About the Atlas

Historical background

This atlas, the Atlas of Central Europe is an important part, not only of Hungarian cartography and geography, but also the history of Central Europe. The atlas is called Teleki or Rónai atlas after the leaders of Institute of Political Sciences (Államtudományi Intézet): Pál Teleki became a prime minister of Hungary in 1939 and two years later committed suicide and István Rónai participated in this new project and died only a year ago. The Institute was founded in 1926 by Count Pál Teleki - university professor and prime minister of Hungary on two occasions - within the Hungarian Statistical Association, a scientific society.
Its task was the recording of the state of affairs in the neighbour countries surrounding Hungary. All these states received considerable areas from the historical territory of Hungary. Also a significant Hungarian population was surrendered to these states, thus their fate and living conditions as well as the development of the new states meant the continuation of the Hungarian history in certain respects. The Peace-Treaty of Trianon brought about dramatic changes in the Carpathian Basin and its surroundings. After 1920 all the borders of Hungary were new ones, accordingly attention had to be paid in every direction. Information had to be gathered on the living conditions of the Hungarian minorities and also due to the fact that the new borders while disturbing the economic relations could not break them off.

Due to wartime circumstances the atlas was printed under very poor conditions: poor quality printing machines ("rotaprint" technique), and low quality papers, etc. The atlas was printed (one really can not say: published) in 1945, in the last year of the Second World War. Because of the war the editors (employees of the State Science Institute) finally moved to the countryside, and they were able to finish this many man-year project only shortly before the fighting caught on to their place of residence.

At that time, between the two World Wars there were 12 countries in this area, and 16 official languages were used here. The publications, maps and statistics used were written in five different scripts (Gothic, Latin, Cyrillic, Turkish, Hebrew).
The maps of the atlas were published in two versions. the Hungarian version with 134 maps and of 334 pages was issued first. The English version was somewhat enlarged: it comprised 171 maps and with the explanatory texts together it was 367 pages.

ThemeNumber of mapsNumber of data
geography and geology14 maps140000 data
climate20 maps60000 data
population, minorities60 maps1900000 data
agriculture, production, live-stock43 maps1400000 data
mining, industry6 maps40000 data
traffic, foreign trade22 maps300000 data
other topics6 maps20000 data

Lack of original data

The essential problem of the reproduction of the atlas was, that there were no original data left, only the printed map sheets of published atlas were available and some additional materials such as proofs and printing plates. It is this fact which makes republishing quite difficult. However the atlas contain so many data that the new processing would take some years.

Why is it important to publish this atlas at all again in facsimile? The topics have become an issue again (e.g. minorities); and there was no other work to cover this whole region. The Yugoslavian War is another reason, as are the problems with minorities in the former Soviet Union. Producing and publishing a similar atlas from scratch would take many years, especially because of the unreliability of statistical sources of this region.

Possible methods

The following methods for reproducing the atlas were studied:

Base maps

The atlas maps generally showed two kinds of base maps: one with administrative boundaries and one with a hydrographical base map. Only a small number of maps had special base maps (e.g. the map of Europe, and the one of the Carpathian Basin). The main problem was that each kind of base showed some variations (same size and scale, but small differences). The reasons for these variations were the large number of participants that took part in the project, and the wartime circumstances - the boundaries had changed, e.g. during the production period. The digital facsimile edition will allow us to make these discrepancies disappear and to emphasize the contents rather than the original look and cartographic design.

New legend

The original legend was planned for the use of few colours and lot of structural screens etc., because of the need to economize and of the printing possibilities of that time. But the main problem was the use of different base maps and the lack of register in printing, caused by the wartime circumstances.
We have not made any changes in the contents, only in the graphical representation of the different legend categories. We plan to use different colours for the final graphical representation instead of using different structural screens. We have made these changes in view of a better understanding of the contents and in order to make the legend of the maps with similar contents (climate, livestocks) similar. The maps are planned to be printed mostly in five colours (process colors) which was not too common in traditional cartography (of course some maps will be printed in one color).

Hardware, software

We had not too many options to choose the appropriate hardware, as we had mainly only PC's at our Department. To choose the appropriate software was also not too difficult. We could not use any GIS software, because of the lack of data and because of the poor graphic capabilities of these kind of softwares (in GIS packages the input side actually much more important than the output direction). There are only a few graphic software packages which are suitable (enough powerful) for cartographic purposes: CorelDraw, GEM Artline, Micrographx Designer, Adobe Illustrator and Aldus Freehand. First of all CorelDraw was preferred because of its low price (the Hungarian price is a half the international price in the version 3.0) and the allowed usage of True Type fonts, but in certain cases more than ten software packages were used both in PC and Apple-MacIntosh environment. The allowed usage of True Type fonts is very important at this region, because of the fact that we had to use special (sometimes archaic) characters of some languages (Serb, Czech, Polish, Roumanian, Hungarian: e.g. ő, Â, Ë) and it's easy not so difficult to create new characters for True Type fonts.

Most of the original maps were scanned and redrawn in a graphic software. Before making the color separated printing films on a Postscript laserplotter all maps were printed on a color printer (for an appropriate quality we used a Canon bubble jet printer) and rigorously checked. Some of the original maps were so detailed (dot maps with nearly 20-30 000 points on one map sheet) that we had to mix the digital method with the traditional way: the dots were photographed and color filtered the additional content of these kind of maps (text, lines etc.) were added by computer - so one printing film were made by the photographic method, the printing films of additional colors were produced by laserplotter.

Back to the Initial Page of Central Europe Atlas!
Jump to the Homepage of Department of Cartography and Geoinformatics, Eötvös University, Budapest!