Historical Relief Maps

One of the important characteristics of maps is the accurate and understandable reflection of a relief, which expresses the outlook of the terrestrial features on a vertical plane. With this purpose certain production and drawing techniques, such as contour lines, hachures, colour layers, shading and hatching are used separately or a few together. The relief maps are specially produced with various methods reflecting the structure of the terrain in three dimensions as it is in nature, using materials based on cardboard, wax, mixture of resin and wax, gypsum or plastic. In these maps the earth is seen in three dimensions as if looking down from a certain height.

The relief map production technique was initially used in the late nineteenth century. The relief maps previously produced manually with hand tools are now being mass produced with use of computers, generally using plastic materials.

Our historical relief maps explained in this research with samples among the first originals of their kind in the world as mentioned in the preface, each being as beautiful as a painting, with the writings, frames and the ornaments on the frames they represent charming samples of calligraphy and the art of decoration. Some of them include oil paintings of the important historical and religious places, plus expressive descriptions of historical events. These paintings and writings, reflecting also the excelling patriotism and emotion of their producers, are ornamented with the attention of a goldsmith.
From this standpoint, the Relief Map of Çanakkale (Gelipoli) Strait (Archive Nr. 6904) existing at the Military Museum and Culture Site (MMCS) in addition to its perfection and beauty as a map, the writing on it summarizes the epic battles of Çanakkale and has the characteristic of a very valuable historical document as it reflects the statistics of the casualties suffered by the allied naval force and indicates the battle lines of the allies and the enemy and includes paintings of the important fortifications and locations. (The work reflects also the vast cartographic knowledge and great skill of its producer, retired Brigadier General Halil İbrahim)

Other than the Relief Map of Çanakkale, the relief map of "Crete and Rhode Islands" at the General Command of Mapping (GCM), the relief map of “Anadolu” (Anatolia) at the Army War School is considered to be produced in memory of a visit paid to Palestine by the German Emperor Wilhelm II, and the relief map of Jerusalem and Palestine take place among the original relief map samples.

The research carried out has revealed that the relief maps produced with educational and tactical purposes are much more frequent than the ones mentioned in this research. Some of the products such as the relief maps of Çanakkale Strait, Caucasus, Edirne, Crete and Rhode Islands, are individual maps pertaining to a definite area. Others are in a group of same scale maps covering larger areas, in other words a group of sheets covering a certain area produced in a map series. These map series, consisting of 42 relief sheets, cover Rumeli, Greece, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania and partly Austria. Unfortunately, out of the 42 sheets at present only 13 sheets are available.

Individually produced and now available, 23 relief sheets can easily be said to form one part of the produced relief maps. In summary, now, in total we hold 36 relief maps. Twenty three of these are individual and the remaining 93 are produced in series.
The available maps, excluding few, are in good condition. The products existing at the GCM were repaired with the great skill of the Army Captain Nusret Gülün (now retired colonel) in 1966, when brought to Ankara from the MMCS. As maintained later, they are all in good condition, except a sheet newly found this year. (Map of Edirne)

In my reviews I have noticed that the relief map production developed in the early 1880's, when they were greatly favoured at the beginning, but later on the importance attached to these products decreased over time. The reason for this can be explained as follows: considering the flow of relief map production within the historical development of Turkish modern mapping.

After the Ottoman - Russian Battle in 1877, the Chief of General Staff is reorganized in 1880 and the "Fifth Section" included in it is assigned with mapping and scientific activities. Together with this new importance attached to mapping the aim was to train technical personnel capable of new technology and provide new instruments and materials as well as increase the production level to meet the requirements of the country. Meanwhile, with the purpose of meeting the urgent requirement for education and tactical maps and mainly to be helpful for the mapping education at the Army War School, relief maps of certain important areas were started to be produced as educational or wall maps under the leadership of the young instructors of topography and surveying at this school. In the later days of 1884 the tactical requirement for this production was more important. At the beginning, First Lieutenant Hasan Rıza, First Lieutenant Ali Haydar (both are masters of calligraphy at the same time), First lieutenant Hasan Behçet and Army Captain Halil Ibrahim are names mentioned in almost every relief map produced until 1895's. In later products, some new names are seen, such as Dağıstanlı Zekeriya Hulki. It is certain that Dağıstanlı Hulki, who started producing relief maps during his cadet years at the Army War School and his comrades are students of the above mentioned leading officers in the relief map production.

The latest of our historical relief maps is the one produced again by Brigadier General Halil İbrahim in 1999 upon a private request in memory of The Battles of Çanakkale at the scale of 1/25.000 covering the Strait of Çanakkale and the Battles that took place there.

During the republican period, linear maps being considered as the base in the development and the defence of the country are produced at various scales and completed with priority. No relief maps of importance are produced, other than a few privately produced until the establishment of a relief map section at GCM in 1966. Today at this section, the required various scale relief maps are produced with utmost care and accuracy by very well trained military and civilian personnel using plastic material and sophisticated instruments and devices, most of which are equipped with computers.


Information: This map covers the Strait of Çanakkale and mainly Gelibolu Peninsula. It is produced by retired Brigadier General Cerrahpaşalı Halil Bey (Halil İbrahim). On cloth coated wooden surface, seas and lakes are painted in blue colour. The terrain is indicated by means of cardboards cut in layers according to the contour lines and stuck one on top of the other and then it is retouched filling the formed layer gaps with a mixture of resin and wax. The top of the model is oil painted in the colours of the features indicated. The lettering by hand is made directly on the terrain and the seas. The additional information requiring explanation is written on separate pieces of paper and then stuck to the map where they belong. The map is in a plain wooden frame of 4.5 cm. wide.

The additional information and the illustrations existing on the map are:

1- The Sultan Mehmet Reşad's monogram and a poem written by him on the occasion of the heroic defence of Çanakkale.
2- Sufficient information relevant to the war ships of Britain and France lost during their attack on the Çanakkale Strait on 18 March 1995 and the subsequent days.
3- A small scale map of the Marmara Sea
4- The explanation note on the Çanakkale war victory of 18 March 1915.


This map covers the Strait Istanbul and both its sides.
The model is made of wax on a cardboard base and is oil painted. The Seas are indicated by means of painting in blue colour the cloth stuck on cardboard. All of the lettering (important, geographic specification and population) is in hand writing.
No information has been available concerning the producers and its date. The frame is not original and a simple one of 5.5 cm. width is thought to be made later on.

The General Command of Mapping Cartography Museum, Ankara. Scale 1/37.500, Dimentions: 74x106.5cm.


Information: This first produced map, which is plain and in size much smaller than the others, covers the city Pleven and the Ottoman fortification in the glorious defence of Pleven in 1877 and the Russian fortification opposite to it. It is reproduced from the same mould in gypsum.

As it is reproduced from the same model, possibly other copies of it may be found in future. As the writings on the map are depressed, it proves that a positive mould is skilfully produced. As the conventional signs indicating the fortification are on the other hand negatively prepared on the main positive mould, they are in relief. There are two same relief maps.

A part of 10 x 97 cm. of the first map in the north – west corner, is broken. This piece is missing and the map has no frame. Some parts of the second map, are also broken, but these pieces are available. This map has a thinly gypsum coated wooden 3cm wide frame.

At the intersection point of two lines drawn vertically 15.5 cm. from the north - west, corner of the map and the other 11.5 cm. horizontally south from the same corner, the Pleven City is located. The Ottoman units and fortification are around Pleven and they are encircled by the Russian ones. In some places below the Russian fortification, "Russian Army " appears in writing.

In the north - west corners of the maps, within a crescent, "Pleven and its fortification, 1294 (1878)" is written; as well as in the north- east corners.

Rhodes Island

Rhodes Island is on 36° north latitude and in between 6 -26° east longitudes and has a surface of 1100 km2. Its existing population is around 4000people, half of which is estimated to be muslim and the remaining from various nations. Its soil is fertile and productive. The centre of its administration is the Rhodes city.

In the south-west of the map there is a nice small relief model of the Hanya Castle and in the south- east the relief model of the Castle of Rhodes on this island. In the centre of the south edge of the map there is an Ottoman coat of arms, and the writing within it reads: "Printed at the Army War School and then converted to a relief map covering the famous Crete and Rhodes Islands, by Lieutenant Halil (Halil İbrahim Bey), Assistant instructor of the Restricted Terrain Gesson. In 1301 (1885)".Under this coat of arms the names of the important places in the map are listed according to the given numbers.
Its inner frame of 6 cm. width is ornamented and has an outer frame of 12 cm. width, of which the corners are carved in gypsum on wooden base in gold gilt and are the original ones. It has a glass protecting cover. In the four corners of the inner frame there are crescent shapes of carved wood. A frame with similar crescent shapes is used also for the map of the "Theselia Region " existing at the Army War School.

The General Command of Mapping Cartography Museum. Ankara Year 1883, Scale 1/250.000. Dimentions: 78.5x119.5cm.
Within a frame in the south-east corner of the map there is a linear scale ( 50 75 100 kilometre scale) and under it the writing the "Ottoman Europe ". At the bottom of this writing there are the names of its makers in the below arrangement:

Meliha Firdevs Student Mürşide Mihriban Naime Nuriye Culture Hatice Hüveyla Your Odalisque House 1399 Your Odalisque

A needlework map is placed on silk velvet in brown colour overlaying 10 cm. at the upper and lower edges end 8 cm. at the right and left edges, appearing also as a frame. The size of the silk velvet is 85 x 121 centimetres. On the upper edge of the velvet a wooden piece gilded hanger is placed and there is also a cylindrical bass weight hanger at its lower edge. In the centre of the upper hanger there is a metal crescent shaped like oak branches in which an Ottoman coat of arms is placed with a monogram of the Sultan Abdul amid on top. Besides its beauty and originality it is also thought to be a historical document from which lessons must be taken, as it shows the territories lost in the twenty years between 1903 and 1923.
The Command of the Military Museum and Culture Site. İstanbul Archive Nr. 807, Year 1903, 65x104 Dimensions.