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Russia first encountered Alaska in 1741
as part of the most ambitious and expensive
expedition of the entire eighteenth
century. For centuries since, cartographers
have struggled to define and
develop the enormous region comprising
northeastern Asia, the North Pacific,
and Alaska. The forces of nature and
the follies of human error conspired
to make the area incredibly difficult to
Exploring and Mapping Alaska focuses
on this foundational period in
Arctic cartography. Russia spurred a
golden era of cartographic exploration,
while shrouding their efforts in a veil of
secrecy. They drew both on old systems
developed by early fur traders and new
methodologies created in Europe. With
Great Britain, France, and Spain following
close behind, their expeditions led
to an astounding increase in the world’s
knowledge of North America.
Through engrossing descriptions of
the explorations and expert navigators,
aided by informative illustrations, readers
can clearly trace the evolution of the
maps of the era, watching as a once-mysterious
region came into sharper focus.
The result of years of cross-continental
research, Exploring and Mapping Alaska
is a fascinating study of the trials and
triumphs of one of the last great eras of
This handsomely produced book offers much that is new, and is the product of serious research deriving from ongoing archival scour. . . . Highly recommended.
Long awaited. . . . Postnikov is an internationally known authority on the history of the cartography of Russia and its territories. The late Lydia Black, an acknowledged expert on the anthropology and Russian-era history of Alaska, worked closely with him to produce a translation that conveys the essence of the Russian original while pruning some of its verbiage. Coauthor Marvin Falk, a recognized authority on the history of the cartography of Alaska, updated portions of the translated text to reflect scholarship published since 2000. The result of their collaboration is a thorough and highly readable account of the exploration and cartography of Alaska before that territory's acquisition by the USA in 1867.
— Journal of Historical Geography
A big book with much to offer: a wealth of information from obscure Russian sources, reproductions of exciting maps from many places, ideas that are worthy of careful attention and further research. This book is highly recommended.
This augmented English translation of a history of Russian exploration and cartography, and through those processes the very invention of the Great Land, or Alaska, will likely be the definitive account on this subject.
—Alaska Journal of Anthropology
Alexey Postnikov is a research fellow in the Russian Academy of Sciences. Marvin Falk is
professor and curator of rare books emeritus at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Lydia
Black (1925–2007) was professor of anthropology at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.