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Thomas Germann:

Johann Gottfried Ebel and his panorama from the Albis watch tower

Cartographica Helvetica 13 (1996) 23–30


In the Canton of Zurich the system of watch towers was set up as an alarm network at the beginning of the Thirty Years War (1618 to 1648) and remained in use until the decline of the old Confederacy in 1798. All of the watch towers in Zurich could be contacted within only 15 minutes using smoke signals by day, fire by night and cannon shots if there was fog.

The locations of the watch towers served as ideal vantage points for the first Alpine tourists of the late 18th century. The German Johann Gottfried Ebel (1764–1830) drew a panorama of the Alps from the watch tower on the Albis and enclosed it in his tour guide Anleitung auf die nützlichste und genussvollste Art in der Schweitz zu reisen (Instructions for the most useful and enjoyable way to travel in Switzerland) in 1793.

Ebel's panorama is one of the first of these kind of representations. He used a pocket telescope and drew very freely without having done any kind of constructive preparation. He was thus duly criticized by specialists, and the second edition of the guide from 1804/1805 contained a revised panorama by Heinrich Keller. In the following years many tourists found their way to panorama locations recommended in Ebel's guide.

Bibliographic note

  • Edited version of: Johann Gottfried Ebel und sein Panorama von der Albishochwacht. In: Langnauerpost 69 (1993) pp. 1–29.

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