Schroetter's land survey (1795-1802)

Schroetter's land survey is a map series produced between 1795 and 1802. The maps were produced at the behest of the Prussian Minister of State, Baron von Schroetter, using the contemporary technology of the 18th century. They follow from other map series such as the Schmettau's cartography, which only insufficiently covered the East Prussian part of the country. The maps were intended to fill a gap, since hardly any good map series existed for East and West Prussia at the time. They were to serve various purposes of the state, but were also to be open for private use.

Various interests had to be taken into account during the creation of the map already. State administration was particularly interested in recording the exact extent of the state territory and the position of places and traffic routes that were important for administration. In addition, the military was interested in information on special terrain formations and fields, which they could use for battles and field camps. The planned publication of the maps for civilian use was a novelty in the Kingdom of Prussia. This publication had already been planned from the beginning. Thus, in addition to information on places and traffic routes, the maps also contained information on the navigability of rivers, the abundance of fish in lakes and on economic uses (e.g. peat digging, crop yield).

The maps of Schroetter's land survey were state of the art at that time. The mapping process itself was led by Captain von Textor. He first commissioned an astronomical determination of the location of 22 individual points (observatories, church towers, etc.), and between these points a trigonometric net was drawn up using eight base lines. This net spanned the entire territory of Prussia. Based on this, the actual mapping of the map sheets took place, during which the places and landscapes were surveyed. The final map was then produced in a central drawing office. This was first set up in Königsberg Castle, later in Marienwerder, and the final work was done in Berlin.

The result of the survey was the first map of the entire territory of Prussia. This map had a scale of 1:50,000 and was subsequently disseminated via copperplate prints. The resulting map was used for decades and published in several editions. The map was created at the beginning of the coalition wars and thus had a special military value in addition to its other uses. Therefore, after the defeat of the Prussian state by Napoleon, the printing plates were confiscated and taken to Paris. There a new version of the map was printed and sold for profit.

For the Curonian Spit, Schroetter's map is the first map in which it can be assumed that the locations and landmarks on the Curonian Spit are approximately correct. This is particularly evident in comparison with more recent maps. The geographical shape of the Curonian Spit can also be recognised correctly on the map for the first time. Looking at the individual bays on the lagoon side more closelyand comparing them to more recent maps, it is noticeable that the bays are much more prominent. This is particularly evident in the coastline that juts out into the Curonian Lagoon at Rossitten (Rybachi).

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.

Map used:

Schroetter, N. N. von (1796-1803): Karte von Ost-Preussen nebst Preussisch Litthauen und West-Preussen nebst Netzedistrict aufgenommen unter Leitung des Königl. Preuss. Staats Ministers Frey Herrn von Schroetteer in den Jahren von 1796 bis 1802. Handschriftliche Originalaufnahme der Schroetterschen Landesaufnahme. M1:50.000, Berlin 1796ff. Blätter 2, 3, 5, 6, 9, 10. (SBPK Signatur N1020).