Uppsala University Library

Maps of Dzungaria

Since 1743, Uppsala University Library has held unique maps of the Dzungaria region in Central Asia. Their journey to Sweden and Uppsala University Library is intertwined with both drama and human destiny.

Johan Gustaf Renat (1682-1744) fought in the Caroline army during the war between Sweden and Russia. He was captured following the Battle of Poltava in 1709 and was taken to Tobolsk, from where he then accompanied an expedition to Dzungaria. He was recaptured, and his captivity with the Dzungarian Kalmucks lasted for almost two decades.

Renat was not freed until 1733, when he and his wife Brita Scherzenfeldt were able to begin their long journey back to their home country. The couple returned to Stockholm in July 1734 after an absence of 34 years, 25 of which were spent in captivity.

Renat brought a number of extremely interesting items with him from Dzungaria, including two cotton paper maps. One was an original Kalmuck map of Dzungaria (Kalmuck map A), with Mongolian markings and tinted in green. The map was copied by Renat in reduced format after his return to Sweden, and the geographic names were translated into Swedish. According to Renat, the original map was created by the Dzungarian ruler Galdan Tseren. 

The other map was also a Kalmuck work, but of Chinese origin. This map depicts the eastern parts of Central Asia, corresponding roughly to southern Mongolia and the Gobi Desert in the modern-day province of Xinjiang in north-west China (Kalmuck map B). The map features Mongolian writing, and was tinted in shades of red against a grey and white background. Renat’s copy of this map was never completed.

In 1743, the maps were donated to Uppsala University Library. At that time, they were regarded as being extremely noteworthy and were given a place of honour together with the Silver Bible. Over the years, however, they fell into obscurity. It was only in 1878 that they were rediscovered when a young August Strindberg found a copy of Renat’s finished drawing in Linköping Diocesan and Regional Library. The copy was eventually linked to the original Kalmuck maps in Uppsala.

In 2008, another copy of Renat’s finished drawing appeared unexpectedly and was offered for sale in Stockholm. This map was acquired a few years later by the Royal Swedish Academy of Letters, and was deposited in 2010 with Uppsala University Library.

Find out more about the library’s map collections

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