This page provides access to scans of some of the 19th-century maps of the Middle East, North Africa, and Central Asia that are held at the University of Chicago Library's Map Collection.
Most of these maps were published in Western Europe, and nearly all the others were published in Russia or in the United States. The maps are products of--or were designed to support--the major European and Russian activities in the region: exploration, scientific research, resource exploitation, conquest, and administration.
Several genres are represented. Some of the maps of Algeria and Central Asia are military topographic maps that were surely compiled at the behest of colonial administrations. Other maps are nautical charts, maps designed to facilitate navigation. A few of the maps are "theatre of war" maps that were published by commercial firms and sold to members of the public who wanted to follow wars that for the first time were being reported in daily newspapers on the basis of telegraph dispatches. Many of the maps are products of European scholarly interest. Some show the paths of recent journeys of exploration. Others are "synthetic" maps that show the results of many decades of research. More than half of the scholarly maps are offprints from then-new scholarly journals like Petermanns Geographische Mitt(h)eilungen and the Bulletin de la Société de géographie.
Most of the maps of Algeria and many of the other maps as well are from the collection that was assembled by the French geographer Emile Levasseur (1828-1911) and bought in 1914 by the old John Crerar Library. The maps were acquired in 1930-1931 by the University of Chicago Library. This was in part a working collection, used by Levasseur and his colleagues for the production of new cartographic materials. Several of the maps have penciled grids that were used before cheap xerography (and of course long before GIS) for the transfer of cartographic information from an existing map onto a new one.