|Contextual Notes||Carl Van Verden was a Russian sailor and manager of a survey of the Caspian Sea under the reign of Peter the Great (1689-1725). He completed the first accurate map of the Caspian Sea in two sheets, published in 1722 (Tooley, 638). Once the map was completed, Peter the Great sent the map to Paris where it was "well received" and copied by many cartographers (Bagrow, 175).|
Guillaume de L'Isle (1675-1726) was a cartographer and the Premier Geographer to the King in France beginning in 1718. His family played a significant part in the world of French cartography in the eighteenth century. At age 9, he drew his first map and at age 27 he became a member of the Académie Royale des Sciences. He studied under Jacques Cassini, acquiring knowledge in both mathematics and astronomy. Due to his academic background and his "critical approach to the maps of his predecessors" he became known as the first "scientific cartographer" (Moreland and Bannister, 132). Among his works are "Globe, map of the world and the four continents" (1700), "Atlas de Géographie" (1700-12), "Mississippi" (1701), "Carte du Mexique et de la Floride…" (c.a. 1703), "Carte de la Louisiane et du Mississippi" (1718) and posthumously, "Atlas Noveau" (1730 and later). Following his death, his widow took up the business with a partner, Philippe Buache (Tooley 395; Moreland and Bannister, 131-2).
This particular map was based on the work of Carl Van Verden's first map and survey of the Caspian Sea from 1719 to 1721. The map was copied by many cartographers including Guillaume de L'Isle. This map contains a watermark indicating that the map may have been published in 1742. The map was most likely included in Guillaume de L'Isle's "Atlas de Geographie" as plate 13 (David Rumsey Cartography Associates).
The Caspian Sea had not been accurately depicted until this point in the eighteenth century. During the third century B.C., a myth existed that the Caspian was actually a gulf. Ptolemy showed the Caspian as landlocked but a later account from the sixth century A.D. brought back the earlier notion of the Caspian as a gulf (Bricker and Tooley, 105). During the early eighteenth century, Peter the Great developed a strong interest in surveys of the Caspian Sea due to his desire to reroute the Amu Darya River so that it would run into the Caspian Sea and benefit the Russian with trade from the rest of Asia and India. A survey managed by Alexander Cherkassky and later Carl Van Verden showed this to be impossible. However, the survey did allow Van Verden to produce an accurate map of the Caspian Sea that was later to be copied by many prominent European cartographers (Howgego, 917).
Bagrow, Leo. "History of Cartography." Revised and enlarged by R.A. Skelton. Chicago: Precedent Publishing, Inc., 1963.
David Rumsey Cartography Associates. "David Rumsey Collection: Carte marine de la Mer Caspiene. (Northern Sheet)." Accessed 29 Jan 2009.
Moreland, Carl and David Bannister. "Antique Maps: A Collector's Handbook." New York: Longman Group, Ltd., 1983.
Tooley, Ronald Vere. "Tooley's Dictionary of Mapmakers." Hertfordshire: Map Collector Publications Limited, 1979.
Tooley, Ronald Vere and Charles Bricker. "Landmarks of Mapmaking: An Illustrated Survey of Maps and Mapmakers." Amsterdam: Elsevier, 1968.