1826 Kolberg - Mappa jeneralna Wojewodztwa Augustowskiego [early Polish-language cartography]

1826 Kolberg - Mappa jeneralna Wojewodztwa Augustowskiego [early Polish-language cartography]

Rare 1826 Polish regional map —an important piece of Polish-language cartography


Mappa jeneralna Wojewodztwa Augustowskiego

Map maker:

Juliusz Kolberg; Józef Sławiński, at the Instytut Litograficzny Szkolny

Place and Year:

Warsaw, 1826


43.5 x 57 cm (17.2 x 22.5 in)




Original hand color

Condition Rating:


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This is a detailed map of the region surrounding the Polish city of Augustow in northeastern Poland from the Atlas Krolestwa Polskiego (Atlas of the Polish Kingdom), which consisted of eight regional maps. It includes a statistical table and an explanation of symbols including religious and scholastic institutions in both Polish and French.

The map is a fine example of early Polish lithography, featuring lovely original outline colors in distinctly Polish hues. While the map is primarily printed in the Polish language, its title and legends are subtitled in French, at the time a pan-European intellectual language. Importantly, Colberg’s work fulfils multiple roles, being a highly accurate topographical map, but also a sophisticated thematic map with detailed political, economic, and cultural information, rendering it by far the best map ever created of the voivodship.

Maps from this atlas are among the finest maps to be printed in the Polish language during the 19th century. It is a series of eight maps of the voivodships (provinces) of Congress Poland (the Russian puppet-state created in 1815 that embraced much of today’s central and eastern Poland), which were published in Warsaw for Juliusz Colberg, a fascinating figure who managed to produce great cartography under challenging political circumstances.

Far beyond its topographical accuracy, this map is highly sophisticated and multi-thematic, featuring detailed information concerning the economy, transportation, religious affairs/education, and civil administration of the voivodships.

The scores of symbols used on the map are labelled within the legends. Conventionally, there are symbols identifying several different types of settlements ranked by their political importance and size, ranging from the voivodships, county and district seats all the way down to villages, scattered clusters of houses and even isolated farms. The map employs different symbols to identity various aspects of the topography, including hills, forests, rivers, lakes, marshes, etc., with great precision.

Making the work an advanced economic map, there are also symbols representing forestry offices, salt stores, customs offices, paper mills, glassworks, tanneries, iron foundries, amongst other operations. The map also details numerous institutions of civil governance, including the seats of criminal courts, local judges, justices of the peace, police stations and customs offices.

The map features numerous symbols that detail the various religious and educational institutions across the voivodships, showing that the population was demographically quite diverse. As the Roman Catholic Church was the social backbone for most of the region’s inhabitants, its various institutions are identified, including cathedrals, parish churches, convents, monasteries, and schools of various levels. The map also labels synagogues, mosques and Russian Orthodox churches, representing the region’s large minority communities, although in some areas the Jewish and Orthodox communities were in the majority.

The map also provides an extremely detailed overview of the region’s transport system, labelling many different types of roads as to their size and importance, as well as key bridges. Closely related to the road network, is the labelling of each and every post office, noting its level of importance.

Historical Context: The Road to Rebellion in Congress Poland

Juliusz Kolberg issued the present Atlas during a volatile time in Polish history when the mere act of publishing a map in the Polish language was a potentially risky political act. Since 1795, Poland had ceased to exist as a sovereign state, as the three Partitions of Poland (1772, 1793 and 1795) had chopped up the once great nation, giving pieces of its territory to Prussia, Austria and Russia. From 1795 to 1807, the area that later became the Augustów Voivodship, which had been taken over by Prussia, made up a good part of what was called the province of New East Prussia. Napoleon’s creation of the Duchy of Warsaw in 1807, a French puppet state which embraced much of Central and Eastern Poland (including Augustów Voivodship), brought hope to Polish nationalists that it might be the genesis for the rebirth of a sovereign Poland, but this was not to be.

The Congress of Vienna (1815), which ended the Napoleonic Wars, re-divided Poland amongst the aforementioned powers. Much of Central and Eastern Poland, centred on Warsaw, was handed to Russia, becoming the state of Congress Poland (Królestwo Kongresowe), or more formally the Kingdom of Poland (Królestwo Polskie). Specifically, this new state included the Kalisz region and the Lublin, Łódź, Masovia, Podlasia and Świętokrzyskie voivodships of today’s Poland. In 1816, Congress Poland was divided into eight voivodships: Augustów, Kalisz, Kraków (which notably excluded the city of Kraków, which was a free city), Lublin, Mazowsze, Płock, Podlasie, and Sandomierz.

Technically, Russia granted Congress Poland a remarkably liberal constitution, which if followed would allow the state a great level of internal autonomy and its citizens a high degree of civil liberty. The country would have its own Sejm (parliament), arms, currency and legal system. However, in reality this document was a paper tiger that the Russian Czar had no intention of honoring.

Within a few years of its birth, Congress Poland came under the de facto dictatorship of Grand Duke Konstantin Pavlovich, Czar Alexander I’s Viceroy in Warsaw. Konstantin’s dreaded secret police shut down the free press and proceeded to supress any groups that were viewed as holding Polish nationalist sentiments.

With the ascension of Czar Nicholas I, in 1825, the Russian vice was further tightened upon Congress Poland. Thoroughly totalitarian and not especially intelligent, Nicholas decided that it was not enough to merely dominate Poland, but rather that Poland should lose its identity as its people should be assimilated onto the broader Russian population, becoming members of the Orthodox Church, and hopefully one-day switching to speak Russian. He specifically eschewed the 1815 Constitution and silenced Poland’s autonomous institutions (henceforth the Sejm was convened illegally and in secret). Even more worryingly, he commenced designs to partially suppress the Roman Catholic Church and the use of the Polish language. As Kolberg was preparing the present map, Russia was rapidly losing any partners it may had had in Congress Poland, as the country was headed for a violent revolt that would come to be known as the November Uprising (1830-1831).

Kolberg’s Atlas Królestwa Polskiego maps were printed in the Polish language and were of a large enough scale, plus featuring such detail that they would be imbued with some potential military utility, factors that the Russian authorities would not normally like. However, it seems that Kolberg’s good rapport with the Russians allowed him to convince them that the Atlas Królestwa Polskiego maps were intended only for the select use of academics, not intended for circulation to ‘troublemakers’. This might explain why so few examples of the maps were ever printed and why they are today so rare.


Sectioned and mounted on original linen; some minor loss, surface dirt and minor browning.




Steven Seegel, Mapping Europe's Borderlands: Russian Cartography in the Age of Empire, pp. 94-5.


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