Rezension | Landscape and Urbanism in Manuscript Plans from the 18th Century

Šárka Steinová / Filip Paulus: Krajina a urbanismus na rukopisných plánech z 18. století: translokační plány židovských obydlí v zemích Koruny české v letech 1727–1728 / Landscape and Urbanism in Manuscript Plans from the 18th Century: Translocation Plans of Jewish Settlements in the Lands of the Bohemian Crown from the Period of 1727–1728, Praha: Národní archiv 2020, 446 pp. ISBN 978-80-7469-088-4.

Eva Chodějovská (Brno)

On account of the translocation (i.e. segregation) rescript, between 1727 and 1728 a number of towns and villages in the Czech Lands were mapped, identifying Jewish settlements whilst taking into special consideration their proximity to Catholic churches. The legislation behind this formed but a part of a greater set of measures that the Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI took against Jews, which eventually resulted in the Jewish segregation in the monarchy.

An attempt to identify the wide range of projection methods used to portray Jewish settlements is beyond the scope of the review and a mere description cannot match actually seeing the plans themselves. Suffice to say that the plans range from ground plans and ground plan bases with axonometric depictions of objects of interest to vedutas (a depiction of a landscape or cityscape from an oblique angle, using perspective projection); the collection includes simple sketches alongside with professional plans drawn by land surveyors.

The existence of these hand-drawn plans depicting Jewish settlements in the Czech Lands in the 18th century has been acknowledged in academic circles at least since 1931. In this year the Czech historical geographer Frantisek Roubik assembled a register of these plans depicting towns and villages in Bohemia, which was published both in Czech and German,1 supplemented with a few examples. Since then they received no more than scant attention, being used either as illustrations2 or for local topographical research and among Jewish studies scholars.3 Regarding the plans covering the region of Moravia, these were first systematically studied as late as 2007 by Ondřej Func, who compiled their register in his bachelor thesis, discussing them at length;4 the work was, however, not published. Lately Peter Barber5 called attention to this remarkable collection when examining several plans depicting Moravian towns and provided a list of localities mapped in Moravia within this time frame.

As far as the reviewed monograph is concerned, the first two chapters, written in collaboration with Ivana Ebelová, describe the broader cultural context behind these translocation plans in terms of the Jewish and Christian coexistence in the Czech Lands in the early modern period. The next chapter describes the administrative background in which the plans were drawn up, thus offering valuable contribution to the study of administrative history of the 18th century through the analysis of documents and decrees issued in regard to these plans and the description of local offices and their function. The following chapter is based on a database of the plans that the authors built up, identifying a set of criteria that would enable them to systematically analyse the plans (e.g. date of origin, author, technical parameters such as scale, dimensions, coordinates, orientation, choice of medium).6 Because the authors firmly adhere to the archival description standard, this particular chapter is less reader friendly, but it deserves merit for its passages on the plans’ authors and the material on which the plans were drawn up, in particular the sheets of paper on which watermarks were identified. The final chapter briefly discusses the urban layout of Jewish quarters based on their depiction in the plans.

The bulk of the book consists of the plans themselves. They are presented as a catalogue of 97 individual plans of locations in Bohemia and 61 in Moravia and Silesia, depicting settlements in 136 different villages and towns (occasionally one site was captured in various plans or one single sheet contains the schematic representations of more sites within the same region). Each individual plan is presented with a brief description and its current archival location. The complete plan is supplemented by an enlarged section representing the particular area inhabited by the Jewish population, a section from the cadastral map of the Franziscean (“Stable”) cadastre, and a modern aerial map. Thanks to this layout it is possible to instantly compare the changes that the depicted urban area underwent. However, the authors’ decision to use indicative sketches (Indikationsskizze) may pose problems from the methodological perspective. These maps contain a lot of information, but without a map legend they are confusing and it is hard to pinpoint indicative sketches in time. Rather than indicative sketches, Imperial Obligatory Imprints would serve the purpose better as they are comprehensible and clearly dated.

Besides the objection mentioned above, the book lacks critical evaluation of the plans from a historical cartographer’s perspective. These plans represent a truly unique group among cartographic depictions of Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia, so it seems appropriate to mention at least a few technical parameters, such as the maps’ scale and dimensions for each of them and set them into the cartographic context. Despite the remarkable variety of techniques used, their authors could have attempted to identify specific categories within the projection methods, evaluate types of generalisation or interpret map symbols used in the plans.

That being said, the book is worthy of praise in many other aspects. Foremost, it is its bilingual format: The English translations make the texts available to scholars who do not understand Czech. Moreover, the fruit of the authors’ labour is not limited to the book itself, but has been made available online through a web portal created by Steinová and Paulus in cooperation with the Research Institute of Geodesy, Topography and Cartography (http://undirigible.com/wfs/en/). Last but not least, for the first time ever, high-quality reproductions of these plans were made available in a single monograph; the authors compiled material kept mainly in the National Archives in Prague and the Moravian Regional Archives in Brno, complemented with several items found in different archives. Still, it would seem that original set of these translocation plans was even larger; current research has revealed, for example, that a similar plan had existed for the town Kopidlno in eastern Bohemia. There are surely more of these plans that have been lost and thus the catalogue is not complete, yet still the work of Šárka Steinová and Filip Paulus significantly extends the knowledge on Jewish history, the Urban history of the Czech lands and the early modern period not only in the Czech Republic, but in all of Central Europe.

Printversion: Frühneuzeit-Info 31, 2020, S. 206 f.

  1. František Roubík: Die Judensiedlungen in Böhmen auf den Ortsplänen vom Jahre 1727, in: Jahrbuch der Gesellschaft für Geschichte der Juden in der Cechoslovakischen Republik 3 (1931), S. 283–306; Idem: Plánky obcí v Čechách s vyznačením židovských obydlí z r. 1727, in: Časopis společnosti přátel starožitností českých v Praze 39 (1931), S. 49–68. []
  2. Recently e.g.: Akademický atlas českých dějin, Praha: Academia 2014, xxviii+559 S. ISBN 978-80-200-2182-3 (2nd edition 2016). []
  3. E.g. Jaroslav Klenovský: Plány separace židovského osídlení na Moravě z let 1727–28, in: Židé a Morava: sborník příspěvků přednesených na konferenci konané 8. listopadu 1995 v Kroměříži, Kroměříž 1996, S. 54–62. []
  4. Ondřej Frunc: Židovské ghetto na podkladech plánů z let 1727 (unpublished bachelor thesis, Masaryk University), Brno 2007. []
  5. Peter Barber: Mapping Prejudice. The Moravian Segregation Plans of 1727–1728, in: Journal of the International Map Collectors’ Society 160 (2020), March, S. 22–31. []
  6. Besides a few categories the authors deemed important, these are based on the categories required by the Basic Rules for Archival Description, i.e. the national standard for the cataloguing archival records in the Czech Republic (Základní pravidla pro zpracování archiválií, 2nd edition, Praha: Archivní správa Ministerstva vnitra 2015). []

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