Lines of Latitude: The Long Shadow of Vienna’s Militärgeographisches Institut (1818-1918)

Beginning in the 1840s, the venerable Kaiserliches und Königliches Militärgeographisches Institut of the Austro-Hungarian Empire published many thousands of quality topographic sheets covering much of Central and Eastern Europe, areas where the Habsburg Empire had strategic interests.  These sheets did not just survey the territory of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, they also provided solid coverage for neighboring parts of the Ottoman and Tsarist empires.

Building of the Kaiserliches und Königliches Militärgeographisches Institut, parade grounds, Josefstädter Glacis, Vienna, Austria, 1860.

The quality of the Habsburg mapping operation was greatly aided by its adaption of the Bessel ellipsoid which fits especially well to the geoid curvature of Europe. The ellipsoid data published by Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel, a professor of astronomy at the University of Königsberg, in 1841 were then the best and most modern data mapping the figure of the Earth.  Because of the recognized high quality of their work, Austrian triangulation parties were admitted into neighboring countries. That work was reflected on Austrian topographic maps covering these areas.

Globe on the roof of the building which housed the Militärgeographisches Institut until 1918.

The K.u.K. Militärgeographisches Institut issued iconic map series such as the Spezialkarte der Österreichisch-Ungarischen Monarchie im Masse 1:75 000. Eventually, 752 quadrangles of this legendary map series were produced, starting in 1873.

Spezialkarte 1:75 000, sheet # 5456 Pettau shows parts of the Drava river valley, with the borders of Nazi Germany, Hungary, and Croatia, last updated 1943 by Hauptvermessungsabteilung XIV in Wien, a regional survey office of Germany’s civilian mapping agency Reichsamt für Landesaufnahme.

After the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire at the end of World War I Austria’s Kartographisches Institut, and Hungarian, Czechoslovak, and German mapping agencies continued to issue updated sheets.

In March 1938 Nazi Germany annexed Austria. This was an important stepping stone in Adolf Hitler’s plans for waging a war of aggression. In Vienna the Nazi regime gained access to important resources and capabilities.

German civilian and military mapping agencies moved quickly to incorporate Austrian government institutions active in the fields of surveying and cartography. The new Vienna office of Germany’s civilian Reichsamt für Landesaufnahme absorbed Austria’s well-regarded Kartographisches Institut and also integrated mapping and surveying staff of the Bundesamt für Eich- und Vermessungswesen.  The German military incorporated the Austrian Army’s survey office, from now on identified as Heeresvermessungsstelle Wien.

Rather than reinvent the wheel German World War II military planners pragmatically worked within an established Austrian framework when they mapped parts of central and southeastern Europe. They continued to issue a number of Austrian map series with a long publishing history which reached far back into the 19th century.  The Kaiserliches und Königliches Militärgeographisches Institut, defunct since 1918, had a very long shadow.

A German military map series with more limited geographical coverage, the Spezialkarte von Österreich, von Ungarn, und der Tschechoslowakei 1:75 000, was published between 1935 and 1944. It was based on 1:75,000 source maps issued 1924-1939 by Kartographisches Institut, Vojenský zeměpisný ústav, Magyar Királyi Állami Térképészet, Topographische Zweigstelle des Bayerischen Landesvermessungsamts, and the Reichsamt für Landesaufnahme’s Hauptvermessungsabteilung XIV in Wien. Spezialkarte sheets also provided the source map data for various German military map series which covered large parts of central and southeastern Europe at a scale of 1:50,000.

The UC Berkeley Library acquired 420 sheets of this German military map series through the depository program of the U.S. Army Map Service (AMS) in the 1950s. U.S. Army military intelligence had collected these maps in Germany between October 1944 and September 1945, in the final months of World War II.  Today these maps are part of the UC Berkeley Library’s German Captured World War II Maps collection.


Lines of Latitude: German military map series Norwegen/Finnland 1:50 000 (1943-1944)

In 1961 University of California map librarian Sheila T. Dowd took stock: In an article published in the Special Library Association’s Geography and Map Division Bulletin she analyzed the growth of Berkeley’s map collection. Since 1917 its size had quadrupled. Growth came especially in the years following World War II.

Dowd found that the primary driver of that increase in size was Berkeley’s participation in the depository programs of the U.S. Army Map Service (AMS). And she highlighted the impact of the AMS World War II Captured Maps depository program. Ultimately 22,000 German and Japanese World War II maps found their way into Berkeley’s map collection. Most were topographic quadrangles published as part of military map series issued by Axis military mapping agencies. Sometimes local military bodies played important roles:

Armee-Kartenstelle (mot.) 464, served as motorized mapping unit of the 20th German Mountain Army in Lapland during World War II. This area, northernmost Norway and Finland and adjacent areas of the Soviet Union, consisted of forbidding terrain, largely permafrost tundra.

A.K.St. (mot.) 464 produced the German military map series Norwegen/Finnland 1:50 000 to support German mountain troops fighting on the Eastern Front against the Soviet Red Army. One important challenge for the German military mapmakers was the need to document Arctic tundra freeze-thaw cycles. Winters north of the Arctic Circle are long and summers are short. The active layer of permafrost, the topmost layer of soil, thaws in the summer and freezes in the winter. This, of course, greatly affects military operations.

German military map series Norwegen/Finnland 1:50 000, topographic quadrangleKolosjoki, topographic quadrangle of

Kolosjoki quadrangle with 2 German military grids, Deutsches Heeresgitter, and Heeresmeldenetz overprinted in orange. Shows “Nickelwerk,” a mine where nickel, a rare metal used as steel hardener, was extracted. The nickel deposits of northern Finland were important to the German war effort in World War II. This sheet was produced in October 1943.

In 1942, Armee-Kartenstelle (mot.) 464 had a staff of 53. The unit compiled maps utilizing Finnish, Norwegian and Soviet source map data, aerial photographs of the Luftwaffe, and by performing field checks. It was motorized and equipped with trucks and half a trailer with the mapping and map printing equipment installed. Maps were chiefly printed in color.

A.K.St. (mot.) 464 established a base at Lager Neuer Kolonnenhof, a military camp of about 60-70 barracks, in Rovaniemi, Finland, in January 1942. The unit occupied a headquarters building, two garages for trucks, a workshop, a gas station and other barracks. As the frontlines approached in October 1944 German troops burned down the camp, and also much of the city of Rovaniemi, a war crime, and retreated to northernmost Norway.


Lines of Latitude: Plano del puerto de Sn. Francisco (1776)

A manuscript map, pen-and-ink and watercolor. Attributed to José de Cãnizares, a Spanish naval officer.  Cãnizares was an ensign on Juan Manuel de Ayala's ship, the packet boat San Carlos, i.e. a transport.

The most wonderful nautical chart of San Francisco Bay is the very first one that was ever made, in 1776.

Plano del puerto de Sn. Francisco : situado por los 37. grs. 53 mins. de latitud septentrional, y por 17. grs. 10. mins. de longitud occidental del puerto de Sn. Blas: registrado por el paquebot de S.M. el Sn. Carlos al mando de Dn. Juan Manuel de Ayala, Teniente de Fragata de la Real (Real) Armada.

A manuscript map, pen-and-ink and watercolor. Attributed to José de Cañizares, a Spanish naval officer. Cañizares was an ensign on Juan Manuel de Ayala’s ship, the packet boat San Carlos, i.e. a transport.

In 1768, the Spanish government drew up plans to built a naval base at San Blas, on the Pacific Coast of what is now Mexico, a bit north of Puerto Vallarta.

Three ships were sent north in 1775, for a Spanish expedition to explore the Pacific Northwest.

One of the ships was the transport San Carlos commanded by Juan Manuel de Ayala, the only Spanish ship to enter San Francisco Bay in 1775.

High resolution PDF:

https://www.lib.berkeley.edu/EART/maps/g4362s22_1776_c4.jpg

Image in the University of California’s digital collection:

https://digicoll.lib.berkeley.edu/record/58550

Various other nautical charts document the work of José de Cañizares in San Francisco Bay in 1775, including this one:

Plano del Puerto de San Francisco, registrado por el Paquebot de S.M. San Carlos, al mando del theniente de Fragata de la Real Armada Don Juan Manuel de Ayala, en esta año de 1775.

https://digicoll.lib.berkeley.edu/record/58549

 

 


Lines of Latitude: Sebastian Münster and his Cosmographia (1544)

Sebastian Münster, Hebrew scholar and theologian, was a curious man, a seeker and a risk taker. First a professor of Old Testament Studies, Münster reinvented himself. In 1536, he accepted a teaching position in mathematics at the University of Basel, in Switzerland.

Sebastian Munster
Portrait of Sebastian Münster by Christoph Amberger, ca. 1552

And Münster developed a sideline that came to define how we remember him today–he worked as a cartographer and cosmographer. Already in 1536, he released a Mappa Europae, later followed by a Latin edition of Ptolemy’s Geographia. But Sebastian Münster’s legacy is wrapped up in his Cosmographia of 1544, a book that managed the rare feat of being both scientific and popular. It was a runaway bestseller which described and explained the cosmos. In fact, it revolutionized how 16th century readers thought about the physical world.

From 1544 to 1628 the work passed through 40 editions in German, Latin, Czech, Italian, French and English and somehow persuaded educated Europeans to get interested in geography. Münster was assisted by more than one hundred and twenty collaborators. Famous woodcut artists contributed illustrations and that surely must have helped. The richly illustrated Latin version published in 1550 is the most prized edition today, in part because of its amazing city views.

But there was something else in the Cosmographia that rightfully fascinated readers: Four maps which struck a mortal blow at the medieval world view that ordered the physical world based on religious ideas. For centuries, medieval mappae mundi [= world maps] had depicted the known world, Asia, Africa and Europe, arranged in a Jerusalem-centered T-O design. Separate maps of individual continents were extremely rare in the European Middle Ages.

Münster made a radical choice. He insisted that this divinely ordered world, God’s creation, could be disassembled and depicted in parts, on different maps, which together would make up the known world. For his Cosmographia Sebastian Münster created four separate maps to depict the four known continents– the Americas, Africa, Asia and Europe. That includes his now famous depiction of the Western Hemisphere.

Nova Insulae
Novae Insulae Nova Tabula (= New Map of the New World) by Sebastian Münster, 1544

Lines of Latitude: Telling the Story of Maps

Why do maps speak to us?

Maps have explanatory power. They are visualization tools which help us to comprehend the social and physical world around us. They orient us. They impose order on chaos. But maps are also based on subjective choices made by cartographers who employ visualization techniques to reduce complexity. Cartographers create meaning by simplifying the social and physical world.

Cartography is a varied visual tradition which reaches back thousands of years. It emerged in different places and created the diverse mappy universe which we will explore through this map blog. Maps offer insights, a greater understanding of the world around us – and also of the past. And they are a window into the incredible biological and cultural diversity on this planet we call home.

The University of California Library at Berkeley just started the soft launch of our German World War II Captured Maps spatial humanities project which involves digitizing rich collections with about 20,000 maps, chiefly issued by German mapping agencies between the 1880s and 1945. That project will last into 2022 and our initial posts will focus on telling stories related to this important project.

But the Earth Sciences and Map Library at UC Berkeley is also located in a particular place, the East Bay, at the edge of the vast San Francisco Estuary, in northern California. Our small Bay Area world is connected to the larger world through Oakland’s vast commercial port. Transportation networks sustain our lives at the edge of the Pacific Ocean. Commuter ferries whiz across San Francisco Bay. We are close to some incredible physical spaces, the Marin Headlands, Muir Woods, Point Reyes National Seashore, several ranges of the Coastal Mountains.

The Ohlone are the predominant Indigenous group of the Bay Area. Spanish colonizers and the European diseases they brought to northern California undermined Ohlone existence and culture. In the wake of the Gold Rush the California state government sanctioned the murder of Indigenous populations by local militia. By the 1880s, the Bay Area Ohlone population was dramatically reduced.

Historically this area has been part of larger geographical frames, for example the Southwest, the borderlands of New Spain, Alta California, and the Western United States. We will look at how historical change has affected northern California.

And we are planning to explore many other worthwhile places and topics–the larger mappy universe. That is a world filled with surveyors, cosmographers, explorers, topographic engineers, mapping agencies, globes, atlases, aerial photography, satellite images, geological maps and rhumb lines, in short many worthwhile things.

Right now we are still working from our home offices, separated from the physical collections at the Earth Science and Map Library, in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. This also will be a place to publicize what is happening at the Earth Sciences and Map Library.

We hope you will find something enjoyable here and come along for the ride!

Bonita Dyess

Erica Newcome

Heiko Mühr

Susan Powell

Samantha Teplitzky