Müffling Map (1834)

The Müffling's maps are the result of the next large-scale survey of the Prussian state, which began after the Coalition Wars and significantly reduced the Prussian backlog compared to other European nations in the cartographic coverage of the state territory. The map used here is dated 1834 and was thus created after the direct period of activity of the Major General Philipp Friedrich Carl Ferdinand Freiherr von Müffling (1775-1851), after whom it is named. However, the designation used as "Müffling Map" is justified, as this map is largely based on his work with regard to the geodetic principles, the stylistic execution and the organisation of the data acquisition.

In order to understand the importance of Major General von Müffling for Prussian cartography and, thus, the progress represented by this map, it is necessary to consider the historical context. In the aftermath of the Coalition Wars, the organisation of land surveying also changed in the context of Prussian reforms. Whereas previously it was mainly individual initiatives that led to the production of maps, from 1816 onwards systematic land surveying became a permanent task of the Prussian General Staff, which carried out this task until the end of the First World War in 1918.

In the course of his career since 1796, Müffling himself was repeatedly involved in land surveys in various parts of Prussia and Germany. In the process, he also came into contact with the leading surveyors of his time, with whom he also maintained a professional exchange. Thus Müffling was very familiar with the problems and requirements of land surveying and had a renowned expertise. At the same time, he continued to advance in his career, becoming head of military surveying in 1820 and chief of the general staff in 1821. In this role he was able to push through fundamental improvements in surveying. As early as 1821, he set out these in his work "Instruction für die topographischen Arbeiten des Königlich Preußischen Generalstabes" (Instruction for the topographic work of the Royal Prussian General Staff) and made them binding for land surveying.

These instructions brought about significant progress in all areas of topographic mapping, which had a direct and perceptible effect on the map. For example, he standardised the signatures that were to be used on the map and specified how mapping was to be carried out and which (mathematical) methods should be used. This can be seen concretely in the map of 1834: the differences between the individual map sheets are much smaller than in Schroetter's map, the signatures are consistent and overall the map sheets appear more homogeneous in the number of elements depicted. The implementation of these improvements was also facilitated by the growing experience of the surveyors, who were professional soldiers from this time on, mostly with the rank of lieutenant. They were trained for a position on the General Staff, the later Chief of General Staff von Moltke d. Ä. was among them. The standard scale of the map was the Messtischblatt (Ordnance Survey) with a scale of 1:25,000.

On the map, it is noticeable that the headlands and bays on the Curonian Lagoon are clearly less pronounced. This can be seen particularly well in the shape of the shore at Rossitten (Rybachi).

Additionally, there were technical improvements in mapping. On the one hand, this concerned the equipment of the engineers in the field, but also the mathematical methods that were used. In particular, the Müffling ellipsoid introduced by Müffling in 1824 was a clear improvement over previously used ellipsoids. An ellipsoid is the surface of rotation of an ellipse. Planets usually have this shape due to centrifugal forces during their formation. Practically, it looks like a somewhat flattened ball. Today, the Müffling ellipsoid makes translation into GIS programmes much easier, as its mathematical basis ensures an easy transfer.

Works Cited:

Jäger, Eckhard (1981): Die Schroettersche Landesaufnahme von Ost-und Westpreußen (1796-1802). Entstehungsgeschichte, Herstellung und Vertrieb der Karte. In: Zeitschrift für Ostforschung 30 (3), pp. 359–389.

Torge, Wolfgang (2002): Müfflings geodätisches Wirken in der Umbruchepoche vom 18. zum 19. Jahrhundert. In: Zeitschrift für Vermessungswesen (ZfV) 127, pp. 97–108.

Torge, Wolfgang (2009): Geschichte der Geodäsie in Deutschland. 2. ed. Berlin: de Gruyter.