Catalog Archive
Auction 190, Lot 328

Very Rare First Edition, First State of Fred W. Rose's Iconic "Octopus" Map

"Serio-Comic War Map for the Year 1877", Rose, F. W.

Subject: Europe

Period: 1877 (published)


Color: Printed Color

22.4 x 16.7 inches
56.9 x 42.4 cm
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This is the very rare first edition, first state of Fred W. Rose's Serio-Comic "Octopus" map. This is the first of Rose's three Serio-Comic maps, and the one which popularized the iconic image of Russia as an octopus. Even more impressive is that this is the first state of the first edition of this map, evidenced by Rose's initials (F.W.R.) below the title, which was published in March 1877. A few weeks later a second state was published with Rose's imprint changed to "F. W. Rose" and a "Revised Edition" was published in July 1877. Although all of Rose's Serio-Comic maps are highly desirable, Peter Barber explains that this map "is generally considered the British graphic artist Fred Rose's cartographic masterpiece." This map concerns the Russo-Turkish War of 1877, in which Russia sought to retaliate against the Ottoman Empire for the Turkish massacre of Christian Bulgarians, as well as to regain territorial losses due to the Crimean War of 1853-56.

Each country is represented by a political caricature or a generic figure, with the exception of Russia. The bulbous Russia is a giant octopus, grasping and strangling surrounding countries with its tentacles, including Poland, Turkey and Persia. The tentacle extending into Crimea has a clear wound due to the Crimean War, and Bulgaria is shown as a skull on Turkey's shoulder as a result of the recent massacre. Turkey grabs one of Russia's tentacles in defense holding a gun to protect Constantinople (and therefore control of the Black Sea), signified by a golden watch. Germany is personified by Wilhelm I, who pushes back Russia's tentacled advances, and is surrounded by cannons, cannonballs and a Holy Bible. Italy is a Roman goddess making a toy out of the Pope, and Austria holds back Hungary from engaging with Russia. A reference note at bottom right explains the circumstances concerning each country in greater detail. This first edition is quite different from the "revised edition" in which numerous changes were made to reflect the progression of the war.

Frederick William Rose (1849-1915) was born in London and worked for many years as a civil servant in various roles. He was an accomplished artist, illustrator, journalist and novelist. In addition to creating 5 maps, he also penned a number of articles, a book and two novels. Read more about Rose in Roderick Barron's excellent biography.

Published by G.W. Bacon in London. All examples of this map are rare, however this example is even more so due to it being the first edition, first state.

References: cf. Barber, pp. 284-85; cf. Baynton-Williams, pp. 180-81; cf. PJ Mode #2272.

Condition: B+

Contemporary hand color, issued folding and now flattened and professionally backed in archival tissue to repair some separations and tiny holes along the folds. There are a few extraneous creases that have also been pressed flat, as well as light soiling, mostly confined to the margins.

Estimate: $3,500 - $4,250

Sold for: $1,750

Closed on 11/16/2022