The 90th anniversary of the appearance of Atlas Polski Continental dla automobilistów (Continental Atlas of Poland for Automobilists) published by Continental Caoutchouc Compagnie Ltd Warsaw is nearing. The Atlas was the first publication of its kind after Poland had regained its independence in 1918.
After mentioning the earlier 19th and the beginning of 20th century road maps, mainly from the region known as the Kingdom of Poland being at the time under the rule of the Russian Empire, the author of the article discusses the Continental road atlas.
The date of publishing the Continental road atlas is not known, therefore in the article the author makes an attempt at establishing it on the basis of the map’s contents: railroad lines, settlement network and administrative borders. Unfortunately, the study does not allow one to unequivocally state the date of publication due to numerous shortcomings in the map’s contents. Nevertheless, the date may be estimated as the beginning of the year 1926.
The atlas consists of 20 single-sided map sheets (foldouts) at the scale of 1:1,000,000, which cover the whole territory of Poland as well as some parts of neighboring countries, and a general map showing the division into sheets. The maps’ main contents consists of five categories of roads marked in red. Their background is composed of railroad lines, towns and villages in seven size classes according to the number of inhabitants, water network, some peaks and passes as well as mountain range names. Explanations of map symbols in the legend are given in five languages: Polish, Russian, German, French, English.
The atlas very clearly shows the differences in the density and quality of roads between the regions of the Prussian and Austrian partitions and the road infrastructure-wise neglected Russian partition, especially its eastern part. Apart from mileage information for roads, the maps do not contain additional information specifically for motorists. They do not even show petrol stations or auto repair shops.
What is really worth praise is the sole idea of creating such an automobile atlas and publishing it in 10,000 copies, a copy for every other Polish driver at the time! The fact speaks for the publisher’s, Continental Caoutchouc Compagnie’s, perspective. Despite numerous shortcomings discussed in the article, the Continental Atlas of Poland for Automobilists remains an unique work, which gave a beginning to a new kind of maps in Poland.