The first atlas of Russia bound together with Makhaev’s monumental map and views of St Petersburg to the glory and honour of the Russian Empire”

By DELISLE, Joseph Nicolas [and others] [together with] [MAKHAEV, Mikhail Ivanovich, TRUSKOTT, I.F., SOKOLOV, I. and others]., 1771 

Atlas Russicus [and] Plan de la Ville de St. Petersbourg avec ses Principales Vües dessiné & gravé sous la direction de l’Academie Imperiale des Sciences & des Arts. [Title also in Cyrillic: Plan stolichnago goroda Sanktpeterburga : Map of the capital city Saint Petersburg showing the main avenues].

  • Author: DELISLE, Joseph Nicolas [and others] [together with] [MAKHAEV, Mikhail Ivanovich, TRUSKOTT, I.F., SOKOLOV, I. and others].
  • Publication place: St Petersbourg
  • Publisher: Petersburg Academy of Sciences
  • Publication date: 1745–1771
  • Physical description: Folio (540 by 400mm), 54 plates comprising: [atlas] 16pp. text in French and Latin, general map on two sheets, and 19 double-page maps, extra illustrated with a further seven maps (giving a total of 27 maps) [together with plan and views] 8pp. text in Russian and French, large wall map on nine engraved sheets, and 17 engraved views (of which 7 are folding), and an engraved map of Moscow, a few small tears to margins, skilfully repaired, contemporary full straight grained red morocco, lavishly gilt, spine in eight compartments separated by raised bands, gilt.
  • Inventory reference: 18321


A unique composite atlas comprising some of the finest cartographic material from eighteenth century Russia, including the Atlas Russicus and Makhaev’s important plan and views of St. Peterburg and the Royal Palaces, bound in sumptuous red morocco.

The Atlas Project

The Altas Russicus was the product of two decades of disagreements, debate and duplicity within the Akademiya Nauk. Members of the Russian academy came from across Europe, including Joseph-Nicolas Delisle, brother of the renowned cartographer Guillaume Delisle, who had been invited to St. Petersburg by Peter the Great to establish a school of astronomy. Although he arrived shortly after Peter’s death, he remained in Russia for the following twenty years.

In 1729, Delisle proposed to the academy the undertaking of a great project to produce an atlas containing a highly detailed map of Russia, with further maps of its Empire. During the following years, although no work was officially commissioned, Delisle continually stated that his map of Russia was nearing completion. In 1735, following his ceaseless complaints about the lack of support he was receiving from the Academy, fellow-member Leonhard Euler was appointed to assist him. Far from expediting the project, Delisle refused to work with the legendary mathematician and even to enter the Geographical Department when he was there.

During the late 1730s, as the rest of the Geographical Department were producing a large number of maps, atlases and charts, Delisle was requesting an equally large number of materials, instruments and staff to complete his surveying and mapping of Russia. In 1739, when the President of the Academy convened a meeting of the leading figures of the Geographical Department to plan for the production of the map, Delisle refused to attend if Euler were to be there. None other than Empress Anna herself was required to mediate the dispute, who essentially gave Delisle permission to work from home while satisfying his ego with the promise that all cartographic publications from the Department would require his authorization.

In 1740, however, while Delisle was out of the city on astronomical observations, the Academy ordered Euler and the astronomer Gensius to complete the map of Russia in his absence, with all necessary equipment and staff placed at their disposal. Although Euler was forced to leave Russia the next year due to illness, by 1742 a map of Russia on two sheets, and 19 additional maps had been prepared for the atlas, as well as the text. Delisle was predictably furious upon his return to St. Petersburg, but failed to find any support within the Geographical Department.

In 1744, the engraved plates for the maps were given for review to Gerhard Friedrich Müller, one of the most prominent geographical and cartographical scholars of the period. Although Müller had returned them within just four days with his edits and suggestions, which included completely redrawing several maps, they were printed without his alterations, perhaps because the Empress, to whom the atlas was to be dedicated, had already been made aware of its imminent publication. Some members of the Department wanted to omit or malign Delisle’s name in the introductory notes, the majority acknowledged his valuable contributions to Russian astronomy and cartography, as well as the project itself. Despite the scientific advances and knowledge he had brought to the Academy, however, a lurking question remained about Delisle’s motivations.

After proposing the project in 1729, he had continually assured the Academy that work was progressing well, and yet had still not submitted a map over a decade later. Even more suspiciously, he had left no materials with which his team could work during his lengthy absences, had selected his under qualified and largely incompetent brother-in-law as his main assistant in the task, and had continually refused to work with the highly-skilled Euler. Delisle had been accused a number of times of sending Russian cartographical information to France, and indeed as soon as the publication of the atlas was announced, he returned to Paris, perhaps with the intention of publishing the map there sooner. He did in fact publish a Russian map of the northern Pacific in Paris before it was published in Russia. Nonetheless, the atlas was first published in Russia in 1745, after over two decades worth of work and conflict.

The Atlas

Two separate editions of the atlas were published simultaneously, with Russian and Latin inscriptions on the maps, respectively, although toponyms were only in Russian. The cartography drew not only of Russian information, such as the distance between St. Petersburg and Moscow, which had been measured by Lieutenant Geodesist Safanov, but also on the work of Dutch and British map- and chart-makers. Unfortunately, by the time these documents had made their way into Russian hands, their information was somewhat out-of-date.

The atlas begins with the two-sheet general map of Russia, at a scale of 1:8,400,00, which depicts the entire territory from the island of Oesel in the Baltic to the northeastern extremity of Asia. The following 11 maps represent European Russia, all on a scale of 1:1,527,000. There is a small amount of overlap between consecutive sheets, and only minors gaps in the lower Ural river and the Kama-Pechora divide. The remaining maps depict Siberia, each at a scale of 1:3,360,000 and based on special astronomic observations made during the dedicated surveying expeditions. Alongside the text the atlas included an appended index of the signs of geographical terms used throughout.

List of plates:

1. Mappa Generalis Totius Imperii Russici. (Two sheets)
2. Lapponia Russica cum adjacentibus Regionibus.
3. Territorium Archangelopolin inter. Petroburgum et Vologdam.
4. Ducatuum Estoniae et Livoniae Tabula cum cursu Fluvii Dwinae.
5. Moscovie Gubernium cum Adiacentibus Regionibus.
6. Tabula Geographica Gubernium Smolenscense Cum Parlibus Kioviensis Belgorodensis et Voronicensis Gubernii Complectens.
7. Territorium Mesenense. Et Pustoserense Cum Adiacentibus Insulis et Territoriis.
8. Tartaria minor Cum Adiacentibus Kioviensi et Belgorodensi Guberniis.
9. Provinciarum Ustiugae et Chlynovi nec non Territoriorum Iarensensis Vagae Ustiugaesoliwytscheg. Dae. Et Totmai Delineatio Geographia.
10. Casaniae Regnum cum Adiacentibus Provinciis et Parte FLuvii Volgae.
11. Delineatio Fluvii Volgae a Samara usque. Ad Tsariein.
12. Territorium Pontum Euxinum et Mare Caspium Interiacens Cubaniae et Georgiae Delineationem Geographicam reliquamque Partem Fluvii Volgae eiusque Ostium exhibens.
13. Pars Sibiriae tractum inter Salinas ad Camam et Tobolium comprehendens.
14. Uffensis Provincia cum adiacentibus Regionibus.
15. Partes FLuviorum Petschorae Obii et Ieniseae una cum Forum Ostiis in Oceanum Septentrionalim se Exoneratium.
16. Tractus Fluviorum Irtischtobol, Ieniseae et Tungusae cum ipsorum Fontibus, Adiacentibusque Itidem et Interiacentibus Regionibus.
17. Pars Maris Glacials Ostiumque Fluvii Lenae cum Territorio Septentrionali Iakutensi.
18. Irkutensis Vice Praefectura cum Mari Baikal et Fonte Fluvii Lenae Partibusque Fluviorum Argun et Amur ac Circumiacentibus Territoriis.
19. Territorii Iacutensis Pars Orientalior cum Maxima Parte Terrae Kamtschatkae.
20. Ostium Fluvii Amur cum Parte Australiori Terrae Kamtschatkae Variisque in Oceano Sitis Insulis inter quas Pars Eminet Iaponiae.

The cartouches and certain other decorative elements on the maps in the Atlas Russicus were entrusted to Johann Grimmel, known in Russia as Ivan Grimmel. Grimmel’s other work during the 1740s included engraved portraits and scenes for the royal court, and an additional series of seven maps of Russia and its Empire. Grimmel’s work became well-known and was later reproduced by the likes of notable German map publisher, Matthias Seutter

Three of these seven maps include St. Petersburg’s Lake Ladoga, the largest lake located entirely in Europe, whose treacherous waters had caused Peter the Great to build a great canal to allow vessels to bypass the body of water, a project completed shortly before Grimmel’s maps. Two of the maps focus on Karelia, the area straddling the current Finland-Russia border, which for centuries was the subject of conflict between the surrounding countries. The seven maps of parts of Russia, published in St. Peterburg around 1743, are included in the present atlas:

1. GRIMMEL, J. Karta ingermanlandii i Karelli. [St Petersbourg, c1743].
2. GRIMMEL, J. Ingria et Carelia. [St Petersbourg, c1743].
3. GRIMMEL, J. Finskoy zaliv ot Kronshtadta… Der Sinus Finnicus von Cronstadt. [St Petersbourg, c1743].
4. GRIMMEL, J. Magnus Ducatus Finlandiae. [St Petersbourg, c1743].
5. GRIMMEL, J. Ladozhskoye Ozero i Finskiy… Lacus Ladoga et Sinus Finnicus… [St Petersbourg, c1743].
6. GRIMMEL, J. Ladozhskiy kanal… Canalis Ladogensis. [St Petersbourg, c1743].
7 .GRIMMEL, J. Techeniye Nevy reki iz Ladozhskago… Fluvius Newa e Lacu Ladoga Petropolin… [St Petersbourg, c1743].

Plan and Views St. Petersbourg

Also bound with the Atlas Russicus is Makhaev’s extraordinary large-scale map and views of St. Petersburg, together with his views of the Royal Palaces; some of the masterpieces of eighteenth century Russian topographical art.

A map of St. Petersburg, together with 12 views of the city, was commissioned in limited numbers to mark the first jubilee of the city in 1753, and to commemorate the remarkable growth it had seen in the 50 years since its foundation. Spanning nine sheets, the map is dedicated to the glory and honour of the Russian Empire”. Chosen to execute the project was artist and engraver Makhaev Mikhail Ivanovich (1718–1770).

Makhaev had studied at the Admiralty School in 1729–31 and at the instrumental workshop of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences from 1731 to 1734. After this, he gained experience in cartographical engraver under G. I. Unfezacht, and later trained at the drawing class of the Academy of Sciences under G. Valeriani. Under Valeriani, Makhaev closely studied perspective drawing, creating panoramic views of St. Petersburg, Moscow and their outskirts intended for reproduction in prints. One of his techniques included using a pinhole camera to accurately and precisely reproduce the architectural landscape, as indeed is evident on his magnum opus, the great view of St. Peterburg.

The extraordinary map (which would measure 1415 by 2065mm. (56 by 81.25 inches) if joined) is on a scale of 1:3350 and gives an accurate view of the existing streets, palaces and public buildings of the city, as well as prospective building projects. The decoration includes the Arms of the City, and attributes of the sciences, arts, commerce, and the art of war at the top right. The majority of the design was by Makhaev and so, correctly, his name is usually attributed to the whole work. However, numerous artists contributed to the views and panoramas, and the map itself was prepared at the Geographic Department of the Academy of Sciences and supervised by the junior scientific assistant I.F. Truskott. under the guidance of I. Sokolov, who also engraved the figure of the Empress Elisabeth Petrovna after a portrait by Louis Caravaque.

Only 100 prints were taken and were distributed amongst major library and palace collections in Europe. This small production run means that the map and views are now extremely rare.

As well as the views of St Petersburg a further five views (on eight sheets) — are included here — of the royal palaces of surrounding St Petersburg by Makhaev were published in 1761. These include views of Oranienbaum, Peterhof, and Tsarskoye Selo. The final plate is a French plan of Moscow published in 1771.

1. Vue du Palais d’Ete de Sa Majeste Imperiale du cote du Nord.
2. Vue prise sur la riviere de Fontancka vers le midi entre la Grotte et le magazin des provisons de la Cour.
3. Vue du nouveau Palais pres de la porte triomphale d’Anitschki vers l’orient avec une partie de la ville & du chemin du Monastere d’Alexandre Newski prise du cote de la Fontanka.
4. Vue de l’ancien Palais d’hyver de Sa Majeste Imperiale et du Canal qui joint la Moika avec la Neva.
5. Vue d’une partie de la Ville de St Petersbourg en regardant de la Porte Triomphale de l’Amirauté vers l’orient.
6. Vue de l’Amirauté et de ses environs en regardant de la Porte Triomphale vers l’occident.
7. Vue des batimens des Colleges Imperiaux & d’une partie du Magazin de marchandises vers l’orient.
8. Vue de la Bourse & du Magazin de marchandises en romontant la petite Neva
9. Maison de Plaisance de Sa Maj.te Imp.le de toutes les Russies &c &c &c a Sarskoe Selo, 25 verstes de St Petersboug. (1761) Two sheets.
10. Vue des bords de la Neva en remontant la riviere entre l’Amiraute et les batimens de l’Academie des Sciences. Two sheets.
11. Vue des bords de la Neva en descendant la riviere entre le Palais d’hyver de Sa Majeste Imperiale & les batimens de l’Academie des Sciences. Two sheets.
12. Vue de la Neva vers l’occident entre l’Eglise de St Isaaca et les batimens du corps des cadets. Two sheets.
13. Vue de la Neva vers l’orient entre le chantier des galeres et la 15me ligne de Wassili ostroff. Two sheets.
14. Peterhoff, Maison de Plaisance de Sa Maj.te Imp.le de toutes les Russies &c &c &c situe sur le Golfe de Finlande a trente verstes de St Petersbourg. Two sheets ( ?1761).
15. Vue d’Oranienbaum Maison de Plasance de Sa Majeste Imperiale de toutes les Russies &c &c &c sur le Golfe de Finlande vis a vis de Cronstadt. Two sheets (1761).
16. L’Hermitage dans le Jardin Imperiale de Sarskoe Selo, Maison de Plaisance de Sa Maj.te Imp.le de toutes les Russies.
17. Pavillon dans le Parc de Sarskoe Selo, Maison de Plaisance de Sa Maj.te Imp.le de toutes les Russies & & &.
18. Plan Geometral de la Ville de Moscow anceinne Capitale de l’Empire de Russie. (1771).

Although examples of the Atlas Russicus appear on the market, Makhaev’s plan and views of St Petersburg and Palaces, are extremely rare. We are unable to trace another example, with a full set of plates to appear on the market since the Second World War. 


  1. SK 5346 and 5347
  2. cf. Obol’ianinov 2048.

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