When it comes to design – the Victorians did it better. Nothing quite matches these 19th Century comparative river and mountain maps for exquisite hand-drawn detail, meticulous scale and luminous beauty. It makes me wonder, how can anyone not love old maps?
A New Cartographic Convention
One of the forerunners for this kind of map is a comparative map of mountains by Thomson in 1817.
This was closely followed by William Home Lizar’s ‘A Comparative view of the principle rivers of Scotland’in 1822, one of the first comparative river charts of its kind. Click to see the larger image
Moving Mountains and Rivers
Darton & Gardner’s 1823 Mountains and Rivers chart brings together two in spectacular fashion. Another notable addition is William Darton’s 1823 “New and Improved View of the Comparative Heights of the Principal Mountains and Lengths of the Principal Rivers In The World”. Click to see the larger image
Pièce de Résistance
The grandest comparative map of them all has to be the Andriveau & Goujon Comparative Mountains and Rivers Chart. This is where comparative mapping reaches its zenith. On one gigantic sheet, Andriveau & Goujon not only compare and contrast the heights of mountains and the lengths of rivers, but also add a table of waterfalls, show volcanic activity, levels of plant growth and tree lines, and add select cities and European buildings. They even incorporates the achievements of the balloonist Gay-Lussac who ascended to 7000 meters in 1804. Click to see the larger image
Nowadays you can find these works of art used as iPhone and iPad covers.