847 by workers of the ‘Bergbaue Tirols’, being the dozens of named mine works.  

The present example of the map is somewhat unusual, being in the form of untrimmed, un-joined sheets, in the manner in which they would have appeared immediately after being lithographed at the printing shop in Munich.  It is also uncoloured, and it appears from surviving examples that the map was sold both uncoloured and coloured.  Some later examples were also issued coloured, in a titled portfolio, with three additional profile views; however, this was not the case with all issues.  The present example seems to be an early printing, perhaps made before the general print run commenced in 1851.

Historical Context: The Geognostisch-Montanistischen Verein & the Early Geological Mapping of Tyrol

The Hapsburg Empire was a pioneer in geological and mineralogical mapping during the first half of the 19th Century.  That being said, for the longest time, geological surveys were conducted in a haphazard manner, as there was no central authority to fund, conduct and supervise geological mapping.  The initiative was left to regional governments or private enterprises, such that only affluent regions or areas that abounded in mining activity were able to justify the great cost of such surveys.  Fortunately, Tyrol was one such region, being very wealthy, in good part due to its mineral resources.  The creation of an accurate geological and mineralogical map of Tyrol would cave been considered to be of great commercial and administrative value to the duchy, redeeming its costs.

The first serious attempt to make a geological map of Tyrol was Christian Keferstein’s Charte von Tirol und Vorarlberg, 1821, which was included within his great work on the geology of Central Europe, Geologie von Teutschland (Weimar, 1821).  While a fine endeavour given the resources available at the time, it was far from being scientifically precise and was of a relatively small scale.

A major cartographic advance that made the present map possible was the completion of the Karte der gefürsteten Grafschaft Tyrol nebst Vorarlberg und dem angrenzenden Souverainen Fürstenthum Liechtenstein, astronomisch trigonometrisch vermessen, topographisch aufgenommen, reduzirt und gezeichnet im Jahre 1823 (Vienna: k. k. Generalquartiermeisterstab, 1823), a gargantuan map that was based on the first systematic trigonometric survey of Tyrol, Vorarlberg and Liechtenstein, conducted by the military surveyors of the Austrian Army.  This precise and exceedingly detailed map created the template on which the present map was rendered.

Through the 1820s and 1830s, there was a great interest in geology in Tyrol and administrators and mining barons were expressing a need for more precise and comprehensive geological information.  Many small geological surveys, some of high quality, were being conducted of specific areas around the duchy, although all of these were intended to fulfil episodic purposes, as opposed to being part of a comprehensive project with permanent and general value.  Such an endeavour would require the generous sponsorship of a dedicated society or government ministry.

In 1801, Alois Pfaundler von Sternfeld, had proposed the creation of a mineralogical society for Tyrol, but this great idea remained ‘on ice’ due to the turmoil of the Napoleonic Wars, when the duchy was invaded by France and temporarily annexed to Austria’s old enemy, Bavaria. 

However, the aforementioned public interest and the good economy of the 1830s revived the notion.  In 1836, Dr. Joseph Mauer, the influential Mayor of Innsbruck, gather several of the region’s wealthiest and most noble citizens, as well as its leading intellectuals to officially establish the Geognostisch-Montanistischen Verein von Tirol und Vorarlberg [The Geognositc-Mountaineering Society of Tyrol and Vorarlberg], ‘Geognostic’ being an archaic term for ‘geological’.  Significantly, this association would be only the third geological society ever established, after that of London (1807) and Paris (1830).  The following year, the fledgling society received a boost when Archduke Johann von Habsburg became it official protector. 

The Verein aimed, as its main objective, to conduct a systematic geological survey of the entire duchy, resulting in a monumental general map.  The survey was to be under the overall direction of Dr. Michael Stotter, the director of geology and mineralogy at the Landesmuseum Ferdinandeum (today the Tiroler Landesmuseum, Innsbruck).  The association moved quickly, commencing the first systemic surveys in the summer of 1837.  By 1839, the survey was operating three separate teams in West and East Tyrol.  The survey was ramped up even further from 1840, and continued every summer until 1846, when the entire duchy was systematically and scientifically geologically surveyed.

The final master manuscript map of the survey was then carefully drafted in Innsbruck, under Stotter’s watchful eyes, before being sent to Munich (the nearest major publishing centre) to be lithographed.  This challenging task, given the size and complexity of the work, was undertaken by Sebastian Minsinger, and while the map is dated 1849, it is thought that it was actually issued in 1851.

The present map was recognized to be a truly significant milestone, not only in the geological mapping of Tyrol, but in the practice of geological cartography worldwide.  It was met with immediate and universal praise, including from Austria’s leading geologist Ferdinand von Richthofen.  The eminent geologist Leopold von Buch, addressing the Deutschen Geologischen Gesellschaft, in Berlin, on March 3, 1852, wrote: “The mass of well-considered important geognostic facts on ten large map sheets of the geognostic map Of Tyrol and of Vorarlberg is so exceedingly considerable that one must obviously regard this announcement as one of the greatest enrichments geognosy has ever received.”

The Tyrol map became a foundational component of the monumental and decades-long endeavour to geologically map the entire Habsburg Empire that would be undertaken by the newly-formed Austrian Imperial and Royal Geological Institute (K. K. Geologische Reichsanstalt, founded 1849).

A Note on Rarity

The present map is rare on the market; we are aware of only three examples appearing at auction or in dealer’s listings over the last generation.

References: Thomas Hofmann & Tillfried Cernajsek, ‘Zur historischen Entwicklung geologischer Kartierung in Tirol’, Veröffentlichungen des Tiroler Landesmuseums Ferdinandeum, no. 73 (1993), pp. 13-32; OCLC: 799369885.

Availability: In stock