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Cartographica Helvetica


Andreas Bürgi:

View of the Alps: The relief model of the Swiss Interior by Franz Ludwig Pfyffer (1762 to 1786)

Cartographica Helvetica 18 (1998) 3–9


Franz Ludwig Pfyffer von Wyher (1716–1802) was introduced to the form of relief models as a young officer in the French services. After he was discharged with the rank of a lieutenant-general at the age of 56 by king Louis XV, he devoted the next 24 years to constructing a relief model of the Swiss Interior. It has an area of 24 m² and shows the Lake of Four Cantons with Lucerne, Unterwalden, Zug, and parts of the neighbouring cantons of Uri, Schwyz, and Berne.

It is the oldest preserved large relief model of Switzerland and represents topographically an area of 4100 km² as exactly as possible. The model is not only an extraordinary topographic but also a cultural achievement, confirmed by the most varied but unanimous certificates and comments by visitors from all over Europe at that time. The visitors were fascinated by the possibility of viewing the Alps from above and being able to get an overall impression of an area they usually felt intimidated by during their travels. This model can therefore be considered as an instrument of visually conquering more and more larger areas. It was not only a representation and witness of the countryside but also of the people of the Swiss Interior.

Bibliographic note

  • Also published as: Franz Ludwig Pfyffers 'Höhenflug' – Das Relief der Urschweiz (1762–1786). In: Der Weltensammler. Eine aktuelle Sicht auf die 16 000 Landkarten des Johann Friedrich von Ryhiner (1732–1803). ed. Thomas Klöti, Markus Oehrli, Hans-Uli Feldmann. Murten, 1998. (Cartographica Helvetica Sonderheft 15). pp. 36–38.

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