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Number: 3607
Continent: Africa
Region: North
Place Names: Egypt, Cairo, Alexandria, Fayoum
Year of Origin: 1897
Title: Carte de la Basse-Egypte et de la province du Fayoum / Dressee sur l?ordre de MM. Ed. Bouteron, J. Gibson et S.E.M. Chekib Pacha Membres de la Commission des Domaines de l?Etat Egyptien par MM. Audebeau, Souter & Colani Ingenieurs des Domaines avec l?aide des renseignements fournis par le Ministere des Travaux Publics. Desinee par Laurent Semat Caire, 1897.
Language: French
Publish Origin: Paris
Units: centimeters
Size Class.: Large
Color Type:
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Cartographer: Laurent Semat
Charles Audebeau Bey
Erhard Fres Freres
Other Contributors:
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Notes: [SEARCH] Colour lithograph, dissected into 66 sections and mounted upon original linen; 129.5 x 175 cm (51 x 69 inches). (more than 4 by 5feet wall map of Lower Egypt, including Cairo, the Nile Delta, the Suez Canal and the Fayoum Oasis, created for the Egyptian state land commission and predicated upon the very best official sources; showcasing a vast wealth of information on the infrastructure, land management and archaeological wonders of what was one of the world's most strategically valuable regions; perhaps the most beautiful and visually powerful map of Egypt of its era rare, no sales records traced. This map embraces all of Lower Egypt, from a Al Ayyat, south of Cairo, sweeping north to showcase the entire Nile Delta and the Suez Canal, while a large inset maps the Fayoum Oasis, a verdant area amidst the Western Desert to the southwest of Cairo. The map is the apogee of the work of the Administration des Domaines de l??at ?yptien, the organization that managed Egyptian government land and fixed assets on behalf of the Khedive and his foreign creditors. The map is the culmination of almost two decades of advanced surveys, latterly led by the prominent engineer Charles Audebeau Bey. The map, beautifully designed in Cairo by the French master draughtsman Laurent Sémat, was published in Paris by the leading firm of Erhard Fr?es; The map colours each of Lower Egypt's province in its own bright hue; the Nile, Suez Canal and the seas are bathed in a bold, bright blue; the deserts assume sandy shades; while coloured typography gives the work a remarkably rich finish. The landscape unfolds in massive scale and precise trigonometric accuracy, with all cities, towns and villages of any import labelled, all connected by the nation?s newly expanded network of roads and railways, as well as canals used for both irrigation and transport. The elevations of key places are noted, while the map includes an especially fine depiction of the Suez Canal, the lifeline of global trade. Of great interest, the map also labels the sites of key historic military battles (with dates), as well as the locations of countless archaeological sites and ruins, ranging for the Great Pyramids of Giza (the map?s Prime Meridian is based in the Pyramid of Cheops!) to newly unearthed discoveries in the desert, reflecting the Egypt-mania that enraptured the European intelligentsia. Finally, in the bottom-centre, the map features a table giving statistics for the volume output of the Nile River. The present map is certainly the most detail depiction of Lower Egypt available in in a single view from the 19th Century. It was issued in a small print run expressly for the use of senior administrators in Cairo, as well as key Western stakeholders in Egyptian affairs in Paris and London. Displayed on boardroom walls or upon huge mahogany tables, the map would have served as a vital strategic tool for those managing Egypt?s economy and infrastructure, individuals who usually also possessed a side interest in the country?s incredibly rich archaeology. A Note on Rarity The present map is today very rare. While we can trace 8 institutional examples worldwide, we cannot find any sales records going back 30 years. Historical Context: Surveying Egypt as it Entered the Modern Age The present map was made following a period of rapid growth and modernization capped by economic chaos and political reorganization. While Egypt was still a de jure province of the Ottoman Empire, in truth it had not been subject to the Sublime Porte?s rule since the Napoleonic Wars. For most of the 19ht Century, Egypt was an independent state ruled by a Khedive (Viceroy) of the Muhammad Ali Dynasty. In the 1850s, Egypt embarked upon an unprecedented period of infrastructure development (railways, irrigation canals and roads) that utterly transformed Lower Egypt, while the building the Suez Canal (opened in 1869), connecting the Indian and Atlantic oceans, made Egypt a foremost global transportation hub. These improvements are showcased in grand form upon the present map. However, Egypt?s development was built almost solely upon foreign debt, largely owed to British and French bankers. By 1876, the Egyptian pubic debt has risen to ?68.5 million (up from only ?3 million in 1863), with debt service accounting for over two-thirds of the state?s annual budget. Despite the Egyptian government?s attempts to fire-sell assets (it sold its shares in the Suez Canal to Britain in 1875!), it was unable to right the ship, and in 1876 the Egypt defaulted on its foreign debt. Facing economic meltdown, Egypt was forced to the negotiation table by its creditors, and in 1878 agreed to onerous debt repayment terms. The country?s finances were to be subject to the Public Debt Fund (Caisse de la Dette publique), a commission headed by British and French bankers. The Caisse was given control over many Egyptian government revenues streams, crown corporations and fixed assets. To manage Egypt?s public lands and infrastructure, in part to secure debt repayment funds, the Administration des Domaines de l?Etat Egyptien was established. The executive of the commission was headed by a French representative, but also had British and Egyptian members. Importantly for our story, the Administration oversaw a highly advanced mapping programme that included the mapping of railways, roads, canals, ports, mines, as well as various cadastral surveys. The Commissioners also took keen interest in Egypt?s amazingly rich archaeological history and mapped the locations of hundreds of ancient sites. In 1882, Egypt became a British protectorate, and accordingly the Administration worked closely with British military cartographers, forming a mapping bureaucracy that would be the precursor to the foundation of the Survey of Egypt in 1898 (the year after the present map was issued). The prime focus of the Commission?s mapping was Lower Egypt, which contained the extreme majority of the country?s population, infrastructure and its agrarian and industrial output. The Administration?s expert team of engineers, known as the ?Service technique?, marshalled its resources and worked closely with Egypt?s? Ministry of Public Works for many years to create a definitive map of Lower Egypt that could be employed for strategic planning by administrators, civil engineers, businessmen and archaeologists. Capping a decade of work, they produced the Carte de la Basse-Egypte, dress? par ordre de la commission des domaines de l'Etat ?yptien (Paris: Erhard Fr?es, 1888), a fairly large map (82 x 59 cm), executed to a scale of 1:400,000, of impressive accuracy. Please see link to the example at the Biblioth?ue nationale de France: While the 1888 work represented a great leap forward in the general mapping of Lower Egypt, as the Administration become even more involved in managing Egypt?s crown lands and infrastructure, it required a much more detailed, one might say ?panoptic?, view of the region. In the years that followed the Service technique, now led by the esteemed French engineer Charles Audebeau Bey (1861 ? 1939), conducted were more detailed and sophisticated surveys, eventually creating rough drafts that led the production of the present map. Laurent Sémat fashioned the surveys into a finely finished manuscript that was dispatched to Paris to be colour lithographed by Erhard Fr?es (such a large and advanced work was then well beyond the capabilities of Cairo printers). This stellar map was much appreciated by officials in Cairo, Paris and London and was highly praised by the academic geography establishment. A leading contemporary specialist journal opined: ?This map has been carefully compiled and brought up to date. It is on a sufficiently large scale to admit of considerable detail being given and is very nicely drawn.? (The Geographical Journal, vol. 11 (1888), p. 109). The present was map was the finest general map of Lower Egypt created to date and was the grandest work of the Administration?s Service technique. It formed a key part of the august foundation upon which the Survey of Egypt was formed the following year, so opening a new and exciting chapter in the mapping of Egypt. References: Biblioth?ue nationale de France: GE C-2558; British Library: Cartographic Items Maps 64390.(22.); Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin - Preu?scher Kulturbesitz: Kart. C 7412; OCLC: 491155858 / 84914314 / 47115098 / 557240359; Jairus BANAJI, Agrarian Change in Late Antiquity: Gold, Labour, and Aristocratic Dominance (Oxford, 2001), pp. 242-243; Alfred L. FONTAINE, Monographie cartographique de l?isthme de Suez, de la p?insule du Sina? du nord de la cha?e arabique (Cairo, 1955), p. 157.
Last updated: Sep 26, 2019