“The Legacy of the First Russian Cartographic Firm.”
Presentation and Film Screening
Presenters Maggie Burke and Caitlin Oakley
August 2nd talk at 3pm
in the Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress.
In 1783, Catherine the Great issued an edict allowing private citizens to
own and operate their own printing presses without a government commission.
This was the beginning of the Russian free press. Over the next century, the
number of private publishing establishments increased significantly. One such
enterprise was the Cartographic Firm of A. Il’in, founded in St. Petersburg
Il’in began his association with cartography while serving in the Russian
Military Topographic Depot. After completing his military career, Il’in
started his own cartographic firm — the first private map-making enterprise
Russia. With the help of his associate Vladimir Poltaratskii, Il’in soon
added lithography to his publishing repertoire.
By 1881, the firm was publishing six million prints annually. At its peak,
the Il’in firm produced maps, textbooks, postcards, periodicals, globes, and
lithographs for other private publishers, Imperial ministries, and general
consumption. Il’in produced military prints, maps, and charts that can be
found in books once owned by the Russian Imperial family, but he was known
for his accurate and inexpensive maps available to the public.
Following Aleksei Afinogenovich’s death in 1889, his son, Aleksei
Alekseevich Il’in, head of numismatics for the Hermitage Museum, inherited
the business. Production continued under the son’s direction until the
outbreak of the Russian Revolution. In 1918, the firm was nationalized and
became the First State Cartographic Enterprise. Aleksei Alekseevich remained a
consultant with the firm until his death in 1942 during the Siege of
The firm still operates today as a “military cartographic factory” at the
The Cartographic Firm of A. Il’in appeared to fall into obscurity until
two recent exhibitions in St. Petersburg (2004 and 2010) focused on the
firm’s history and publications. Catherine’s policies allowed Il’in’s
firm to publish a broad range of materials, a versatility that made them not
only the primary national supplier of maps and high school textbooks, but also
a well known art lithography studio. The Il’in materials found in the Yudin
Collection reflect this versatility.