The George Davidson Copy of Tebenkov's Map of St. Lawrence Island, Alaska
Rare and remarkable map of St. Lawrence Island Alaska, compiled by Mikhail Dmitrievich Tebenkov, who in 1849 was serving as the Governor of American Russia.
Mikhail Dmitrievich Tebenkov (1802-1872) joined the Russian American Company in 1825. He spent the next 20 years exploring Alaska and the contiguous parts of Russia. By 1845, he became the director of the Russian American Company and the governor of Russian America; a post he would hold until 1850. Whiles serving as governor, he undertook an ambitious survey of the coastal regions of northwest coast of America.
Using information gleaned from this survey and data collected from unpublished Russian expeditions in the prior decades, he embarked on an ambitious publication project in Novoarkhangelsk (now Sitka), with maps engraved either by Grigory Klimovich Terentiev, an Alaskan native with mixed Russian and Inuit roots or another local mapmaker of mixed Russian and Inuit heritage, Mikhail Kadin (according to George Davidson).
Ladd-Mocarski described Tebenkov as:
An outstanding and painstaking work by a naval officer and hydrographer who spent 25 years in Alaska and the North Pacific, reaching the highest position in the Russian-American colonies, that of Chief Administrator.
The map appeared in Tebenkov's Atlas sieverozapadnykh beregov Ameriki ot Beringova proliva do mysa Korrientes I ostrovov Alleutskikh s prisovokupleniem nekotorykh mest severovostochnogo berega Azii. [Atlas of the northwest coasts of America from Bering Strait to Cape Corrientes and the Aleutian Islands, with several sheets on the Northeast Coast of Asia].
St. Lawrence Island was first visited by Vitus Bering on August 10, 1728, becoming the first confirmed European landfall in what would become Alaska. Many believe St. Lawrence Island is one of the last remaining non-submerged portions of the land bridge which joined Asia with North America during the Pleistocene period. It has been inhabited intermittently for the past 2,000 years by Yupik Eskimos. The island's population shows cultural links with indigenous peoples in both Asia and Alaska.
This is the first example of the map we have ever seen on the market.
George Davidson copy, purchased by the prior owner from Warren Howell in the early 1970s and acquired by our firm in November 2018.
Davidson acquired Russian charts in Sitka in 1867. His interactions with Russian geographers and his use of Tebenkov's charts is covered in Professor William Forrest King's Ph.D. dissertation defended in 1973.
Mikhail Dmitriyevich Tebenkov was a Russian hydrographer and vice admiral of the Imperial Russian Navy. From 1845 to 1850, he served as director of the Russian American Company and the governor of Russian America.
In 1821, Tebenkov graduated from the Naval Cadet Corps School. For the next three years, he served on different ships in the Baltic Sea. In 1824, Tebenkov was put in charge of logging for shipbuilding purposes near Narva.
In January 1825, he joined the Russian American Company, which led colonizing and trade efforts in North America. He would later command the company-owned brigantines Golovnin, Ryurik, Chichagov, and a sloop named Urup in 1826–1834. Tebenkov surveyed Norton Sound on behalf of the Imperial Russian Hydrographic Service in 1831 and was the first European to sight the bay that now bears his name. He surveyed Tebenkof Bay in 1833 before returning to St. Petersburg.
In 1835 Tebenkov sailed from Cronstadt back to Alaska via Cape Horn as commander of the Russian American Company's ship Elena. He arrived in Sitka in April 1836. Between 1845 and 1850, Tebenkov served as the director of the Russian American Company and the governor of Russian America.
Tebenkov was perhaps the most outstanding Russian surveyor of the time, dedicating much time and patient work to the improvement of charts of the Alaskan coast.
He is especially noted for having surveyed and mapped the still little-known coast of Alaska. His Atlas of the Northwest Coasts of America: from Bering Strait to Cape Corrientes and the Aleutian Islands was published in 1852 and contained 39 engraved maps. The 39 maps of this atlas were engraved at Sitka around 1849 by Kozma Terentev (or Terentief), an Alaskan-Russian creole man.