Friday, December 16, 2011

Maps - Heights of Mountains, Lengths of Rivers

For over 100 years, atlas and map publishers in the United States and Europe published a style of map that was a visualization of the heights and lengths of the world's mountains and rivers. Some of the earliest examples appeared in Europe towards the end of the 18th century. In the United States, the form was popular throughout the 19th century and the early part of the 20th. These maps appeared in atlases, as wall maps, and as pocket maps. One of the most elegant examples was engraved originally on copper by map publisher Henry Tanner in Philadelphia in 1836 and then continued by S. Augustus Mitchell, also of Philadelphia, in lithographic versions into the 1850's.

The Mountains and Rivers maps appeared in several styles and formats. One of the earliest styles was to show just mountains, piled up in a landscape, with a key of mountain heights on the left and right sides of the illustration. Also listed on the side would be the highest flights of the Condor, limits of plants and trees, elevations of lakes, elevation of certain high altitude cites, and climate zones. An early example in the Rumsey collection is Charles Smith's Comparative View of the Heights of the Principal Mountains &c. In The World, published in London in 1816.

Another popular style combined heights of mountains and lengths of rivers in one view. The rivers are stretched out in single lines, with the longest on the left combining with the shortest mountains, while the shortest rivers combine with the highest mountains on the right. The visual result is very compelling. One of the earliest examples was W.R. Gardner's Comparative Heights of the Principal Mountains and Lengths of the Principal Rivers, published by William Darton in London in 1823.

A third variation of the mountain and rivers designs was putting the mountains in the center of the view with the rivers extending downward on each side. One of the earliest examples of this type was published by Henry Tanner in 1836, Heights of the Principal Mountains in the World.

John Dower and Henry Teasdale published another version in London in 1844 titled Principal Mountains and Rivers of the World. It is possible that there was an earlier version of this London map that Tanner copied from - a common practice of American mapmakers in the first half of the 19th century - but Tanner's map is centered on information important to American readers and the Dower/Teasdale map is oriented to England and Europe.

Gray's new map of the World in hemispheres, with comparative views of the heights of the principal mountains and lengths of the principal rivers on the globe, of 1885, provided a simplified view of the mountains and rivers. It appeared in George N. Colby's Atlas of the State of Maine, 1885.

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earliest known map is a matter of some debate, both because the definition of "map" is not sharp and because some artifacts speculated to be maps might actually be something else. A wall painting, which may depict the ancient Anatolian city of Çatalhöyük (previously known as Catal Huyuk or Çatal Hüyük), has been dated to the late 7th millennium BCE.[1][2] Other known maps of the ancient world include the Minoan "House of the Admiral" wall painting from c. 1600 BCE, showing a seaside community in an oblique perspective and an engraved map of the holy Babylonian city of Nippur, from the Kassite period (14th – 12th centuries BCE).[3] The oldest surviving world maps are the Babylonian world maps from the 9th century BCE.[4] One shows Babylon on the Euphrates, surrounded by a circular landmass showing Assyria, Urartu[5] and several cities, in turn surrounded by a "bitter river" (Oceanus), with seven islands arranged around it.[6] Another depicts Babylon as being further north from the center of the world.[4]

The ancient Greeks and Romans created maps, beginning at latest with Anaximander in the 6th century BC.[7] In the 2nd century AD, Ptolemy produced his treatise on cartography, Geographia.[8] This contained Ptolemy's world map - the world then known to Western society (Ecumene). As early as the 8th century, Arab scholars were translating the works of the Greek geographers into Arabic.[9]

In ancient China, geographical literature spans back to the 5th century BC. The oldest extant Chinese maps come from the State of Qin, dated back to the 4th century BC, during the Warring States Period. In the book of the Xin Yi Xiang Fa Yao, published in 1092 by the Chinese scientist Su Song, a star map on the equidistant cylindrical projection.[10][11] Although this method of charting seems to have existed in China even prior to this publication and scientist, the greatest significance of the star maps by Su Song is that they represent the oldest existent star maps in printed form.

Early forms of cartography of India included the locations of the Pole star and other constellations of use.[12] These charts may have been in use by the beginning of the Common Era for purposes of navigation.[12]Mappa mundi is the general term used to describe Medieval European maps of the world. Approximately 1,100 mappae mundi are known to have survived from the Middle Ages. Of these, some 900 are found illustrating manuscripts and the remainder exist as stand-alone documents.[13]

The Arab geographer Muhammad al-Idrisi produced his medieval atlas Tabula Rogeriana in 1154. He incorporated the knowledge of Africa, the Indian Ocean and the Far East, gathered by Arab merchants and explorers with the information inherited from the classical geographers to create the most accurate map of the world up until his time. It remained the most accurate world map for the next three centuries.[14]

In the Age of Exploration, from the 15th century to the 17th century, European cartographers both copied earlier maps (some of which had been passed down for centuries) and drew their own based on explorers' observations and new surveying techniques. The invention of the magnetic compass, telescope and sextant enabled increasing accuracy. In 1492, Martin Behaim, a German cartographer, made the oldest extant globe of the Earth.[15]

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