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Articles: Mapping

The first geographical data about the territory of Lithuania are met with in the works of ancient Greeks and Romans. So, in the third book of the "Geographical Guide" by K. Ptolemy we find a description of the Baltic area. At the present time we know several maps of Central Europe compiled according to the data given by Ptolemy. In all probability the map of Sarmatia which has survived in tin - abbey of Vatopedi on the Atos Mountain, differs from the "Geographical Guide" least of all. On this map the coast-line of the Baltic Sea is drawn along parallel 57 deg. of the geographical latitude. It inconsiderably rises to the North - East of the estuary of the Nemunas River. The Firth of Kursiai Marios is not marked on the map and the Nemunas River is of meridional direction. Within the limits of the basin of this river the Lithuanian tribes are placed: the Suduviai and the Galindai to the South and East of the shores of the Baltic Sea In the divides of the Nemunas, the Dnieper and the West Dvina - Rivers the cartographical view becomes fantastic. There are mountains, marshes, towns and nations on it that do not exist in reality. The fact that the antique geography was acquainted only with a narrow belt of the coastal zone of the Baltic Sea contradicts the statement of some sources saying that the ancient Greeks and Romans could reach the "country of amber" by land.

In the Middle Ages these scarce and inaccurate data of the antique geography about the Lithuanian territory were almost forgotten. Only some maps of that time such as Al-Idrissi (in the 12th century) or the Hereford (R. Haldingham) map (in the 13th century) do give the name of Lithuania and mark the Nemunas River. Even the great world map of Fra Mauro in the 15th century does not mention anything about Lithuania, except its name "Lithuania".

The first and more detailed cartographical picture of Lithuania, since the times of Ptolemy, appears in the second half of the 15th century, in the epoch of the Renaissance and geographical discoveries. It was marked on the map of Nicolaus Cusanus where, on the basis of the antique geography, new physical - geographical and social - economical objects are shown. On this map we can already find the Firth of the Kursiai Marios, the Bartuva, Venta, Nemunas, Neris Rivers as well as such settlements as Klaipeda, Varniai, Tytuvenai, Kaunas, Vilnius, Grodno, Lyda and Kreve. The author offers considerably fewer data about the eastern part of Lithuania. There he marks, like ancient Greeks, the non - existing Rifean mountain ridge, the Hercynian Forest near which he places Moscow Town. It is not difficult to judge about the exactness of the map according to the distribution of settlements. From the Baltic Sea to the East, according to the parallels, the cartographical view grows ever narrower. For instance, the distance between Klaipeda and Varniai is approximately equal to that between Varniai and Moscow. The expression is also given in a condensed form according to the meridians. The coastal line of the Baltic Sea goes down the 55th parallel and at the mouth of the Venta River only it inconsiderably rises up lo the North reaching 56 deg. of the geographical latitude on the map.


Fig. 1. A fragment of the copy of the Ptolemy map.


Fig. 2. A fragment of the map of Middle Europe compiled by Nicolaus Cusanus (15th century).

In the first half of the 16th century, in connection with a new administrative distribution and the development of commercial relations, the rulers of Lithuania needed a new map showing the administrative borders, waterways and the most important settlements. The maps of Central Europe by Nicolaus Cusanus and other cartographers could not satisfy the ruling circles of Lithuania because of the narrowness of their contents and their marred image. Such a new map was compiled and published, although the circumstances of its creating as well as the original of the map are unknown as yet. There are copies made anew in the works of such authors as G. Mercator -"Europae descriptio", V. Grodecki - "Poloniae finitimarumque locorum descriptio", A. Pograbski - "Partis Sannatiae Europae, quae Sigismundo Augusto, Regi Poloniae potentissimo subiacet, nova descriptio" mid other cartographers and geographers in the 16th century. On the new map the picture of Lithuania essentially differs from that on the map of Nicolaus Cusanus. Here the coastal line of the Baltic Sea, in comparison with the line of Nicolaus Cusanus, turned in regard to the meridian by the angle of 70 deg. counterclockwise. According to its form it is much closer to the actual coastal line of the Baltic Sea. The main bends of the course of the Nemunas River and its tributaries are shown correctly. At the same time the general direction of the lowering of the relief in Lithuania is revealed. The geographical latitudes of some points, such as Vilnius, Grodno, Betygala were determined astronomically. At an average, the errors of the geographical latitude of the settlements vary within -+ 0,5 deg. and those of the geographical longitude within -+ 1 deg. The characteristic of towns and other settlements is, in comparison with the map of Nicolaus Cusanus, more thorough. We find the gradation of the settlements from the administrative point of view. The Rifean Mountains and the Hercynian Forest disappeared from the cartographical map. However, the question about the sources of the rivers on the territory of the Kingdom of Lithuania was not solved yet. Nicolaus Cusanus distributed all the sources of the rivers according to non - existing mountain - ridges, while on the new map all the rivers of Eastern Europe after the opinion of Herodote, originate from swamps of enormous dimensions. Some later cartographers, such as Grodecki, try to reform the cartographical picture reducing the huge swamps to small lakes. Others, on the contrary, still more deepened the erroneous notion of Herodote about the sources of the rivers of Eastern Europe. They, for instance, showed that the Nemunas River had its source in the legendary great lakes of Sarmatia and Chronos. The second cartographical image of Lithuania, with its characteristic features, has survived on the maps in the course of the whole 16th century. We also find it in the work "Lithuania" by Mercator (1594). It was only in the first half of the 17th century (in 1613 the map of Lithuania appeared) that the old cartographical expression of the territory was replaced by a new, more exact and sapid one. In compiling the map of Lithuania in 1613 a new field mapping of the territory of the Kingdom of Lithuania was carried out. The field work was organized and financed by N. K. Radvilas - Orphan, voivode of Trakai. He was also the editor-in-chief of this map. It would be erroneous to say that Radvilas was the author of the map. The map of Lithuania of 1613 was created by a whole body of cartographers. Thus, at the head of the field work was not only Radvilas. There was another feudal lord, as it can be seen from a still existing letter of Radvilas. The map was drawn by T. Makowski, a Polish geographer and printed by Hessel Gerits, a Dutch cartographer.

The map of Lithuania of 1613, consisting of two parts, is as large as 0,9 sq.m. On it, besides the Lithuanian state, there is part of the Dnieper River beginning with the settlement Cherkassy up to the Black Sea. The mapgraticule is drawn using the pseudo cylindrical-trapezium projection on the scale of 1: 1 290 000. The mean square error of the position of the point m(f) equals by +- 13',5 and m(a) +- 13',8.

In respect to the exactness of the details of the forming of the map of Lithuania (1613) it exceeds a number of cartographical works of that time. It may be considered a coryphaeic work of the Renaissance and the great geographical discoveries. The chief elements of the map are hydrography, forests, marshes, settlements and state and administrative borders. The authors of the map do not give the whole picture of the relief, except separate mountain ridges. It is not difficult to judge about the denivelation of the surface and the chief directions of the relief by the river - network which is characterized by sufficient compactness and clarity. The hydrological notes on the map and beyond its limits as well as the expression of the Dnieper River on a larger scale show the purpose of the map. The cartographers attempted to give a thorough characteristic of the communicative waterways. On the other hand, some political moments of that time show up in the map too. The borders of the Kingdom of Lithuania before the Lublin Union and after it are shown there. The latter (the borders after the union) are of temporary character. The image of the settlements represents a picturesque view not only in respect to the extensive gradation of the administrative centers and their economical and strategic importance but also by showing the physiognomy and specific features of the towns.

The first edition of the map contained a short historical and geographical description of the country added by Makowsky. Makowsky writes in a short way about our natural resources, the climate, agriculture, commercial relations, waterways and the life of the Lithuanians and their past. Thus the map of Lithuania of 1613, together with the text supplied by Makowsky, is it compact and, relatively, thorough source of information about Lithuania in the 16th century. It would be erroneous, however, to think that the map of 1613 has no essential shortcomings and mistakes. Firstly, the exactness of the map is not uniform. The central part of the map, within the limits of the Vilnius and Minsk voivode - districts, is the most exact. In the remaining parts in the Ukraine and Zemaitija, the exactness diminishes by twice. In showing the lakes the authors are subjective and inconsistent. The laky regions of Lithuania are not shown. The markings of the forests are as casual as those of the lakes. The forests are marked in such places there were gaps on the map, because of the lack of data. Within the ethnographical borders of Lithuania white spots coincided with the chief forest massifs. The forests are marked on both banks of the Nemunas River and in the vicinity of the settlement Kazlų Rūda, in the eastern part of it he Birzai district and in the basin of the Zeimena River. In the mentioned localities nowadays, too, we have large forest massifs. It leads to a supposition that the distribution of, at least, the main Lithuanian forests in the 16th century was approximately the same as it as at present.


Fig. 3. A fragment of the map of Poland compiled by W. Grodecki (16th century).

After the issuing of the map of Lithuania of the year 1613 further geographical research of the Lithuanian (territory was interrupted. The economic and political decadence of the Lithuanian - Polish State and the constant war-actions made scientific and cultural activity almost impossible. The maps of Lithuania published in Western Europe in the 17th century and the first half of the 18th century are products of remake of the map of Lithuania of 1613. Of such a character is the map of Lithuania compiled by Jonas Nepreckis, issued in 1749. On these maps owing to the hydrographical survey carried out by Swedes and Germans only the contours of the Baltic Sea-coast were modified: the shoreline of the Firth Kurshiai Marios gradually approached its natural conditions, the geographical position of the Nemunas River lower-reaches was defined more precisely.

In the second half of the 18th century, as the war strategy was changed and the ruling classes were trying to establish order in the country, cartographical work in Lithuania and Poland was taken up again. Skilled cartographers were invited from other countries. They and the astronomers of the Vilnius Academy and other higher scientific institutions were given the task to map the country. In this work they were helped by some officers of army engineering troops. M. Pocobutas, the astronomer of Vilnius, and his collaborators in 1766 and 1767, using astronomical methods ascertained the geographical latitude of 20 localities in Lithuania and in neighboring countries. In 1768 he determined the geographical longitude of the meridian of Vilnius City in respect to Ferro. Analogical astronomical observations were carried out in Poland too. However, the accuracy of the general mapping of Lithuania did not increase. It, on the contrary, even decreased in some places. The topographical description of separate districts which in most cases was done by parish priests, also partially served as cartographical material for compiling a new map of Lithuania. On the basis of this cartographical material in 1770 the map of Lithuania and Poland on the scale of 1 ; 672 000 appeared. It was compiled by I. J. Kanter. In 1772 another map compiled by I. A. Rizzi - Zannoni (on the scale of 1 : 692 000) appeared. On these maps the view of Lithuania remained the same as on that of 1613 in respect to their accuracy and contents. Even in marking the hydrography the authors made some bad mistakes, which did not occur in the previous maps of Lithuania.

The last years of the 18th century are considered to be the beginning of cartographical education in Lithuania when the elements of topography and cartography were introduced into the curriculum the Chief Lithuanian School. Pocobutas was rector of this school. The astronomer Pocobutas critically evaluated the plan and methods of the cartographical work carried nut at that time. He strived to take into his own hands the mapping of Lithuania end even prepared the program of field work. Yet these projects of compiling a new map of Pocobutas as well as that of J. Sniadecki, based on triangulation, were not realized because of the fall of the Lithuanian - Polish state. The mapping of the country was again begun in 1816. Then, by the order of the tsarist government, triangulational work in Lithuania was started. Since that time the teaching of geodesy and other adjoining subjects was improved at the Vilnius University. The geodetic department founded in 1821, existed till 1832 (the closing of the university) managed to train a group of specialists for carrying out geodetic and cartographic work in Russia and other countries.


Fig. 4. A fragment of the Western part of the map of Lithuania of 1613.

Colonel K. Tenner was appointed to create the base geodetic network and to direct the topographical survey. Afterwards he became well-known in the whole Europe for his grade measurements. From the first day of his appointment Tenner collaborated with J. Sniadecki and P. Slawinski, astronomers of the Vilnius University. According to Sniadecki's suggestion, J. Chodzko, a graduate of the Vilnius University, became the chief executor of triangulational work in Lithuania. Sniadecki and others helped Tenner not only with consultations and choosing the staff but also with astronomical observations by determining the geographical latitude of some points. As there was such a highly skilled body, the triangulational work in Lithuania was carried out rather quickly and successfully. It enabled Tenner to extend the base network beyond the borders of Lithuania into Byelorussia and Cow land. Parallel to the triangulational work, beginning with 1819 a topographical survey on the scale of 1:21000 was started. The survey was both semi instrumental and semi estimated by sight. The topographers using geodetic instruments, marked rivers, the network of the most important roads, the summits of hills and the convergence lines of water streams and divides on map-sheets. The horizontal lines were drawn in field conditions by eye, marking the angles of the incline of downgrades in some places of the map - sheet.

According to this topographical survey, in 1845 the publishing of a topographical map on (the scale of 1:126 000 was started. The relief was expressed by strokes of steepness on it. In the period of 1865 -1871 a special ten-verst map is published. The hydrographical network and settlements are shown in detail on it. The soil - vegetational cover is represented by forest massifs, swamps and sands. The relief is shown by strokes. In the second half of the nineteenth century this map served as a cartographical base for all special investigations in Lithuania. Using it, V. Verbickas created in Lithuanian a map of Lithuania on the scale of 1 : 1 050 000 at the beginning of the 20th century.

In connection with the building of railways in the country, with the change of cultural landscapes and, at last, due to the progress of military engineering, the map on the scale of 1 : 126 000 was rapidly growing old. That is why in 1888 the Armed Forces Staff of Russia had to organize again o topographical survey on the scale of 1:21 000 in Lithuania. The survey, which was fully instrumental, lasted till World War I. According to its data, topographical maps of a new type, namely, maps with contour lines on the scales of 1 : 21 000; 1 : 42 000 and 1: 84 000 were published. Particularly noteworthy is a two-colored map (on the scale of 1: 84 000) which in the period of 1920 - 1940 was a trust worthy cartographical base for geographical investigations in Lithuania.

In the second half of the 19th century a thorough study of the European part of tsarist Russia from the point of view of topography and cartography enabled to give quantitative and qualitative characteristics of the hydrography and relief. In 1889 A. A. Tillo, a Russian cartographer and geodesist, compiled a hypsometrical map of the European part of Russia on the scale of 1:2520000 and in, approximately, eight years he published the second hypsometrical map of the western part of European Russia on the scale of 1 :1680000. On these maps for the first time in the history of science in Lithuania, orographical regions were revealed, and according to the change of altitudes, the characteristic of the horizontal and vertical dissection of the relief was given. The hypsometrical maps of Tillo, together with their topographical material, served as an important source for investigating the morphology of the Lithuanian relief. World War 1, fundamentally determined the further geodetic and cartographic work. The military operations ruined part of the base geodetic network. Both sides at war, namely, the Russian and the Austria - German armies acquired much foreign cartographical material as a trophy, which, in their own way, they remade and published in numerous editions. In the period between the two World Wars the Polish Military Geographical institute and the Department of military topography of Lithuania, on the basis of Russian and German topographical maps, their remakings and situational ground observation surveys published maps of Lithuania on the scales of 1: 25 000 and 1:100 000. Besides, the Polish Military Geographical institute has also published a beautifully delineated colored map of the Vilnius Region on the scale of 1: 300 000 where the chief isohypses of plains are drawn at the interval of 10 meters. The department of Military topography of Lithuania compiled a good colored map of Lithuania on the scale of 1: 400 000. Here the hydrographical network is shown in detail, the relief is shown by contour lines every 20 meters. The map was published in several variants, namely, without the expression of the relief - as an administrative map, with the relief and forests - as a general geographical map and, lastly, with the relief and hydrography without forests, roads and settlements - as a basis for geomorphologic survey and creating relief maps.

Since 1924 a basic geodetic work was carried out in Lithuania, as well as in Poland. Its aim was to girdle the Baltic Sea with a base trigonometrical network of the first - order triangulation and to prepare an exact horizontal and vertical basis for a new topographical survey. The geodetic conference of the Baltic Countries in Helsinki in 1924 gave ground for this work. At this conference the participants carried the motion to join, for scientific purposes, the base geodetic network of Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Germany, Denmark and Sweden in a united system. In connection with this project in 1925 a geodetic commission of the Baltic countries was set up. It was entrusted with the general directing of geodetic work. Though in Lithuania the field work was conducted from 1927, when in Žemaitija the measurement of the Švekšna base was started, up to 1939, i. e. to World War II, they were mainly unfinished and a new topographical survey of the country was not carried out. All this was fulfilled after World War II by the Soviet geodesists and cartographers. A new exact cartographical view of the Lithuanian S. S. R. was compiled.

Radvila Našlaitėlis 1613

Fig. 5. Legend of the map of Lithuania of 1613

At the present time the territory of the Lithuanian S.S.R. is equipped not only with exact topographical maps, but even with geological, geomorphological, hydrographical, climatological, soil and other special maps of intermediate scale. The geographical investigations of Lithuania in the years of Soviet power have made great progress. In the nearest future it will be possible to take up a complex mapping of the territory on a large scale.


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Published in “'Collectanea acta geographica Lituanica", Vilnius, 1958

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