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Peter H. Meurer:

The early history of the distance triangle

Cartographica Helvetica 24 (2001) 9–19


In the present literature the English cartographer John Norden, author of England. An intended Guyde for English Travailers (London 1625), is found to be the inventor of the distance triangle. However, more recent research on the subject has shown that the beginnings of this type of distance measurement had been in use in the area of Germany for a much longer time. The textbook Arithmetica (Wrocław 1565) by Matthäus Nefe (1530s to after 1599), a cartographer and mathematician in Saxony and Silesia, contains detailed information on the computation of distances using local coordinates. Also in 1565 Nefe drew a distance triangle for Silesia. The first printed distance triangles can be found on maps of Swabia (1572) and Franconia (1576) by David Seltzlin. Another manuscript by Nefe served as the origin for the first printed, European-wide distance triangle which was engraved by Heinrich Ullrich from Nuremberg and published in 1601 by Johann Schirmer in Hildburghausen. This engraving was the model for various other prints which appeared in Nuremberg (Caymox 1605, Fürst 1654, and Homann bei Funck around 1700).

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