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Francois Halma: Nova Tabula Imperii Russici

Map: RUS2577
Cartographer: Francois Halma
Title: Nova Tabula Imperii Russici
Date: 1700
Published: Amsterdam
Width: 27 inches / 69 cm
Height: 20 inches / 51 cm
Map ref: RUS2577
This stunning copper-engraved map depicts the Russian Empire under Peter the Great extending from Europe to the Pacific. The towns, rivers, forests, and mountains of Russia are charmingly illustrated, and there is a large and florid dedication to the Tsar himself in the upper-left corner. Korea appears as an island.

The title cartouche (lower-left) is amusingly supported by a Russian merchant with a bear and a Chinese merchant with a tiger looking at each other across the cartouche with suspicion.

The geography of the map is derived from a much larger 6-six sheet map by Nicolaes Witsen, the first printed European map of this region based on first-hand sources. Witsen, a Dutch merchant and statesman traveled to Russia at the age of 24 as a special ambassador to the Russian Tsar. Decades later he returned to Amsterdam with volumes of notes, writings, and sketched maps. He compiled these into a 6-sheet map of the Russian Empire (published in 1687) and a book, Noord en Oost Tartaryen (published in 1692).

Both the map and the book are scarce as they were not sold commercially, but rather presented as gifts by Witsen himself. To fill the commercial void, several publishers, including Francois Halma of Amsterdam, published reduced versions of the map of which this is a lovely, uncoloured example.