[PAST EVENT] "The Legacy of the First Russian Cartographic Firm."

August 2, 2012
Rosenwald Room 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 in 1859.

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 in Russia. With the help of his associate Vladimir Poltaratskii, Il'in soon added lithography to his publishing repertoire.

By 1881, the firm was publishing 6 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 also 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 Leningrad. The firm still operates today as a Il'in military cartographic factory Il'in at the same address.

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.