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Universe of Maps - Opening the David Rumsey Map Center

Mountains and Rivers

A Comparative Picture of the Principal Waterfalls in the World. C. Smith & Son. London: 1836
Probably one of the earliest comparative views of the world's waterfalls in color, showing waterfalls from Europe, Africa, and the Americas strategically arranged for comparison. The highest shown is "Cascade of Gavarny (Pyrenees)", and the lowest is the "Last Cataract of the Nile."
Principal Eminences of the British Islands. James Reynolds; John Emslie. London: 1852
Engraved color view illustrating Ben Nevis, Snowdon and Scafell (Scaw Fell) Pike, the highest mountains in Scotland, Wales, and England respectively, as well as the heights of other significant locations in the British Isles.
Tableau comparatif et figuré de la hauteur des principales montagnes et du cours des principaux fleuves du monde, in Atlas de choix, ou recueil de cartes de géographie ancienne et moderne dressées par nos meilleurs auteurs. J. Andriveau-Goujon. Paris: 1829
Comparative charts of mountains and rivers were a convention developed in the early 19th century and this example is one of the best, beautifully colored with fine graphics and corresponding statistical tables. It includes extensive annotations on vegetation, volcanic activity, and lichen, probably derived from Humboldt.

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, rivers, lakes, and waterfalls. 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.

The mountains and rivers maps appeared in several styles and formats. A popular style, reproduced at the back of this case, was to pile up all the mountains on the right side, ascending from the lowest to the highest, and then hang all the rivers, straightened out, on the left side, in the opposite order. Another style was to pile up all the mountains in the center with heights on the left and right sides, as shown on the British Isles map on the right. The Waterfalls of the World map on the left is in a form that rarely appears—showing all the waterfalls of the world flowing into one river. In addition to being beautiful in their own right, these map diagrams are early forms of information visualization.