This page was created by Yipeng Zhou.  The last update was by Kelly O'Neill.

Imperiia: a spatial history of the Russian Empire

Siberian Sketchbook

We are building a geospatial archive seventeenth-century Siberia. The source of this archive-under-construction is a gorgeous manuscript atlas produced in 1696 and now housed in Harvard’s Houghton Library. The 163 maps Semyon Remezov created and bound into his Khorograficheskaya Kniga (Chrorographic Sketchbook) describe feature topography, vegetation, mineral deposits, the prevalence of wildlife, and details about trade routes and travel conditions. If you want to locate poisonous fruit, lucrative hunting grounds, or the best route over winter ice, Remezov's atlas - and the database we are building from it - is for you. 

Why we are excited (and why you should be) 

Take a look behind the curtain

Visualizing the contents of 163 maps describing 24 major rivers (along with hundreds of others) spanning half a continent in one visual plane is no easy task. And did we mention that the maps vary constantly in scale, projection, and orientation?

In an effort to tame this cartographic beast, we harnessed the power of the drafting grid Remezov used to compile his maps. By breaking each sheet into a series of grid squares we can preserve the sequential logic of the maps and allow researchers to filter and query. To get a sense of how this works, explore this visualization of the 12 maps of the Tobol River. Use the folio (i.e. map) selector on the left to see how the distribution of features, graphic elements (including symbols and color variation), and text elements (including placenames and notes) vary.

See what you can make of these maps: choose your own adventure:

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