Lake Geneva and its environs in Switzerland, as depicted in Johann Heinrich Weiss’s Atlas Suisse (1786–1802). Commenting on Weiss’s atlas, NYPL’s geospatial librarian Matt Knutzen observes: “It represents a landmark in alpine cartography. If you look closely, you can see the map was made using a method called Hachuring. Using this technique, the cartographer introduces an artificial light source, typically from the northwest, that represents slope, with small lines accumulating to create the illusion of light and shadow playing on the sides of mountains. The hachures, as the lines are called, run perpendicular to the elevation contours typically seen on topographic maps today. (For example, if you dropped a ball from the top of the mountain and it rolled down, the ball’s path would represent the general direction of the hachure lines.) In that way, they beautifully represent the topographic nuances and intricacies of the mountains and do a very nice job of differentiating among flat land, walled and fortified cities, villages, small castles, and the landed estates of the nobility. The atlas is a spectacular work of cartographic art. The multiple pages, each roughly two feet by three feet, are meant to be removed from the binding and put back together as a composite map to create a grand cartographic tapestry of Switzerland. Just about the only place such an expansive map could fit would be on the walls of a castle — which also suggests the audience for this map.” NYPL, Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division


Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.

Patrons who contribute comments are asked to read our Policy on Patron-Generated Web Content.

View our privacy policy