Last updated: 2018-07-10

Atlas Fontium
ISSN 2353-9216

Digital editions of historical maps: perspectives and constraints on the example of Gaul/Raczyński map (1807-1812)

Tomasz Panecki (ed.), authors: Tomasz Panecki, Piotr Kann

Article within project: Old maps' digital editions: perspectives and constraints on the example of "Geographic-Military and Statistical Map of Greater Poland" (1807-1812) financed by National Science Center (nr 2015/17/N/HS3/01267).

List of available layers (2180 coordinate system):

ForestsHydro_line Hydro_polygon
Industrial Natural_landscapeRoads

Old maps are extremely interesting material from which we can learn about the old landscape: settlements, road connections, afforestation and hydrography. The number of multi-sheet topographic maps developed over the last 200 years for the territory of Poland is very large, and their availability lies not only in the interests of scholars but also a wide range of enthusiasts of regional history and geography. The project aimed to develop a model for sharing (editing) of old maps in a way that allows the use of cartographic sources for a wide range of interested parties. This model was developed on the basis of previous experience in the field of digital editing of old maps, which shows that the “model edition” should enable the download of scans of map sheets, as well as include an internet application with a georeferenced map and a spatial database developed on its basis. An editorial commentary is also necessary. The map provided is a map of Gaul/Raczyński (approx. 1:75,000, 1807-1812) showing a fragment of the Poznań Department of the Duchy of Warsaw. An eight-sheet, manuscript map was georeferenced and mosaicked into one continuous image. Its original, colorful symbology was also reconstructed, because currently we only have black and white photocopies as the map was destroyed during the II World War. The database developed on the basis of the map contains approx. 4000 features, including settlements (with name and type), industrial facilities, buildings, roads, forests, rivers and lakes. Individual components are connected via a web application. It is therefore an excellent source of knowledge about the former Greater Poland.

Two main questions arose from the study:

1. Is the digital facsimile of the manuscript already a map edition and is the spatial database of the map content still map edition?

2. What array of methods is allowed for the edition to be a map edition and not a digital historical map?

As far as the first question is concerned, the author takes the view that the concept of editing can be treated quite broadly in the case of cartographic sources. This means that both providing users with a scan of the source along with the basic information is already its edition, and on the other hand - placing a digital vector representation of the map content in the web application is still an edition. Digital facsimile is already an edition due to the nature of cartographic sources. Using a scanned manuscript of a written source without a geographical index to find a place, we would have to browse hundreds of pages, while in the case of a topographic map, it is enough to reach for the appropriate sheet indicated in the index. Editing the map at such a basic level is quite useful, although it is not - which is obvious - complete and full edition. This edition, however, allows advanced users to work independently with the map after it has been downloaded. On the other hand, we have editions in the form of only vector data collected in the database, which give us information processed in some way, but do not provide insight into the map image. The best solution would therefore be to combine both and provide both facsimile maps and a database.

The answer to the second question is more complicated. While preparing the edition of the Gaul/Raczyński map, the author “filled in” blank spaces based on the Gilly map. This can be justified in two ways: firstly, Gilly's map was a source of data for the Gaul/Raczyński map, and secondly, only those elements of the drawing that were visible on the Gaul/Raczyński map were supplemented, but illegible for various reasons, e.g. settlement’s name. In this situation, the name was supplemented based on Gilly's map. One could, however, go a step further and supplement the Wschowa district, which was drawn on the Gaul/Raczyński map only partially on the basis of the Gilly map. If it were to go two steps further and complete the missing districts of the Poznań Department of the Duchy of Warsaw, or even the entire Duchy of Warsaw based on e.g. the Heldensfeld map. Then we would have a complete, digital representation of the topographic information of the area at the beginning of the 19th century. Further steps could be supplemented with diachronic information: a Quartermaster’s map, Urmesstischblätter or a Second Military Survey.

In which of these steps does the digital editing end and the elaboration of digital map begin? According to the author, supplementing information on the map is still its edition, while adding new features to it based on other maps - elaborating a historical map. In other words: adding a name to the settlement where buildings were drawn is supplementing the information, while adding a completely new settlement is adding information. In this sense, digital edition of Gaul/Raczyński map is nothing more than its digital edition. However, due to the needs of historical geography, the postulate for the future should be not so much the development of digital map editions, but historical databases based on editions.

Read more in Polish version

Licencja Creative Commons
Księgi konsystorza kaliskiego 1504–1540. autorzy, Instytut Historii im. Tadeusza Manteuffla Polskiej Akademii Nauk i Pracownia Geoinformacji Historycznej Katolickiego Uniwersytetu Lubelskiego jest dostępny na licencji Creative Commons Uznanie autorstwa - Bez utworów zależnych 4.0 Międzynarodowe.