This rare and excellent wall map embraces all of the Balkans, focussing on the Ottoman Empire’s still extensive domains in Europe, as they stood during the Crimean War, a brief respite in the empire’s long decline. Made by the foremost authority on Ottoman geography, Heinrich Kiepert, the map is impressively accurate and highly detailed, predicated on “all existing original maps and travel advice”, being by far and away the best general map of South-eastern Europe issued to date.
During the Crimean War (1853-6), Britain and France backed the Ottoman Empire against Russia in an attempt to stop the Turkish sultanate from collapsing altogether (Istanbul and her allies would eventually emerge victorious). In spite of the expansive nature of the Ottomans’ European domains, as shown of the map, the empire was in sharp decline, on the verge of losing much of its European territories. The Ottoman leadership in Istanbul was hobbled by corruption and bureaucratic inefficiency, and its once fearsome armed forces had become cirrhotic.
The map shows that, in 1853, while the Ottomans still possessed vast European territories, including what is today Northern Greece, Bosnia, southern Serbia, parts of Montenegro, Albania, Bulgaria and Southern Romania, they had lost much of the domains they had possessed at the beginning of the century. To begin with, the Kingdom of Greece (then comprising only the Peloponnesus and the Aegean Islands) had won its independence from Istanbul in 1832; while Montenegro, an autonomous state, was growing in size at the expense of the Turkish control. Wallachia and Moldova (later to form the core of an independent Romania) had been lost to Russia in 1829; while Serbia had attained its autonomy from the Ottomans in stages between 1826 and 1835 (yet only controlled what is today central Serbia). Indeed, the Ottoman Empire would surely have been crushed and driven out of Europe altogether by Russia and its allies, if Britain and France had not intervened.
The Ottoman Empire in Europe would stabilize following the Crimean War, remaining in the form shown on the present map until the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-8, which saw Russia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania and Montenegro, stand against the Ottomans, resulting in a resounding defeat for the Turks. Russia gained Western Georgia from the Ottomans, while Serbia, Montenegro and Bulgaria formally gained their independence.
The map features a large inset (lower-left) of Montenegro, while insets in the lower-right feature Istanbul and the Bosporus.
The present example of the map is of the first edition, issued in 1853; a second and final edition was issued in 1871.
The present example of the map is in stellar condition, unusually clean and crisp with bright original colours. However, it lacks the card covers and the small explanatory pamphlet that accompanies some examples.
Heinrich Kiepert: Foremost Authority on the Geography the Ottoman Empire
Heinrich Kiepert (1818 - 1899) was a German geographer and historian of unusual intellect and diversity of interests. Born in Berlin, he grew up in an affluent, culturally sophisticated family, mentored by leading academics and travelling widely. He studied history, geography and philology, with a focus on Greece and the Near East, at the Humboldt University of Berlin under the legendary co-founder of modern geography, Carl Ritter (1779 - 1759). He showed great talent as a cartographer and worked closely with a number of commercial mapmakers. His first major project was assisting Ritter in the production of his Atlas von Hellas und den hellenischen Kolonien (1840).
Between 1841 and 1848 Kiepert made four trips to Ottoman Europe and Asia Minor, and become a world-renowned expert on Turkey. This led him to produce his own cartographic works concerning the Ottoman Empire, including the Karte des osmanischen Reiches in Asien (1844); the Karte von Klein-Asien (1854); the Specialkarte vom Westlichen Kleinasien (1890-2) and his posthumously-published, monumental Karte von Kleinasien meist nach noch nicht oder in kleinstem Massstabe veroffentlichten Aufnahmen in 24 Blatt (1902-6).
The present map is a fine complement to Kiepert’s excellent geographical coverage of the Ottoman Empire in Asia.
Upon his return from the Near East, Kiepert became the head of the Geographisches Institut in Weimar and, in 1854, was appointed a full professor as the University of Berlin. He maintained a long association with the prominent Berlin map publisher Dietrich Reimer, who was responsible for issuing the present map. Kiepert was a remarkably adept editor of cartographic material, possessing an uncanny ability to select the best and most accurate information out of a variety of conflicting sources, resulting in maps of amazing authority and precision for their time.
Kiepert also produced excellent large-format maps of diverse parts of the world, including of the Russian Empire, Central America, as well as various parts of the Near East, Caucuses and the Mediterranean. Also notable were his educational works, Lehrbuch der alten Geographie (1877); Leitfaden der alten Geographie (1879); and his enlarged atlas of the ancient world, Formae orbis antiqui (1894). He also produced many maps for the Baedeker travel guides.
Following his death, in 1899, Heinrich Kiepert’s cartographic work was ably continued by his son, Richard Kiepert (1846 - 1915).
A Note on Rarity
The present map is rare; it appears on the market only once every few years or so.
References: David Rumsey Map Collection (online): 11671.000; Lothar Zögner, Antike Welten, neue Regionen: Heinrich Kiepert, 1818-1899 (Berlin, 1999), ‘Karten’, no. 115 (p. 91).