Today you can find many different Internet sites with ancient maps of the territory of Ukraine from ancient times. The copies of such maps created by famous Dutch, French, German geographers, cartographers, engravers and publishers – Claudius Ptolemy, Abraham Ortelius, Guillaume de Beauplan, Frederick de Witt, Jan Jansson, Johann-Baptist Homann, Willem Gondius, Pieter van den Keere, issued till XVIII century can be observed at various thematic exhibitions.
Modern researchers of the history of the territory of Ukraine mapping often dedicate their scientific works to maps and descriptions of its land part or to nautical charts of the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, known as portolans, disregarding the inland watercourses. But the former names of our rivers – Borisphen (Dnipro), Istr (Danube), Tiras (Dniester) – are mentioned as early as in ancient sources, the works of Herodotus, Strabo, Pliny the Elder, other thinkers of the day, which indicates that these were large full-flowing rivers, whose role in the development of international relations of our ancient state was enormous: Borisphen was an important part of the historical route from the Varangians to the Greeks.
Since the State Hydrographic Service of Ukraine provides hydrographic and oceanographic study both of the seas and inland waterways of Ukraine, creates nautical and river, paper and electronic navigational charts, guides and sailing directions, the historical survey of cartographic works created in the recent past should turn attention to the materials of hydrographic researches and charting of navigable rivers, which played an important role in the transport connection during the last three centuries.
At the beginning of XIX century specialists of the Fifth (Kyiv) District of Communication Lines began to study the hydrographic network of the rivers Dnipro, Sozh, Desna, Dniester in order to improve their navigation conditions. The charts, in addition to the shoreline, depths on the existing fairway, underwater obstructions, settlements, showed water levels (spring high water level, normal low water level etc.), sections of sandbars, banks as well as the designed fairway and planned construction sites for hydraulic structures (plans and profiles of dams and pyramids on them), later – water gauges, legends of piers and shallows, places of bank protection, drainage cuts to support navigation and drainage cuts for correctional works. Large-scale channel improvement works on the Dnipro near Kyiv began in the mid-nineteenth century, but general public knows very little about it.
The project of arrangement of the river harbour on Dnipro River near Kiev by engineers N. Maksimovich and N. Leliavskyi on 4 sheets at a scale of 50 fathoms to 0,01 fathom - 1890
There are charts compiled based on the results of research carried out in 1893–1895 under command of an engineer M. Maksymovych, a well-known specialist in hydraulic engineering, researcher of the Dnipro water regime, designer of Kyiv Harbour, professor of Kyiv Institute of National Economy, and an architect.
The library of the SHSU Branch "Ukrmorcartographia" keeps originals of manuscripts and printed river charts of XIX-XX centuries, the oldest of which are handwritten detailed plans of Dnipro River from Kremenchuk to the mouth of Samara River (1866), Buh River from Olviopol to the mouth (1848), Desna River from Briansk to the mouth with charted obstructions to navigation, which are found on the specified route section.
Modern researchers of the history of charting of the territory of Ukraine from the ancient times to date identify its six main stages. The cartographic materials kept by our library can be attributed to the second period of the fourth stage – charting in modern times (works of 1848-1915) and the second period of the fifth stage – charting in contemporary times (works of 1920-1941).
The cartographic heritage owned by the State Hydrographic Service of Ukraine today is quite rich, thus it is impossible to post all the works on the site simultaneously. Materials will be periodically posted, updated and supplemented with new works. We are confident they will be of interest not only to specialists, but also to everyone who is not indifferent to the national history of charting.