History of Cartography

Thematic Maps and Atlases

5111.1 - Adventures of a world atlas – History of the publication of the Debes Atlas in Hungary

Wednesday, July 5
8:30 AM - 8:50 AM
Location: Hoover

In 1911, the Hungarian Geographical Institute, the leading cartographic institute, decided to publish a “real” Hungarian hand atlas. The available Hungarian atlases were enlarged school atlases, though they were advertised as hand atlases. Unfortunately, the new atlas contained 84 pages of the planned 130.
The adventurous history of the atlas is reconstructed from Hungarian and German sources, archivalia and original drawings in the collection of the Department of Cartography and Geoinformatics, Eötvös Loránd University. The new world atlas was compiled using the maps of the Debes atlas (Neuer Handatlas, Leipzig, H. Wagner & E. Debes). The cost of preparing all pages anew would have been horribly high due to the small number of copies. Longer studies did, but the advertisements did not mention this, because they wanted to gain the interest of buyers.
The first editors were Pál Teleki and Károly Kogutowicz. Pál Teleki (1879–1941), an open-minded geographer, academic director of the Geographical Institute since 1909, came from an aristocratic family. Later he was prime minister twice (1920–21, 1939–41). His political role has been discussed, but his scientific achievements are not doubted. Károly Kogutowicz (1886–1948) was the oldest son of Manó Kogutowicz (1851–1908), founder of the Geographical Institute. He took and modernized the management of the Institute after his father’s death.
The atlas was planned to include 36 new pages: 18 for Hungary and 18 for other areas (Romania, Mediterranean Sea, Pacific Ocean etc.). As Teleki was an economic geographer, several new thematic maps were made of the continents. The detailed maps of Germany and the map of Palestine were left from the Debes atlas.
The publication started with booklets in 1912. They planned to publish 16 booklets per month; due to delays from the beginning the last, eleventh booklet appeared with a delay of 19 months in October 1914. The Great War was already on and the purchasing power dramatically dropped. The general public needed maps but of the battle fields. However, Teleki and Kogutowicz had a big fight in early 1913, undoubtedly on the publication of the world atlas. Teleki was a maximalist, he had great ideas, but there was no more money for the atlas. Teleki even forbade indicating his name; half of the maps of the 4th booklet appeared without the names of editors, the other half (and the later maps) showed Kogutowicz – Littke. Aurél Littke (1872–1944) was a geography teacher and worked for the Institute. His name was shown because there were a lot of Kogutowicz atlases and the publisher wanted to express the difference.
They did everything to market the atlas, even hired a young talented artist for the unusually intensive publicity campaign to be able to complete the publication, which had already cost countless money. Béla Szekeres (1890–1966) designed posters, illustrations and fashionable stamp series to close the envelopes. He made the poster that was used as the title page of folders for provisionally storing the sheets.
By end 1914, the publication of the atlas stopped for ever, but the Institute used its sheets. The maps of the war fields were printed over with the war situation and published again. Some years after the war, Teleki tried to continue publishing the sheets, but the Hungarian edition of the Freytag atlas was published, and this made the completion impossible.
The paper will include several, partly unpublished illustrations.

László Zentai

Head of department
Department of Cartography and Geoinformatics, Eotvos University

László Zentai is a Full Professor and Head of the Department of Cartography and Geoinformatics at Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, Hungary. He is the Vice-Rector (also between 2007 and 2010) of the university and he was also the Vice-dean of the Faculty of Informatics two times previosuly. Prof. Zentai is the Secretary-General of the International Cartographic Association (2011–2019) and he is also serving as the Chairman of the Hungarian National ICA Group. He is a Council member of the International Orienteering Federation. His papers are dealing with computer cartography, cartographic education, topographic mapping, relief representation, orienteering maps, environmental protection and webcartography.


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Ábel Hegedűs

Ministry of Defense, Institute and Museum of Military History

He was born in Budapest in 1955. He obtained MSc in Cartography at Eötvös Loránd University. He spent a year in the sea service, and then he worked as a cartographer and reconnaisence mapper until 1985. He was a founder of one of the first private cartographic firms, AGÁT (Top-O-gráf) in Hungary in 1992. Later he was the manager of Ábel Cartographic Co. He has been employed by the Map Collection of MoD Institute and Museum of Military History since 2005. His hobby is orienteering (competing and map-making).


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Imre J. Demhardt

Garrett Chair in the History of Cartography
University of Texas at Arlington

Since 2008 Imre J Demhardt holds the the Garrett Chair in the History of Cartography. His research interests include post-enlightenment cartography, colonialism and regional studies of Central Europe, Sub-Saharan Africa and North America.


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5111.1 - Adventures of a world atlas – History of the publication of the Debes Atlas in Hungary

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