The Austrian Historic Towns Atlas (“Österreichischer Städteatlas”)

In 1977/78 the Austrian Historic Towns Atlas (AHTA) was started as a project within the framework of the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Urban Historical Research and the Vienna City Archives. The first volumes were published in 1982 and since 2000 the “Österreichischer Arbeitskreis für Stadtgeschichtsforschung” (Austrian Association for Urban Historical Research; www.stadtgeschichtsforschung.at) has acted as joint-editor. From the beginnings it followed the guidelines of the International Commission for the History of Towns (www.historiaurbium.org) as part of the European Historic Towns Atlas, one of the great projects of this Commission. Starting in 1993 a special Atlas Working Group of the International Commission (conveners: Anngret Simms – Ferdinand Opll – Katalin Szende) has been acting as a discussion-platform for the Atlas matters. Today this international scientific project is the biggest one existing for purposes of comparative historical urban research. Main items of this project are the edition of the earliest large-scale maps (Katasterkarten, Ordnance Survey Maps) of the respective town and the strict adherence to the same scales in publishing the maps. After the United Kingdom, Germany and Finland Austria together with France were the fourth and the fifth European country to join the project. Since 2014 the number of participating countries has risen to 19 (see the “European Towns Atlas List”).

The core-team of the AHTA consisted of historians and cartographers working together in the Vienna City Archives. Specialists for the history of Austrian towns were asked to co-operate with this AHTA-team, sometimes they came from the core-team itself or from the staff of the Vienna City Archives. As an inclusion of all Austrian towns into the project was never taken into account the selection-process with regard to the towns chosen was very important. The principle followed was that of covering different types of towns, e.g. residential towns, bishop-towns, harbour-towns, mining-towns etc., always keeping in mind that there was quite a number of fix-starters, especially the capitals of the provinces (’Bundesländer’) of Austria. In the late 1970’s the idea was to publish a sample of approximately a third of all Austrian towns, a goal which had almost been reached when the project came to an end in 2013; seen from the number of towns integrated into the project the AHTA has reached the second place in the ranking of all European Historic Towns Atlases.

The team of the Irish Historic Towns Atlas (IHTA) was the first to react to the problems of using large-format Atlas-publications in printed form. In 2007 the IHTA co-operated with the innovative Hungarian company ARCANUM and published a CD-Rom edition for 16 Irish towns. Two years later, in 2009, the AHTA-team followed and published a similar, in some details improved digital-edition of no less than the 59 AHTA-volumes printed until then.

The actual online-presentation of the whole AHTA realised by the excellent, initiative and dynamic team of the Hungarian company ARCANUM is a follow-up-project to make the Atlases available for their users. Although it was not possible to make a revision of the contents and the online-version is in fact a 1:1-representation of the printed versions of 64 AHTA fascicles we are convinced that the new usability of the whole series is a great advantage to all interested in urban development. The only exception is the "Moderne Stadtkarte" which is missing from this presentation but can be substituted by using the modern possibilities of the Internet. The initiators owe greatest gratitude to more than 100 holders of the respective user’s-rights with regard to texts and illustrations (authors, editors and representatives of institutions) who graciously gave their permissions for this online-presentation.

Finally, this is the place to thank all the colleagues of the mentioned core-team of the AHTA-project from 1977/82 to 2013: as editors Felix Czeike (†), Renate Banik-Schweitzer, Gerhard Meißl, Ferdinand Opll and Andreas Weigl, as copy editors Ferdinand Opll, Michaela Laichmann-Krissl and – for the longest period – Susanne Claudine Pils, as cartographers Erich Kopecky, Hans-Michael Putz, Manfred Swoboda and Christina Unger.

Ferdinand Opll – Andreas Weigl

(Österreichischer Arbeitskreis für Stadtgeschichtsforschung)